As the Washington State legislature begins to address fundamental problems involving the legal cannabis industry here in Washington State (namely the excessive taxation, the unregulation of the medical market, and the absurd separation of marijuana sales from all other products such as T-Shirts, etc) one additional issue has risen to the top and, at this point, there is no imminent fixes on the horizon.
The essence of the problem is the lack of a specific definition for what the “public consumption of marijuana” really means. Specifically, the people voted in a legalization of marijuana initiative, and similar to alcohol, prohibits the public consumption of marijuana. Most people would have assumed this meant to keep people from hanging out in a public park or walking down a street smoking a joint. The unfortunate thing is that without special definitions of what is truly “public” then everything outside your own home actually becomes public. For example you are prohibited from drinking alcohol while walking down a side-walk, but you can certainly consume it “publicly” at a bar or restaurant. So, logically, that should be the case with marijuana — but it is not.
A marijuana club, open to the public, becomes a public space — and hence prohibited. That is why the 2015 High Times Cannabis Cup will be held in Portland instead of the Seattle area. Furthermore, this “public consumption” issue is complicated by smoking laws put in place against consuming tobacco products indoors … the prohibition of smoking indoors is not limited to tobacco only. So between the “no public consumption” and the “no smoking indoors” citizens of the State of Washington end up with no legal locations to consume it except their home.
That certainly puts a damper on the possibilities for cannabis tourism, and cannabis-based festivals such as outdoor 4/20 events, this year’s High Times Cannabis Cup and even, potentially Seattle’s own Hempfest (how does hempfest get away with it? They don’t, really, Hempfest has always been, and will continue to be, a civil disobedient festival).
This also creates a situation where people will increasingly simply consume it at a park or elsewhere, perhaps risking a ticket or a fine, because there are no legal clubs to go to (the marijuana equivalent to a bar). So the ironic thing is that the “no public consumption” portion of the law prohibits cannabis clubs and cannabis festivals, therefore tourists and other people will more likely just “consume in public” like a park etc, since there is no where else to go …
- Define “public consumption” to be in parallel with alcohol; allow for the licensing of cannabis clubs and cannabis festivals.
- Include a provision for outdoor smoking out of view of the general public (eg a fenced deck area, etc).
- Cannabis clubs could offer public spaces for vaporized cannabis and edible cannabis with an outdoor area for smoking. Coffee, food, and water should be available options.
- If there are concerns of the fragrance of the outdoor spaces, then provide for “hot box rooms” — rooms set up with charcoal ventilation systems for indoor smoking which are closed off from staff working areas and other public areas of the space. Hot box rooms could be rented privately.
- Cannabis clubs should be owned and operated, at least initially, by cannabis retailers — increasing the opportunity that most of the products consumed at a club are coming from a legal and regulated source. Cannabis clubs owned by non-cannabis retailers could easily become a hot spot of illicit activity — sort of like having a bar or dance club where you “bring your own alcohol” and you cannot buy it on site. A rediculous model. The retail licensing could be expanded to provide for purchase and consumption of products right at the club itself by creating a separate marijuana club (retail) licence; or in conjunction with existing retail licenses. The easy solution: Allow all legal retailers to offer onsite consumption of products to their customers immediately and perhaps expand into separate club licensing in the future.