Grover Beach is one of the first cities on the Central Coast to consider allowing what some are calling "the next big thing" in the legal marijuana industry: cannabis consumption lounges.
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- 'THE NEXT BIG THING' Grover Beach City Council recently expressed interest in allowing cannabis consumption lounges, spaces connected to dispensaries where customers can use marijuana on site.
"On-site consumption is something that's been gaining a little bit more traction throughout the state," Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters said at a City Council meeting on May 10, where city staff presented updates on Grover's commercial cannabis industry. "Currently, on-site consumption is allowed in the state of California with some restrictions. It's pretty common in the metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles."
Cannabis consumption lounges, like bars that serve alcohol, are spaces attached to cannabis storefronts where customers can use and try out recreational and medicinal marijuana products while socializing. Peters said they've gained popularity in other areas as spaces where locals can test out products and meet new people, and where out-of-state tourists can experience California's commercial cannabis industry, without having to use illegally in hotel rooms or in public.
There really aren't many places in California for the safe and legal use of cannabis products, Peters said. It's not allowed anywhere in public—in parked cars, on public sidewalks, parks, streets—and property owners can prohibit rental tenants from using marijuana on-site.
"So for instance, if somebody is in an apartment complex, and even if they have medicinal purposes for cannabis use, and the landlord had already implemented a non-cannabis facility, by law those individuals could not utilize their medicinal cannabis within their residence," Peters said at the meeting. "So they need to find somewhere else to utilize their cannabis product."
Grover Beach City Council previously discussed the possibility of allowing lounges in 2018 and 2019, but that progress was interrupted by the pandemic. At the May 10 meeting, City Council members unanimously agreed to consider the idea more seriously in the near future.
"I'd really like to pursue that. I'd like to see staff come back with some information," Councilmember Karen Bright said. "I like that we would be on the cutting edge. I'd like to see how we could make that safe for the folks who are traveling from the consumption lounge as well as for people who are just traveling the streets."
Transportation was one of several key issues council members said they'd need to more thoroughly consider. State law requires that consumption lounges are attached to existing retail storefronts, and Grover's four cannabis storefronts are all located in the city's industrial zone, where public transportation options are limited. That poses a potential problem for individuals leaving lounges while intoxicated.
Cannabis consumption—even in lounges—can't be visible from public spaces, and state law prohibits the sale of tobacco, alcohol, and non-cannabis food and beverages in such lounges. That includes water, which city staff said is a big safety and health concern.
Still, city staff said several local cannabis retailers expressed excitement over the potential allowance of lounges.
Joe Armendariz is the director of government and public affairs at the Natural Healing Center (NHC), a cannabis distributor with several retail locations throughout California. NHC already has one consumption lounge at its location in Lemoore, and Armendariz said it provides a safe space for customers to test out different products and talk with knowledgeable "bud tenders" before buying in bulk.
"And that can be very helpful," he said, for both recreational and medicinal users.
NHC's dispensary in Grover Beach sits on a large campus with ample room for something similar, and Armendariz said he's looking forward to further discussions on the topic this summer.
"We'd be very interested in having a consumption lounge in Grover Beach," he said. Δ