As more states pass laws legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, cannabis use has become more common among the general population. However, many of these people have found themselves caught in a dilemma as laws regarding where cannabis may be consumed come into play. Laws against public consumption and restrictions on smoking in rented housing have made smoking legally a complicated proposition.
In response, a few dispensaries throughout legal states in the U.S. have opened up cannabis lounges, often referred to as Smoke Lounges, to help ease their customer’s minds. They fill a gap in society that protects the consumer and gives them a place to enjoy marijuana products worry-free without breaking the law.
What is a cannabis social club?
Because marijuana is becoming more accepted and widely used, many cannabis users have sought out community spaces where they can safely smoke and socialize with other cannabis enthusiasts. Cannabis lounges are a place for people who use marijuana to enjoy themselves in a private and safe environment, and are becoming more popular within communities where recreational use is legal. These lounges are often attached to medical or recreational dispensaries. These spaces allow patrons to safely use products that they purchased on-site, in some cases at no extra cost, though that depends on your location. Some cannabis lounges in recreational cities like Denver are private clubs that require you to pay a fee depending on how long you’re planning on staying.
Cities like San Francisco and Oakland require smoke lounges to have air filtration systems, and many don’t actually allow open flames or smoke such as joints, blunts, and bongs, as the smoke produced is so heavy it can disrupt other patrons’ experiences. Still, some allow you to roll your own joints and blunts so long as you don’t smoke them on the premises. Cannabis lounges also generally have all the equipment you’ll need to enjoy yourself such as vaporizers, bongs, and dab rigs. It can also be a comfortable place to consume edibles, which many smoke lounges also allow.
Why are cannabis lounges popular?
Other than offering a safe and worry-free place to smoke and use cannabis products, they’re a great place to socialize and relax. Customers can purchase cannabis products on-site and then use them in the smoke lounge. A lot of places also offer entertainment as part of the experience and have multiple HDTV setups. This can make cannabis lounges a great place to go and watch sporting events or enjoy oneself with friends in much the same way people visit sports bars.
Dispensaries like East Bay Therapeutics in Emeryville, CA are expanding the social experience and offering customers fun activities to do while they enjoy their time in their cannabis lounge. They offer some pretty incredible activities, including yoga, meditation, games, and VR drone racing. Along with their high-class smoke lounge, Barbary Coast in San Francisco even offers a dab bar where you can smoke high-quality cannabis concentrates.
The Coffee Joint in Denver, CO is the closest thing to an Amsterdam-style pot/coffee shop that we have in the United States. They’re a social consumption club and coffee house that offers their patrons a place to use marijuana and enjoy a nice, hot, complimentary drink. They also offer entertainment and education on marijuana. They offer activities including ping-pong, board games, and retro gaming nights. Oh, and to top it off, they’re dog-friendly!
In short, cannabis lounges are growing in popularity because they offer many of the same benefits as a local bar or coffee shop, including a chance to interact with people in your community who share your interests.
Why are cannabis smoking lounges important?
Cannabis lounges are important for multiple reasons, the main one being the most obvious: they give people who use marijuana a safe place to do so in the same place where they purchase their products. While this might seem like nothing but a nice perk, In California and Colorado, it can be a vital part of following recreational marijuana laws.
Even though marijuana is recreationally legal in several states, it’s illegal to smoke it inside of your home if you’re a renter and your landlord doesn’t allow it. That’s a big deal for a lot of people, especially when you take into account the fact that the majority of people living in large cities with recreational weed aren’t homeowners. In Denver, 51% of occupied housing is rented. In Seattle, it’s 54%, and in San Francisco, that number is a whopping 64% . And since no state allows people to smoke marijuana in public, that means that marijuana users, particularly renters, are extremely limited in where they can smoke legally.
People who don’t use marijuana may not understand that many cannabis users have spent years fearing arrest and the persecution of friends, family, and society over something that is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. This fear increases exponentially if you’re a minority and know that you are more likely to be arrested for possession or use of marijuana. America has spent a lot of time, money, and effort on demonizing cannabis through propaganda and the War on Drugs. Following the letter of the law decreases anxiety for many cannabis users, and the fact that it can be prohibitively difficult to do so makes smoke lounges a vital piece of the legalization puzzle.
Cannabis lounges are also changing the culture around marijuana and its use. With regular bars already in existence and cigar lounges still being a thing in some places, it makes sense that marijuana users would want their own space as well. Having widely-accepted, safe community spaces where cannabis can be consumed openly and without stigma is an important cultural milestone. This shift in culture helps cannabis become more accepted while solving some of the problems of current recreational cannabis laws. This change is important in the United States as marijuana is finally starting to become more accepted yet people still feel uneasy with laws about where and how it can be used. Greater access to safe cannabis products, private places to use them, and easier access to education about cannabis can help slowly lead to Americans become more comfortable with marijuana. This could potentially lead to Americans supporting and eventually passing laws that make public cannabis use legal, much like it currently is in Ontario.
And while cannabis lounges important for society and the average, everyday marijuana user as we move toward nationwide legalization, they’re also very important to the tourism and marijuana industries as a whole. Tourists who are curious about cannabis also end up in dilemas when visiting places that allow recreational marijuana. Hotel rooms don’t allow marijuana use, so tourists face the risk of large fines from the hotel if they attempt to smoke indoors. And since smoking in public places is illegal, they risk a confrontation with police officers if they’re caught with it outdoors. Marijuana tourism is bringing a lot of money into this budding industry, but without places where they can actually try it without legal repercussions, some tourists avoid it altogether. This means that local businesses and legal states don’t get benefit from cannabis tourism as much as they should. Cannabis lounges solve many of these problems.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and looking for a smoke lounge, here’s a list of places you can try Barbary Coast, Urban Pharm, East Bay Therapeutics, Magnolia, Harborside, and many more.
If you’re in the Denver Area you can check out spots like The Coffee Joint and iBake Denver.
Unfortunately, places like Seattle and Portland have laws that stop them from opening cannabis lounges. As smoke lounges become more common in recreational states like California and Colorado, hopefully places like Washington and Oregon will follow and allow on-site consumption at cannabis lounges. If not, they’re putting they’re communities at risk and ignoring all of the extra money from tourism and... well, in general. People are more likely to spend money on cannabis if you give them a place where they can hang out and use it. That’s one of the reasons why the model of Bay Area dispensaries allowing people to access smoke lounges if they make a purchase there is so popular.
Even though acceptance of marijuana is on the rise and more and more Americans are using it themselves, it’s still federally illegal. Even recreationally legal states don’t allow it to be consumed publicly. These laws cause problems for people who can’t smoke at their residence for various reasons and have nowhere else to go. Smoke lounges allow cannabis users to follow the law and stay safe and help show us what the future might be like once cannabis is legalized nationwide.
Cael S. San Francisco, CA
Cael is a writer and journalist based in San Francisco. He is an advocate for legal, safe recreational marijuana and strives to educate audiences about cannabis.