Marijuana Lounges? Yes, But Let’s Have Our Own Places

Without doubt, it is important that we begin to move forward with the legalization of lounges and social clubs that permit marijuana smokers to gather and enjoy their favorite strains. Marijuana smoking is a social activity, and most smokers would like the option of dropping by a local marijuana-friendly venue, to relax with friends and like-minded colleagues.

Currently, none of the four states that have fully legalized marijuana allow for this option. Smoking in a public venue is prohibited, and the authorities have taken a needlessly restrictive view of what is a public place, refusing, for example, to permit someone to lease a private venue and operate a private, members-only club where marijuana could be enjoyed. There is no public-policy or public-health basis for being so restrictive

As we move forward, it is important that we not permit ourselves to get shoe-horned into some system that suggests we are second-class citizens, simply because we enjoy smoking marijuana, and that would effectively keep us in the closet. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and there is no reason why we should not be permitted to enjoy marijuana in a lounge or social club with friends.

Smokers’ clubs have in fact surfaced in all of the legalization states, where those in the know can meet and share good weed, but they are forced to operate on the fringes, as part of a “gray market,” and several have already been closed by the authorities. I had the opportunity to visit a “smoke-easy” in Denver when I was in town for the 4/20 Cannabis Cup, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but was saddened to learn the club had been raided and closed the following day. Gray market clubs are clearly not the long-term answer to this problem.

In Seattle, City Attorney Pete Holmes, a strong advocate for legalizing marijuana, has recently given a boost to this issue by releasing a 10-page report calling for the licensing of marijuana-friendly lounges. “Single family homeowners have a legal place to consume marijuana,” Holmes said, “but others however, such as out-of-town visitors, the homeless, and renters and condominium owners whose buildings do not permit marijuana use, have fewer options. You can enforce the law much better if you, at the same time, provide an outlet for that demand.” No action has yet resulted in Seattle to permit marijuana lounges, but the topic is now front and center for consideration by elected officials.

So I was pleased to learn a few days ago that an effort is underway to qualify an initiative for the Denver ballot this November to remove some of those barriers, and to legalize marijuana-friendly clubs and lounges. The proposal would permit existing alcohol bars and clubs to permit those 21 and older to consume marijuana in designated areas; vaporizing and edibles if indoors, and smoking if outdoors and out of public view.

Let’s Keep Our Distance from Alcohol

My concern with this specific proposal to legalize marijuana lounges is that it would allow marijuana smoking in venues that are also licensed to sell alcohol. I would urge a model that allows for the licensing of marijuana-friendly lounges, but keep those separate from existing alcohol bars and clubs. I am not making a moral judgement; I personally enjoy both drugs, and when I am home in the evenings, I frequently pour myself a glass of wine and roll a joint. But I am at home in a safe environment, and not putting anyone at any risk.

The two drugs, when used together, are synergistic, and the effect of combining the two causes far greater short-term impairment than either drug by itself, raising legitimate questions of public safety if alcohol bars and clubs were also marijuana-friendly. It would require the bar tender to be far more careful about “cutting-off” anyone who appeared to be getting drunk, and their track-record in that regard is not reassuring.

In addition, alcohol is a drug that causes many drinkers, at some point, to become aggressive and confrontational, resulting in bar fights and other unruly and repulsive behavior on a regular basis. Marijuana, on the other hand, causes most users to feel relaxed and peaceful, and certainly not confrontational. That distinction is one that is both relevant and helpful politically, and we should strive culturally to maintain that advantage. Were we to establish a system in which both drugs were sold in the same venues, we would likely end-up being judged (by the 84 percent of the public who do not currently smoke marijuana) by the worst behavior caused by alcohol, including it’s impact on safe driving skills, and that is a needless political burden to carry.

Interestingly, Colorado state Representative Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), a strong supporter of legalized marijuana, has previously floated ideas involving cannabis-only clubs, such as those that operate in Amsterdam, but those would be alcohol-free venues, avoiding the public safety and political issues discussed above. The latest proposal being advanced for Denver fails to maintain that distinction.

I recognize that even if marijuana lounges were free of alcohol, there is nothing that would keep an individual from stopping at an alcohol bar, for example, for an hour, before then leaving for a marijuana lounge. No system can avoid all risks, and in the end we must rely on the common sense of most marijuana smokers to avoid dangerous and abusive practices. But we need not establish a system that creates those opportunities and invites those problems.

