- Nate Allbee
- (415) 756-0561
Sacramento – Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has introduced AB 374 which allows local California governments to license Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes. While cannabis cafes in the Netherlands thrive and capitalize on the social experience of cannabis by offering coffee, food, and live music, all of those opportunities are currently illegal under California law. Haney’s AB 374 will allow struggling cannabis businesses to diversify away from the marijuana-only “dispensary” model and bring much-needed tourist dollars into empty downtowns.
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” said Haney. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal. If an authorized cannabis retail store wants to also sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make that possible and stop holding back these small businesses.”
California is known worldwide as the birthplace of cannabis culture with its early adoption of medical cannabis and its expertise in cultivation. But there’s another location that competes with California for the title of the world capital of cannabis: Amsterdam.
The Netherlands took a very different route than California on its journey to becoming famous for cannabis. Recognizing that cannabis is most likely to be used in a social environment with friends, the Netherlands decriminalized the use of small amounts of cannabis in certain public places. This led to the famous Dutch coffee shops, which are small businesses where people can sip coffee, eat pastries, and enjoy cannabis.
Amsterdam has become a major tourist destination for people from all over the world who want to experience the Dutch cannabis cafe. Annually over 1.5 million tourists go to cannabis cafes during visits to the Netherlands, and 10% of the country’s 4.5 million annual tourists say that cannabis cafes are the reason they visit the country. There are over 700 cannabis cafes that operate across the Netherlands, and over 1 billion dollars is spent in the cafes every year
California on the other hand, is still dealing with the unintended consequences of decades of medical marijuana-only policies. California’s “dispensaries” have replaced the social aspect of the Amsterdam cannabis scene with pharmacy-like businesses that only allow customers to order cannabis at a counter, purchase nothing else, and then leave.
“California’s small cannabis businesses are struggling,” said Haney. “Issues like over-saturation, high taxes, and the thriving black market are hurting cannabis businesses who follow the rules and pay taxes.” In 2020, California’s legal cannabis sales reached $4 billion, while the state’s illicit market sales were projected to have exceeded $8 billion.
While consuming cannabis on-site at cannabis retailers is technically legal in California, selling non-cannabis-infused products is not. AB 374 is simple because it allows cannabis retailers to diversify their business and move away from the struggling and limited dispensary model by selling non-cannabis-infused foods.
“To be clear, we’re not saying that coffee shops should be allowed to sell cannabis,” said Assemblymember Matt Haney. “We’re saying that cannabis shops should be allowed to sell coffee. It shouldn’t be illegal for an existing cannabis business to move away from only selling marijuana and instead have the opportunity to grow, thrive and create jobs by offering coffee or live jazz.”