California Says “No” to Mixing Marijuana & Alcohol in Public

By Paul Fuhr 08/02/18

California state regulators have drawn a line in the sand for businesses that wish to sell marijuana and alcohol in the same location.

Image: 
an illustration of a weed plant and a mug of beer enclosed in a warning sign

California state regulators have temporarily dashed hopes for bars and pubs where people can consume alcohol and marijuana at the same time, according to High Times.

The Golden State issued an industry advisory on July 25, which listed frequently asked questions of the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The advisory drew a clear line in the sand between alcohol and cannabis in the state, making it illegal to sell the two together.

“The MAUCRSA (Business and Professions Code section 26054) states that the holder of a license issued under the MAUCRSA ‘shall not sell alcoholic beverages or tobacco products on or at any premises licensed under this division,’” the memo stated.

The ABC also says beverages that blend the two substances together, such as marijuana-infused cocktails or Canada’s newly infamous “cannabis beer” will be illegal in the state. Cannabidiol (CBD) is out of the question for ABC licensees, too.

“It does not matter if the CBD comes from industrial hemp or from cannabis,” the memo said. “This also includes non-alcoholic beverage products and edibles. It is thus prohibited… regardless of source, in the manufacture or production of any alcoholic beverage, including using it in mixed drinks or cocktails.” 

State regulators added that businesses licensed to sell alcohol won’t be allowed to permit their patrons to bring (and use) their own marijuana on the premises, either. No cannabis products, including vaporizers and edibles, can be consumed in public, under California law.

“The restriction applies at all times, even after hours or during private functions,” the High Times story explained. “That means food, wine, and cannabis pairing events are not allowed at ABC licensed establishments.”

Interestingly enough, California’s Cannabis Portal site observed that the memo’s guidelines won’t stop any of it from happening: “There are many bars and pubs that [currently] turn a blind eye to such behavior, and did well before recreational marijuana was legalized in California.”

Additionally, the existence of Denver Initiative 300 (a pilot program that allows public pot consumption in Denver) suggests that attitudes could eventually shift in the opposite direction in California. 

Since its legalization in November 2016, the laws around marijuana use have been as controversial as they have been somewhat ambiguous.

While “there has been some lack of clarity” in how and where marijuana can be consumed, a Marijuana Moment article hinted that there is “perhaps a bit of willful ignorance” among businesses and entrepreneurs.

Even the advisory itself says that it’s not the “be-all and end-all” on the subject and is, instead, meant to simply provide some better clarification: “This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of what may be permitted or prohibited,” the memo cautioned. “You should obtain independent legal advice before engaging in business involving either alcoholic beverages or cannabis, and you should not act in reliance on any information presented herein.”

And while the ABC prohibits anyone from mixing alcohol and weed, there are no stipulations that prevent a person from holding licenses to sell both alcohol and cannabis.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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