medical marijuana lounge

5 U.S. Lounges Where You Can Smoke Weed (Legally)

By Dominique Michelle Astorino

Courtesy of Moe Greens

The tables in Moe Greens’s bright and comfortable lounge are stocked with numerous accessories and instructions that facilitate a positive experience for both newbies and longtime tokers.

While it’s now perfectly legal to use marijuana recreationally in a handful of states, the subject of where to indulge is still a work in progress.

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E nvision this: You’re at a bar, but the energy is decidedly relaxed—even a bit posh. Instead of throwing back shots, you’re sharing a vape pen or tasting a cannabis confection from a local bakery. There’s trivia night going on in one corner, in the same area of the lounge where comedy night was happening last week. You can ask a cannabis aficionado (or “budtender”) about a new type of flower at the counter, or even order table service (complete with rolling papers) from your prereserved booth.

Marijuana prohibition’s slow but promising lift is making room for a wave of such public cannabis consumption spaces, known as “social consumption lounges” (SCLs). A s of now, there are very few spots open for business in this category, but the trend will explode in the coming months and years. Plans are in the works for many lounges to open between late 2019 and early 2020, particularly in Southern California. (West Hollywood alone has granted 16 on-site consumption licenses.) The Bay Area, as one could imagine, has been pioneering this space and currently has the largest number of SCLs, but there are a few in other areas of the United States as well.

Ahead are five stylish, comfortable, welcoming spaces for a new kind of happy hour, with some pointers and suggestions from Erik Knutson, CEO of Keef Brands. Not only is Erik the force behind Keef (known as a “ pioneering developer, producer, and distributor of award-winning cannabis-infused beverages, edibles, oils, and more ”) but he’s the cofounder and president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH), founding board member of the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF), and cofounder of the Denver Packaging Company (DPAC).

Moe Greens

San Francisco, California

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About a block away from Twitter HQ in San Francisco’s tech-centric mid-Market neighborhood sits a whimsical yet sophisticated midcentury modern space, with rich olive hues and gold Sputnik chandeliers. “This is an upscale cannabis lounge that brings together all kinds of people and consumers to relax in their booths and experience a wide variety of products, including infused beverages,” says Knutson. There are different areas of this lounge, including a vaping zone called the Playground, a space called the Vault for consuming “concentrated cannabis extracts,” and finally the High Roller, for traditional smoking.

Word of advice from Knutson: “The lounge gets really busy, so be sure to make a reservation!” Though the tables and booths are first-come first-serve, to guarantee space and table ordering service, booking ahead is required. Keep in mind that the reservations aren’t free. As one could expect when buying a table at a club, it’s the same gist here—a booth in the High Roller or a table at the Playground runs $420 (heh) per hour, with enough space for five to six people. Because this lounge is also a dispensary, guests can buy any products they might want to enjoy on site before venturing into one of the three consumption rooms. And in case documenting the whole experience at a social consumption lounge is of importance, there’s free Wi-Fi.

Magnolia Oakland

Oakland, California

San Francisco isn’t the only place in the Bay Area to enjoy marijuana with friends. Head to the East Bay to find Oakland’s Magnolia dispensary, vape lounge, and dab bar. BYOB(ud) or purchase a product on site for immediate consumption in one of the lounge’s “complimentary Volcano vaporizers,” Knutson says. “The dab bar and vape bar both have a wide selection of products.”

For those who aren’t into smoking or vaping, Magnolia provides the space to drink or eat edibles, apply topicals, or use a sublingual (under the tongue) tincture. There’s even an on-staff registered nurse who can counsel anyone with medically related questions or concerns. “Conveniently located near Jack London Square, this place provides a real sense of community for the East Bay’s cannabis consumers,” says Knutson.

The Summit Private Lounge
Worcester, Massachusetts

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Travel a bit west of Boston to find the Summit Private Lounge in Worcester. This upscale bar and lounge offers an elevated yet rustic aesthetic to enjoy cannabis tastings while taking in live music or playing video games. To boot, it’s the only spot on the U.S. East Coast that allows legal cannabis consumption on its premises.

Rent or buy a smoking device (like a piece or a bong), and take advantage of the cold drinks, snacks, and coffee on offer. There are bimonthly events, paint nights—and yes, video games—all available to anyone with a membership or guest pass. The idea of a “members-only” club might sound pricey and exclusive, but the Summit makes its social cannabis experience accessible with a modest $15 per month fee.