A recent poll released by a Washington, DC group called the Third Way found that roughly one-third of the public remain opposed to marijuana legalization; one third remain strongly in favor of legalization; and the remaining third – dubbed “the marijuana middle” – now oppose prohibition, and support full legalization, but they are not pro-pot. Rather they recognize that prohibition has caused more problems than the drug it attempts to prohibit. And important for this discussion, only 36 percent of the survey respondents viewed recreational marijuana smokers favorably; 54 percent have an unfavorable impression of those of us who smoke recreationally.

That underscores the fragile nature of the coalition that has made it possible for us to move legalization forward in this country, and the need to move cautiously as we ask for additional rights under these new laws. We must be sensitive to the legitimate concerns of non-smokers, in order to maintain our majority for full legalization, and I fear this latest proposal coming out of Denver puts a big political bulls-eye right on our backs.

I would urge those proposing this change to consider amending their initial proposal to allow for marijuana-only lounges and clubs in Denver, but take a lead from Amsterdam and do not permit marijuana to be smoked in alcohol clubs, or alcohol to be consumed in marijuana clubs. That would provide us smokers with what we need — the opportunity to socialize with other smokers — without the additional risks, both political and real, of mixing the two drugs.

56 thoughts

  1. And one is always free to “stay away” from. I don’t drink anymore, but don’t decry someone else’s freedom to drink – Evening Bud

    Who decried anyone’s right to drink?

    The “stoner boy” was (apparently failed) attempt to suggest how some drunks would behave in social settings with cannabis consumers.

    I could not care less who consumes alcohol…I just don’t need to suffer the generally abusive and often violent alcohol abuser in a place where others are trying to actually “Socialize”!

    Do you proof read your own comments?

    You state name calling is an indication of a bankruptcy of ideas…and then …you proceed to call me names and attempt to deride my personal opinion choice…and my parents are guilty of disagreeing with you too? ( “Who died and appointed you the chief of the morality police? Lemme guess, you’re related to Carrie Nation.” Or maybe your parents were the original founders of the Anti-Saloon League. – Evening Bud

    As to your misunderstanding regarding the blame issue, let me say this about that…The MEDIA will falsely blame cannabis for any negative incident/accident actually caused by alcohol intoxication.

    You do notice I have not insulted you or your Parents?

    I don’t know you or your Parents…and you don’t know me or you wouldn’t insult me or my deceased Parents.

  2. @ Windy,

    I had a really long reply typed out in response to your latest comments, pointing out the inconsistencies and ironies primarily, but realized it wasn’t worth it, and erased it. The other posters don’t need to be subjected to this anymore. I will say, however, that you’ve shown yourself to be every bit as intolerant as any booze-guzzling hypocrite who wants to keep MJ illegal.

    As far as insulting your deceased parents, I will give an apology for that; it was an (apparently failed) attempt at sarcasm. I’m sure your parents didn’t actually found the Anti-Saloon League–geez. And I’ll even go as far as to say that you probably aren’t related to Carrie Nation either. There!

    But you probably shouldn’t complain about personal attacks when you come out firing with a personal attack. Let’s see, how did you put it? “Please keep those who choose to consume [booze] . . . away from the Cannabis club . . . or risk the guy above vomiting on your shoes/evening/life?” Seems pretty personal to me.

  3. Well at first I have to say I was against not allowing MJ and Alcohol to be sold and consumed in the same lounge together. However, after reading this article you made so many valid and legitimate argument that you have changed my mind altogether. You’re definitely right they are both fun to use, but I always like the Bud before drinking any Beer or Wine (I don’t care much for liquor). I usually end up drinking far less if I have smoked before versuses not smoking at all. Rarely do I like to drink and then smoke because it gives me the bends pretty easily.

  4. “Please keep those who choose to consume [booze] . . . away from the Cannabis club . . . or risk the guy above vomiting on your shoes/evening/life?” – Still

    Stating Reality is not an attack.

    You appear to be working on sobriety.

    Good luck!

  5. The other posters don’t need to be subjected to this anymore. – Evening Bud

    I didn’t read the other comments objecting to my opinion?

    You are a Norml Staffer?

    You are the hall monitor of this amusing blog?

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