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California set to pass Amsterdam-style law which will allow cannabis cafes to open across the state | US News


California is on the brink of bringing in an Amsterdam-style law which will allow cannabis cafes and coffee shops to open across the state.

Campaigners say it will reduce black market sales and boost legitimate business.

Recreational cannabis has been legal in California since 2016 and purchases are made through dispensaries, with products generally smoked in private buildings or outside.

But that could all change if California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, passes this legislation.

Matt Haney, the San Francisco assembly member who wrote the bill, says if it is approved it will help increase tax revenues by reducing illegal sales.

“We’ve seen from places like Amsterdam and other places around the world that people want to consume cannabis with their friends socially, safely and legally,” he told Sky News.

“Right now they’re prohibited from doing that and that’s a huge missed opportunity for this industry and for residents of our state who want to build this culture and bring in tourism.”

Mr Haney’s office claimed that legal sales of cannabis in California reached $4bn (£3.3bn) in 2020, but that black market sales were estimated at more than $8bn (£6.6bn).

“At the moment dispensaries can’t sell food, they can’t sell non-alcoholic drinks,” Mr Haney added.

“And that, along with a lot of other regulations and a lot of taxes, is making it very hard for these legal, licensed small businesses to be successful in our state. It means the legal cannabis industry is growing at a very slow rate, while the illegal market is growing very rapidly.”

People could soon be able to smoke in cannabis cafes across California

At the Artist Tree dispensary and cannabis lounge in West Hollywood you’d be forgiven for thinking the cannabis cafe law had already been passed.

People sit at tables eating huge bowls of salad while waiters move between them, serving cups of coffee and cannabis cocktails.

“We have had to work round the law,” says Sky Fairman, lounge manager at the Artist Tree.

“All of this food is from off site but I’m excited to see more places like this popping up. Up until now, it’s still taboo to smoke anywhere outside of your home. So to do it in an open setting where you have something like food next to it, is making it a little bit more normalised. I’ve seen people from my age to my father, who’s 89, use cannabis for different reasons.”

The cannabis industry is worth more than £5bn a year to California, but advocates from the American Cancer Society oppose people smoking cannabis in public places.

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Autumn Ogden-Smith, legislative director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, is urging Governor Newsom to veto the legislation.

“The issue is people see this as a fun new recreational thing, they see it like alcohol,” says Ms Ogden-Smith.

“They think this is just something harmless that we can go do and it doesn’t impact anyone else. But it does impact other people when you are smoking it. The people who are working in the restaurant who didn’t necessarily sign up to smoke weed are now going to have the impacts of second-hand smoke.”

Despite the resistance, the California governor is expected by people familiar with the law to pass this bill in the next few days.

It would come into effect on 1 January next year.

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