A bill that would allow local governments across the State of California to license Amsterdam-style cannabis “coffee shops” has been passed in the State Assembly. The bill, AB 374, which was proposed by Assemblymember Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, passed with broad bipartisan support, receiving a 64 to 9 vote.
“Cannabis cafes in the Netherlands capitalize on the social experience of cannabis by offering coffee, food, and live music, all of those opportunities are currently illegal under California law,” read a press release from Haney’s office. “AB 374 will allow struggling cannabis businesses to diversity 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.”
While California has been at the forefront of the legalization of cannabis in the United States, public consumption is still technically prohibited. However, in the Netherlands, and in particular, its capital, Amsterdam, public cannabis use has long been decriminalized.
Currently, there are over 700 cannabis cafes that operate across the Netherlands. The cafes are a big tourist draw, with over $1 billion spent in such cafes annually.
The cannabis industry in California, meanwhile, has been struggling since recreational use became legal. High taxes and a thriving black market have left dispensaries and legitimate dispensaries struggling, with many saying the entire industry could collapse unless something changes.
According to Haney, AB 374 could be the change the industry needs to evolve and survive.
“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.”
Statistics cited by Haney’s office indicate that in 2020, California’s legal cannabis industry was a $4 billion business. That same year, however, black market sales are projected to have doubled that.