The first time you walk into a dispensary to purchase your first gram of legal weed… well, it is a feeling you just don’t forget. But if you’re a visitor to the state and not a resident with a home to hotbox, where do you go to consume that legal cannabis? In Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Nevada there are rules on the books for social consumption and most of those states have several businesses operating legally today permitting guests to smoke or vape cannabis in comfort. So what does the future hold for legal social consumption in Arizona?
Out of the 21 states that allow cannabis to be purchased at a dispensary, less than half of them currently authorize consumption lounges, or legal places for the cannabis to be used. Which has presented an issue for tourists who have no sanctioned place to smoke their flower or dab. As an answer to this glaring issue, 10 states have enacted laws to provide licenses to businesses that wish to apply as long as they meet the state issued criteria.
The rules for social consumption vary state by state. It would be ideal if the same rules applied across the board of course, but because cannabis is illegal federally we will have to settle for state by state rules for now. So, for example, in California a licensed cannabis consumption business may not serve food as of early April 2023 (note: there is a bill that would condone the sale of food at pot lounges, California AB-374, which is working its way through the California Assembly right now). In contrast, a cannabis lounge in Alaska can apply to sell food, provided they follow food handling guidelines. 8 states out of the 10 ban drinking alcohol, while two - Michigan and New York - don’t address alcohol in their social consumption of cannabis regulations at all.
If a state legalizes cannabis consumption but doesn’t provide a safe and legal way for people to consume that cannabis - there is clearly a complication. The states that have adopted such regulations haven’t turned back - because it’s inherently a good idea to give people a safe space to use an intoxicating substance you’ve legalized, right? Right.
But the road to running a business that allows social consumption isn’t short and it isn’t cheap. Co-owner of Colorado Cannabis Tours, Mike Eymer, was pleased to be a part of making social consumption a reality for the state of Colorado. He was less pleased to be made to pay a hefty fine and sign paperwork admitting he’d been running his business illegally since 2014. But doing so granted Eymer’s business the opportunity to stop operating in what had previously been a legal gray area and go totally legitimate.
Which is exactly where some Arizona businesses might find themselves if and when Arizona decides to join the team. The most publicized Arizona consumption lounge is Harambe Cafe and Social Club, a “420 Indoor Lounge,” which is also black family owned and operated per their website. The Tucson club is a local gift, but don’t get it twisted - there are no laws providing legal social consumption in Arizona. The only specific regulation is that public consumption is not okay, so if your space could be considered private, like a “club,” (like Harambe) you could potentially not technically be breaking any laws - yet. And operating in a gray area is better than not operating at all. Much like Colorado Cannabis Tours did, Harambe is helping tourists enjoy the legal cannabis they’ve purchased in a safe and comfortable environment.
Sadly, this writer could find nothing about any plans to legalize social consumption of cannabis in Arizona anytime soon. That could be because they don’t feel it is necessary, it might be because they don’t want to deal with smoking lounges and the oversight they require, who knows. For now, Harambe Cafe and others with similar businesses in Arizona, will wait for the state to recognize the many benefits their lounges bring to our communities.
Harambe Cafe provides a beautiful space for anyone to feel comfortable while enjoying music, great food and artistic vibes in a welcoming setting. Located in Tucson, this is a favorite spot for cannabis enthusiasts to pop in during afternoons and evenings. Scheduled events take place as well as regular nights just for lounging. Anyone 21+ is welcome to join. Check out their website contact on the next page for more event information.
While not an official Lounge, the Clarendon Hotel is known as a cannabis friendly hotel, hosting both private and public events that are cannabis friendly. They also have cannabis friendly rooms for guests who prefer the extra experience. Keep an eye on their event calendar for more information.
For cannabis travelers, there are 10 states that legally allow for social consumption. Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Nevada are all on the level - though some states have more smoking lounges than others - California currently leads. So when you exit the dispensary with your brand new baby nug, preroll, what have you - you are able to consume it without fear of being nabbed by the 5-0. Check out www.cannabistours.com to shop Tours and lodging in legal cannabis states.