The Coffee Joint

Denver, Colorado

Located next door to a dispensary, Denver’s The Coffee Joint may look like a run-of-the-mill beatnik coffee house, but it’s (as of now) the only place you can publicly (and legally) consume cannabis in Colorado . . . but you still can’t smoke. (Smoking in public is illegal, regardless of what you’re smoking.) As Denver’s first licensed cannabis social consumption club and coffee house, the Coffee Joint has been a pioneer in this space. It offers cannabis-centric educational events, as well as complimentary coffee and tea, plus snacks, beer, and kombucha for purchase. You’ve gotta pay to play, though. In order to consume cannabis at The Coffee Joint, there’s a $5 fee along with a liability waiver.

Budberry (opening soon)

West Hollywood, California

Southern California is just getting on board with SCLs, and Budberry—opening in 2019— looks like an L.A. dream . Though it’s open date is still TBD, some of the renderings have been published online, and the plan is for chef Jeff Danzer, aka “ Jeff the 420 Chef ,” to serve artisanal edibles like macarons during the day and (potentially) cannabis cocktails at night.

While San Francisco started the trend, Los Angeles—staying true to its roots—will make it aesthetic and Instagrammable. The Barbie pink ’50s diner-style space will bring elements of modern and retro design together in a decidedly chic environment, featuring the pièce de résistance: an open kitchen, where Danzer will make magic happen for a hungry audience. In addition to the sweet treats and snacks, Budberry is slated to have infused drinks like coffee and soda on the menu.

Social consumption lounges are on the rise with the San Francisco Bay Area leading the charge. Recent legislation means exciting development for public marijuana use in Colorado, Nevada, and other parts of California.

What are Cannabis Lounges?

Cannabis was once seen as highly taboo; a drug for the rebellious, anti-social and sometimes delinquent.

Films such as Reefer Madness hysterically trumpeted the “dangers of cannabis”, and many politicians had to either hide their hash habits or claim that they “didn’t inhale.”

Users have historically had to keep their hash habits to themselves, smoking before they go out or after they arrive home from a night out. Not to mention the legal status of the drug, which has created a fear of being seen in public with the plant.

Though if there’s one telltale sign that marijuana stigmatization is finally coming to an end, it would have to be the emergence of cannabis lounges. But what exactly are they?

Cannabis lounges are a place where fans of hash, ganja, pot weed and bud can go to indulge in their favourite activity: consuming marijuana.

And not only that, but they can consume the plant in a number of ways, publicly. Typically seating between 40-60 people, cannabis lounges may become the bars and taverns of the future, as people put down their pint glasses in exchange for a puff of green.

There are currently nine cannabis lounges in the US, seven of which exist in San Francisco, with the other two in Denver and Oakland.

Lounging Around: The Biggest Cannabis Lounge

Cannabis lounges began when marijuana became recreationally legal in the US in 2018, with the first lounge launched being the Barbary Coast Collective in San Francisco.

Barbary Coast initially began as a medicinal marijuana dispensary in 2013, before creating their cannabis lounge across the street five years later.

The Barbary Coast Lounge is adorned in dark red leather seats in booths and bejeweled chandeliers hanging overhead. Lounge-goers have access to flower, pre-rolls, premium vape cartridges, concentrates, edibles, topicals and accessories.

Not to be confused with the “coffee-shops” of Amsterdam, cannabis lounges cannot sell food, and they also can’t sell alcohol. The lounge seats 40 people and you aren’t allowed to BYO weed?—similar to a bar and alcohol. Also, patrons are told to stay for only 30 minutes, enough time to get high and hit the road.

Cannabis lounges are unique in that you can’t actually smoke in public in the states??—although all this has changed now that lounges are around.

Cannabis lounges?—and some dispensaries?—are the only places that smokers can go (over the age of 21) to get high at a public venue.

Not just a lounge

While the Barbary Coast may indeed be the best known cannabis lounge, there’s plenty more where that came from. For example in Denver?—which recently saw the opening of ‘The Coffee Joint.’ In 2016, Denver passed an initiative which gave approval for certain businesses to apply for cannabis consumption licenses. One year later, the Coffee Joint opened up shop.

The Coffee Joint isn’t smoker-friendly however, as the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act only allows for electronic vaporisation and edibles consumption indoors. You make smoke in a private outdoor area, however unfortunately the Coffee Joint doesn’t have one. Sorry smokers.

The Coffee Joint’s owner Rita Tsalyuk describes the venue as “Starbucks on Steroids” and it is also home to yoga sessions, movie nights and video game events. And while you can’t buy cannabis from the venue itself, it is adjacent to a dispensary.

