Cannabis Clubs: What Are They? Are They Legal?

Cannabis Clubs: What Are They? Are They Legal?

Cannabis clubs are social venues where adults are permitted to consume marijuana and marijuana-derived products openly. Plenty of lingering questions remain about whether states that have legalized recreational marijuana should regulate these establishments.

In April 2017, Colorado lawmakers decided to drop plans to regulate marijuana clubs, possibly due to the uncertainty of how President Trump’s administration plans to prosecute those operating in the recreational marijuana industry. Social cannabis clubs are facing roadblocks across the United States, not only in Colorado. Several other states appear to be hesitant about regulating cannabis clubs, even though they, like Colorado, legalized recreational marijuana use.

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A “legal gray area”

The legal gray area in which Pot Luck Events — the only cannabis club in Anchorage, Alaska — has been operating has caused the club to receive cease and desist orders that can be read as “wait and see” directives. Director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, Erika McConnell, issued a media statement, saying, “obviously there is a great deal of interest in social consumption of marijuana, and the Marijuana Control Board is evaluating methods to allow this, within the bounds of Alaska statute and regulation.”

While the situation could possible change to favor cannabis clubs in Alaska, as well as in other states over the next few years, a Pot Luck Events manager hasn’t give up hope yet on the future, saying  that “this is a retreat, not a surrender.”

Popular arguments “for” and “against”

In Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Clark County marijuana advisory panel put public marijuana lounges on the agenda of a meeting at the end of March 2017. Nothing has been decided yet, but there’s a proposition for a “pilot program that would let medical marijuana dispensaries test the idea of public consumption inside their shops.” The vision is to create an environment wherein all users can safely consume cannabis. This would lessen the burden on hotels where cannabis might not be welcome, as well as on law enforcement trying to stop people from smoking in public areas.

The opinions of lawmakers don’t seem to be tied to partisanship. Some believe, like in Nevada’s case, that a social venue for cannabis consumers might be a solution to several potential problems, while others seem to prefer that people only consume privately in their homes.

Another routine point of disagreement is related to the rules that would be applied to these cannabis clubs. Should they be allowed to sell marijuana on-site or should people bring their own?

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Bring your own cannabis?

The problem with a “bring your own cannabis” concept is that is could be more difficult to control the quantities and the quality of product brought inside an establishment. In a situation where people are only allowed to consume products bought on-site, however, authorities would likely have a much better understanding of what happens in each club, and be more comfortable with the quality of the products consumed. This way, not only consumers can be reassured, but also the local community. Neighbors might be prone to contest less if they know the authorities are supervising the cannabis club. The goal is, of course, to respect the rights of consumers, but also of non-consumers.

When it comes to cannabis clubs, some ideas are more frequently debated than others. For instance, the creation of a taxi-like service to get people home, or back to their hotels, after consuming cannabis. It’s possible that when lawmakers start regulating these venues, this would become mandatory because public safety is an important issue. Of course the venues might also decide for themselves to create this type of service in order to protect their clients. A lot of ideas for regulation seem to exist, it will take some time until states decide to clearly regulate social cannabis clubs.

One of the main arguments for regulating cannabis clubs is that without clear rules and guidelines, venues will most likely pop up illegally, possibly creating headaches for local citizens and law enforcement. There is also the argument that cannabis clubs will help keep people from consuming product in public.  

Educational Opportunities

The safe and controlled environment would allow for education on the use of marijuana products as well. Staff members could be given an important role when it comes to helping consumers pick their products. Edibles, for instance, can be difficult to dose appropriately for an inexperienced customer. They would benefit greatly from some good advice.

But as is the case with almost everything in the cannabis industry, the jury is still out on the future of cannabis clubs.