Public Health Goes After Seattle Hookah Bars – Bad News For Marijuana Clubs?

WASHINGTON: In 2005, Washington voters approved an initiative banning smoking in bars, restaurants … any indoor public place. And, while some have tried to get around the law by calling themselves private clubs, public health officials are taking action to shut those businesses down.

What will happen when marijuana clubs try to open?

The 2005 law

Some bars initially resisted the 2005 ban, sneakily allowing patrons to smoke here and there, but the main resistors have been neighborhood communities with a history of communal hookah smoking.

Hookah smoking clubs have been trying to get around the indoor smoking ban by calling themselves and acting like (if not strictly being) private clubs. However, in the Washington Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that smoking anything in a private club is illegal if that club has employees of any kind.

However, recently, hookah bars have resurfaced in many neighborhoods around Seattle and King County built up around the assertion that they are acting as private clubs because they charge a membership fee to go in and smoke.

Public health calls bull

Today, Public Health – Seattle & King County says that’s not going to fly.

The agency announced in a news release this morning that six hookah bars have been officially put on notice that they are violating the state’s smoking ban.

Here’s the six:

  • Casablanca Shisha Lounge, 1221 S Main St
  • Da Spot Hookah Lounge, 1914 Minor Ave
  • Medina Hookah Lounge, 700 S Dearborn St
  • The Night Owl, 4745 University Way NE
  • Sahara Hookah Lounge, 7523 Lake City Way NE
  • Seattle Hookah Lounge, 4701 Roosevelt Way NE

“Our investigation shows that these hookah bars are violating the law, and endangering the health of their workers and patrons. We are forced to take this enforcement action because they haven’t been responsive to our previous warnings,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Secondhand smoke is a proven killer, and state law works to protect everyone from this health threat.”

What about marijuana clubs?

Public Health’s actions could have a broader reach as legal marijuana takes hold of the city since it’s still unclear where tourists and other recreational users will be able to smoke marijuana once it’s legal to buy.

So far, at least one medical marijuana dispensary and a couple bars have allowed indoor vaporizing of marijuanaand believe the combination of acting like a private club and using vaporizing gear – which doesn’t burn the marijuana but heats it up to the point where the active ingredients in pot are released and can be inhaled.

The LA Times reported:

At Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill, firing up a “fatty” or a “blunt” is not only condoned, it’s welcomed. Last fall, Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, allowing people to smoke the drug in private, but not in public places such as bars. Schnarr, 63, has found a way around that: He’s using a space in his bar he says is private, not public.

Now the second floor of his sports bar — a mammoth room with TVs, card tables, 10 pool tables, four shuffleboard tables and rows of booths — is the only pub in the state to allow the practice.

The Liquor Control Board has set out to ban the use of marijuana in any place holding a liquor license, but the envelop continues to be pushed.

Vaping same as smoking in eyes of the law?

Jim Church, communications director for the state’s department of health, told us recently, that “yes, vaporizing is a bit of a grey area because you are not burning a substance being smoked.”

However, Church pointed out, while the health department is charged with establishing the smoking rules, enforcement of those rules happens on the local level. And, this grey area of vaporizing will have to be dealt with by local officials.

“Local health departments and local law enforcement have to decide,” he said. “I’ve seen it go both ways. Some have said no (to using vaporizers indoors) and others have allowed it to occur.”

Read full article @ Seattle PI