Lonely Planet Writer

California planning 'consumption lounges' for cannabis tourism

Four months after California become the ninth US state to allow for recreational cannabis consumption, cities are viewing consumption lounges as a way to increase cannabis tourism. At present, California is the only state that allows recreational consumption outside of private homes, although not openly in public, and its cities are looking at ways to capitalise on this advantage. As landlords were given the right to regulate marijuana use on private property, consumption lounges are considered to be an attractive proposition for visitors.

California cities see consumption lounges as a way to increase cannabis tourism. Image: Fuse/Getty Images

San Francisco already allows on-site recreational cannabis consumption at six consumption lounges as well as at two outlets for medical consumption. West Hollywood will begin accepting applications in May from those looking to open their own consumption lounges, and it plans to grant 16 permits. Eight of the permits will allow for smoking and the rest will restrict use to vaping and edibles. This will place these cities in a good position to attract visitors wishing to smoke, vape or consume cannabis in public with impunity.

Portland, Oregon, bids to build a craft cannabis business to rival beer. Image: Nigel Killeen

If other states’ experiences are anything to go by, California is correct in expecting a cannabis-related tourism boost. When Colorado legalised the narcotic in 2014, a survey in 2016 found that 15% of the 82.4 million travellers that visited the state that year participated in a marijuana-related activity, and a third of those reported it as a motivation for their trip. Even at that, it didn’t have lounges back then as it only granted its first licence in February to The Coffee Joint, allowing it to permit marijuana use on its premises.

A customer smells a cannabis product at MedMen in Los Angeles. Image: David McNew/Getty Images

California will require any lounge-type room that allows on-site cannabis consumption to be out of public view, and it can’t share a location where alcohol or tobacco is sold. Access will also be restricted to people aged 21 or older, and the lounges can’t operate within 600 feet of schools.