Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Cannabis Clubs are a Necessary Part of Legalization

Regulating Cannabis like Alcohol Should Always Include a Place to Smoke or Vape Socially

** This Story was originally published on Sprout.News in 2016 and has been updated to reflect the current state of cannabis clubs throughout the United States **

For eight states and Washington D.C. the fight to legalize marijuana is over – but the fight to normalize it, well that’s another story entirely. When these states saw legal marijuana, some saw opportunity – and merely some realized they have no place they are allowed to smoke their now legal to own and legal to buy herbs. This resulted in Cannabis Clubs popping up, scattered throughout Colorado, Washington, Oregon and D.C.; and still no state has taken the initiative to regulate these clubs and make them legal.

Why do lawmakers hate on cannabis clubs?

Once establishments of this sort started to creep up, lawmakers realized they weren’t quite happy with it. Lawmakers believe it should be considered “selling” marijuana to offer free bud in exchange for a membership. Others would rather point out that such establishments clash with the states clean air laws (originally aimed at tobacco smoke). Unfortunately legislators have managed to find a rhyme and a reason behind their decision to ban cannabis clubs.

The reason that this is such a big deal to so many people, is because many based the idea of legalization off the idea of regulating the industry in a similar fashion to the alcohol industry. Yet people who choose to drink can legally partake of the intoxicating liquid in bars and clubs, at ball games, concerts and restaurants – and yet us who prefer to enjoy a joint, a blunt or a nice bong rip have to stay home or stay sober.

Most cannabis clubs operate in a fashion as to hopefully avoid breaking the current state laws. They are often only hosted in private residences – and they don’t ever directly sell marijuana (though some do sell munchies and drinks or include that with a gift of bud as a bonus for paying a daily, weekly or monthly membership fee). Likely one of the biggest issues with lawmakers (whether or not they will admit it) is that these establishments, since they are not licensed, are not subject to any of the same taxes and fees that other cannabis industry businesses must pay.

Other reasons that lawmakers in many states are weary of allowing cannabis clubs is the uncertainty surrounding how the new presidential administration is going to handle the growing legal cannabis industry. Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law legislators are reluctant to make a move that may gain them national attention that could possibly lead to altercations between state and federal government. Though that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers from at least introducing the bills aimed at allowing social consumption, it sadly seems like most if not all of these bills or regulations are going to be headed back to the drawing board for the time being.

Why is social consumption such a big deal to legalization activists?

The problem for most of us who prefer to smoke is that we want to be social – cannabis is a very social thing to experience. Most people I’ve ever met prefer to smoke in a social setting, enjoying friends and family, maybe a movie or good meal– not many people I know smoke very much when they are by themselves – and who wants to just keep hiding in their homes once the plant is legal anyway? Wasn’t part of the goal of legalization that we would no longer have to hide?

For all the years of prohibition (and all the years to come in many other places) we have been forced to hide our marijuana use. It hasn’t been accepted as a normal or even an okay thing to do – but legalization has started to change that. People who previously hid their use will be more open and people who were afraid to try it because it was illegal will likely try it as well – but until we introduce a place where we can gather and toke together in a social setting, we’re still in a way keeping marijuana very underground.

We don’t force these restrictions on alcohol – and no one ever tried to after the short period of alcohol prohibition was over. So why are we still forcing marijuana users into a corner? With all the effort to bring legalization about, isn’t it possible we want to be more open about our lifestyles, proving that there is no single marijuana user stereotype, just like there is no one stereotype for people who drink alcohol.

Denying cannabis users a place to comfortably enjoy their bud outside the home is downright wrong once the plant has been brought to a legal status.

Are there any plans to allow social consumption in the near future?

Last November Denver became the first city in the United States to pass a law to allow businesses to permit cannabis use on the property. They are currently in the process of setting up regulations to allow businesses – with approval from the neighborhood – to apply for a license to allow cannabis use for those who are over 21 and bring their own cannabis. There are a few issues still – whether or not smoking will be allowed indoors, whether or not to permit people under 21 in the establishment when marijuana is present. Under Colorado state law, they still won’t be able to allow cannabis and alcohol to be present in the same place at the same time – so bars and restaurants that sell alcohol are out of the question for cannabis consumption permits.

During the 2017 legislative sessions so far Colorado, Oregon and Nevada have all had the opportunity to pass legislation that would allow cannabis clubs to operate under state law, paying licensing fees, taxes and abiding to specific regulations, just like the rest of the industry. Colorado has unfortunately revised their bill and dropped the provisions that would have allowed marijuana social clubs with most lawmakers citing their reasoning as agreeing with Colorado Governor Hickenlooper that they don’t want to bring any unnecessary national attention to themselves with the uncertainty of how the new administration will react.

Oregon has simply let their legislation fall through the cracks, it isn’t likely to see a vote before the end of the session, which lets the bill die until the next time around. Similarly Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board has been back and forth on the issue since they started creating the industry regulations last year – but it appears likely that they will be holding off on plans to allow consumption in some dispensaries until further notice. The only state that really appears to be trying to pass legislation regardless of the federal governments stance on the issue is Nevada – where SB236 just passed in the senate and begins its review in the Assembly.

Lawmakers who want to see this legislation passed now the importance of allowing people a place to consume cannabis outside a private residence – after all what are customers who are not residents supposed to do? A lot of sales in the cannabis industry come from tourists – some even plan their vacations around the fact that they can legally buy bud on the trip – so providing these people a place to actually smoke or vape their cannabis, or eat their edibles, is only the right thing to do. With Las Vegas being the tourist hot spot it is, and Nevada hoping to have legal sales as early as this summer, passing this bill is an important step that they really shouldn’t put off.

Other states that have legalized but don’t have legal sales happening yet – Maine, Massachusetts and California – will also have to discuss the idea of cannabis clubs eventually. After all, people have already proven they aren’t afraid to operate in a grey area of the legal system when it comes to gathering with friends to enjoy the newly legalized herb – so lawmakers should really get ahead of this before it becomes something they can call a “problem of legalization” further down the line.

We’re not asking for anything insane, over-the-top or unreasonable – we just want to be able to smoke our weed somewhere other than our homes for a change!

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