Are Social Cannabis Clubs Legal in the United States?

Industry Johnny Green 1/17/2018
cannabis leaf over usa map
Will the U.S. see more social venues for cannabis consumption?

Do you wish that you could consume cannabis at a business, similar to how people consume alcohol at bars, restaurants, and other establishments?

Have you ever been to a concert or other event and had to hide your cannabis use, and wished that it didn't have to be that way?

In order to do so, your state would need to adopt social cannabis use reform.

As far as cannabis reform has come in recent decades, there is still a lot of work left to be done, even in states that have already legalized cannabis for adult use.

One area of cannabis reform that serves as probably the best example of that is the area of cannabis clubs and social use.

Do you support regulating cannabis like alcohol? Or perhaps even voted in your state to change the law to regulate cannabis like alcohol? Until cannabis is legal in social settings, cannabis will never be on an equal level as alcohol.

What is a cannabis club, and what is social consumption reform?

blur image of social gathering
Cannabis clubs can take on many forms and styles.

It is important to differentiate between cannabis clubs that are geared towards social consumption, versus cannabis collectives that are geared towards distributing medical cannabis.

Cannabis collectives have existed for decades, and are functionally a lot like a dispensary.

Social cannabis consumption, as it has manifested itself in public policy, involves on-site cannabis consumption at venues.

Arguably the biggest differentiating factor (at least from a public policy standpoint) between cannabis social use clubs and cannabis collective clubs is that social use venues do not distribute cannabis.

The social use clubs/venues can differ in how they look and can be anything from a concert or music festival to a yoga studio or karaoke lounge.

The most common one right now in America is an already-existing business that allows cannabis consumption.

Social consumption laws are very rare in America at this point, which is something that veteran activists are trying to change.

What are the benefits of social consumption reform?

uncover the benefits
The benefits of cannabis clubs are very real.

Cannabis tourism is a very big thing these days.

People are traveling from all over the world to states where cannabis is legal for adults to consume.

Many tourists are either incorporating cannabis into their travel plans via a dispensary visit or going all in for a cannabis-themed getaway at a 'bud and breakfast.'

For those who aren't lodging at a place that specifically allows cannabis consumption (such as a friendly Air BnB), a likely unforeseen problem arises - where to consume the cannabis?

Adults 21 and over in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada can now purchase cannabis legally, and if they are in a residence, they can even grow it (except for Washington).

But there's nowhere to go to consume it.

Every state that has voted to legalize cannabis possession and consumption has also instituted a public cannabis consumption law. People caught consuming cannabis in public face stiff fines.

With that in mind, below are some of the benefits of social consumption reform:

  • Helps ensure that cannabis consumption remains out of public view
  • Helps reduce racially disproportionate enforcement rates of public consumption laws
  • Helps create new business opportunities
  • Generates public revenue via licensing and application fees
  • Gives tourists and people without a residence a place to legally consume cannabis

Where are cannabis clubs legal?

Oregon does have a regulated system for cannabis consumption clubs. Alaska is currently in the rule-making process. On-site consumption is prohibited in Washington.

Other legal states are exploring the public policy idea of social cannabis regulation.

This is not to say that clubs don't exist in a 'legal grey area,' but specific licensing systems are not in place in these states, largely due to indoor clean air laws.

Social consumption is prohibited in Colorado with one exception - Denver. The biggest reform victory to date involving social cannabis consumption came in Denver during the 2016 election.

Voters in Denver approved Initiative 300 which specifically legalized, and tasked the City of Denver with creating a regulated system for, social cannabis consumption.

The City of Denver is now accepting applications for social cannabis use permits. Social consumption cannabis clubs, venues, and events cannot be located in Denver within 1,000 feet of:

  • Any school
  • Childcare facilities
  • Dependency treatment facilities
  • City-owned recreation center, including outdoor pools

As you can imagine, the areas of Denver that do not have one of the above entities within 1,000 feet of a location is limited.

The City of Oakland permits on-site consumption at dispensaries, and the state of Massachusetts recently adopted rules to allow regulated social cannabis use.

What can people do to help legalize cannabis clubs?

legalize written on big cannabis leaf
Most legal states don't allow cannabis clubs. You can help change that if you want.

Here's what you can do to help social consumption reform right now:

Fight for cannabis legalization.

Join an activist organization or a campaign effort, share educational information on social media, and consistently communicate with your elected officials.

Without possession and consumption legalization, social cannabis use reform cannot happen.

If you live in a legal cannabis state, become familiar with your state's indoor clean air laws. These laws were geared towards tobacco use but directly effect cannabis use as well. Find ways to make exceptions to the law in your state.

Engage regulators and legislators. Provide them with information about Denver's law, Oakland's limited on-site consumption permits, and the recently adopted social use rules in Massachusetts.

If/when Alaska starts issuing licenses, make that info part of your communications. Emphasize that other areas are doing it and that it doesn't require re-inventing the wheel.

If a measure gets introduced at the local or state level where you live, make sure to submit public comments in writing and in person.

Start a Facebook group and join up with others that are passionate about social consumption reform. That way it makes it easier to mobilize support to bring awareness to the cause.

Cannabis laws are an ever-evolving process that involve all of us.


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