Then you have another San Franciscan lounge?—Urban Pharm, which is a dispensary mixed with a cannabis consumption lounge. The venue boasts highly passionate staff who recommend strains based on the consumer’s needs. Urban Pharm also hosts comedy nights, which must certainly be an easy crowd given the copious amounts of marijuana flowing.

“Every day, we get a new wave of customers that have been in a dispensary and I feel like now that the kind of taboo is being lifted, you know there’s a lot of opportunity.”

– Andrew Garcia of Urban Pharm SF.

Lastly on the list we have Magnolia Wellness, which functions as a dispensary, lounge and sometimes even a classroom. Based in Oakland, the venue is home to vape lounges and dab bars, as well as classes to educate users on different ways to consume cannabis.

Examples of some of Magnolia’s classes include how to microdose, as well as specific classes for veterans and the elderly. Magnolia even employs a registered nurse in case of emergencies.

And while these venues often resemble that of a vintage bar, they shouldn’t be confused with premises that serve alcohol. The intoxication provided by cannabis is notably different to that of alcohol, and comes with almost none of the health effects.

In Michigan, a cannabis lounge called ‘The Rec Centre’ follows this ethos, and wishes to represent a healthier alternative to drinking.

“We’re very much into the medicinal aspects [of cannabis],” says Rec Center manager Lindsey Price, “but we also want people to be able to just hang out and enjoy smoking with friends. In Genesee County, how many liquor licenses do we have here? A lot. I want to have that kind of environment where you can have fun without the alcohol.”

Weed Laws in the US: Everything You Need to Know

On a federal level, cannabis still remains a schedule 1 substance today. Though on a state level, there are now varying degrees of cannabis legislation depending upon which state you’re in. Illinois just became the 11th US state to legalize cannabis for recreational use among adults, passing their marijuana legalization bill on May 26th. Marijuana […]

All Work and….Some Play? Cannabis Use in the Workplace

When thinking of cannabis consumption, one typically imagines Doritos, a movie and a nice soft lounge. But have you ever considered getting high before work? While still federally illegal, cannabis is now legal in 11 US states – most recently in Illinois. And as the plant grows in popularity, so too does it’s consumption – […]

And while SF holds the reins to the cannabis lounge kingdom, that may be about to change.

The County of Los Angeles has been taking applications for social spaces for cannabis since the beginning of 2018. Some areas of LA, such as West Hollywood have updated regulations to allow for the public consumption of cannabis in cafes and lounges.

At the end of last year it was revealed that LA had granted 16 licenses for cannabis cafes. Half of these cafe’s are just for edibles, the other half for smoking and vaping.

New Jersey’s also passed a bill recently which allows for BYO cannabis social lounges.

Though there are concerns. Officials in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada have all rejected cannabis lounges on the grounds of health and safety. Issues of overly intoxicated individuals or clouds of smoke billowing from the windows have given rise to concerns for many legislators who have long sought to clean up such venues.

The case of Nevada was quite interesting in that the Las Vegas City Council had recently signed off on several venues to allow the consumption of cannabis socially. This was all overturned however when Assembly Bill 533 passed the Assembly on May 30 by a vote of 39-1. The Bill will put a two-year stop on any licenses for cannabis lounges, leaving many devastated.

For years legislators have made pushes to prevent smoking inside venues due to safety concerns, and now the public will have to fight to bring the smoke back in.

A Cloudy Future

Cannabis lounges are the greatest sign of the changing cultural sentiment towards the plant. As cannabis rises in popularity, so too does the demand for such lounges, as we’re now seeing across the US. Lounges give users the freedom to publicly ingest a substance which has long been illegal and frowned upon, which can only do wonders for the stigma surrounding cannabis.

While the residents of Las Vegas will have to wait before they can spark up on a cannabis couch, other states are eyeing the field and seeing what will work for them. According to an article in Forbes:

“Late last year, a group of state assemblymen and county commissioners from Nevada toured San Francisco’s cafes and lounges to see how they’re run. They are determined to push through legislation to allow cannabis cafes in their own state.

Massachusetts’ state government is partnering with cities interested in allowing places for “social consumption” of cannabis to create rules and study the impact of the businesses.”

It’s clear the demand for cannabis lounges is high, and changes are that those lucky enough to live in a state where lounges are legal are probably pretty high too.

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Louis O’Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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Cannabis lounges have become all the rage; but what exactly are they? And why is everyone talking about them? Let's find out in this article.