A pot cafe in Barcelona. It just makes fucking sense.
A pot cafe in Barcelona. It just makes fucking sense. Lester Black

Amsterdam-style pot cafés are coming to America. San Francisco already has one. Las Vegas is about to get them. And Colorado is on the verge of making them legal statewide. But don’t expect one in Seattle anytime soon. Washington’s attempt at legalizing pot cafe’s this year stalled and died essentially as soon as it was proposed.

Pot cafes were completely off the table when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational pot nearly seven years ago. But as legal weed spreads to the Midwest and the East Coast, the early adopting states have slowly warmed to the idea of pot cafes. California’s laws allow local cities to regulate pot cafes, and San Francisco gave out a permit for a cannabis lounge early last year.

Sin City is now following San Francisco’s move. The Las Vegas City Council agreed to cannabis lounge rules yesterday and the city expects the first cafes to open as early as this summer.

Colorado also appears to be closer to legalizing pot cafes. The state legislature is one procedural vote away from sending a law to their governor that would give business owners a variety of options when it comes to pot lounges. Each pot lounge would need to get local approval, but the proposed state law allows the consumption of cannabis at approved cafes, bus tours, designated parts of hotels, and dispensary tasting rooms. The bill has gotten approval from the Senate and the House, and just needs one more procedural vote before it can be sent to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who will decide if it becomes law. Colorado’s last governor, John Hickenlooper, vetoed a previous attempt to legalize these lounges. But Polis seems much more likely to approve the bill. He has the endorsement of NORML, one of the strongest national pot advocacy organizations, and said during his campaign that he would be “an unwavering champion” for the cannabis industry.

There don’t appear to be many champions of pot cafes in Washington’s legislature. Two Democrats in Washington’s House of Representatives proposed a bill this year that would allow pot stores to open consumption lounges where consumers could smoke the pot they bought at that store. It would also made it possible for pot farms to directly sell the pot they grow to customers and even offer a way for those farms to allow customers to sample some of their purchased pot at the farm. It sounds a lot like the winery model, which is fucking fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to go on a pot farm tour where you can see beautiful fields of buds, talk to the farmers themselves, and then smoke some pot on the farm? It sounds fucking fantastic and it would clearly help our struggling small-scale pot farmers.

But it got nowhere in this legislative session. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Paulsbo) and Rep. Steve Kirby (D-Tacoma), was referred to the House’s Commerce & Gaming Committee in February but failed to get anywhere.

Some spliff rolling supplies from my trip to Barcelona.
Some spliff rolling supplies from my trip to Barcelona. Lester Black
That’s a shame. I’ve visited pot cafes in Amsterdam, Vancouver, and Barcelona and I can tell you that legalizing these businesses is a no-brainer. They are completely safe and pose no public safety risk, especially when compared to the impacts alcohol-serving establishments can have in the city. When I visited a pot cafe in Barcelona last year, I was blown away by how nice the establishment was. Fans quietly pulled the smoke out of the cafe and even though people all around me were smoking spliffs—Spaniards love to mix tobacco with cannabis flower and hash—the air felt remarkably clean and fresher than in most restaurants. It was also clear that there was a strong community at the café. While I sat and talked with the cafe’s owner, people kept coming up and greeting him. Every customer knew to give him at least a nod and he knew most of them by name. The customers had a close connection to the person who was growing their pot and a safe and fun space to consume, while the owner had a thriving business that brought a stronger sense of community to the block the cafe was located on. It was a model for how pot cafes and cannabis normalization benefits everyone. But don’t expect to see it in Seattle anytime soon.