San Diego Considers Cannabis Cafes

By Kelly Burch 03/22/19

Opponents of the idea cite drugged driving as a reason not to open the cafes.

Image: 
couple looking at menus inside of a cannabis cafe

Officials in San Diego are gathering information and debating whether the city should allow establishments where patrons could purchase and consume legal marijuana products. 

“When we have a cool place like this where people can gather and participate in the legal market, that’s ultimately going to take people away from the illicit market and bring revenue back to the city,” Dallin Young, board member for the Association for Cannabis Professionals, told The San Diego Economic Development Committee last week, according to NBC News San Diego

City Councilmembers asked the city’s independent budget analyst to research the benefits and drawbacks of cannabis cafes. However, some councilmembers are concerned that the cafes would draw more resources than they would bring in.

Scott Chipman, a representative of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said that the cafes would open the door for many problems. "There's a big concern with drug-impaired driving," he told the committee. "The economic benefit would be far outweighed by the cost." 

Chipman says that the data shows this to be true. According to federal data, states that have legalized cannabis have seen a 6% increase in traffic accidents, for example.

"They're spending way more on pot enforcement, impaired driving, medical bills and other things than the economic revenue and taxes coming in,” Chipman said. 

Despite that, some California towns and cities are approving cannabis cafes. Although the California legalization legislation prohibits public use, the cafes would be an exception. 

West Hollywood issued approval for cannabis cafes that will begin operation this year, according to Eater

“We’re totally stoked the city is excited about our concept, and can’t wait to bring it to life. West Hollywood’s nightlife has it all, save for one thing: the world’s best cannabis restaurant and lounge,” said Kirk Cartozian, who is a founder of The Antidote, which will be an edibles-only lounge. “Did we say we’re totally ecstatic about this?”

According to Leafly, there were only nine cannabis cafes operating in the nation in 2018. Many of those are in San Francisco, a city that has been an early adopter of the idea, according to Charles Pappas, a medical cannabis commissioner. 

“San Francisco has the best regulations of anywhere,” he said. 

Pappas said that concerns over drugged driving are misplaced in a society that has already accepted that adults can consume some mind-altering substances, namely alcohol, in public. 

“If bars are safe why can’t lounges be safe? A lounge owner can say, ‘OK you’ve smoked enough, that’s it.’ Just like a bar,” he said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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