A Pain In The Bud: The ‘Legality’ Of ‘Coffee Shops’ And Other Marijuana Consumer Venues And Events In The U.S.

WASHINGTON:  Those who have been to Amsterdam may know a thing or two about Dutch “coffee shops.” Though these shops operate in a legal gray area, they still attract droves of foreigners who come to buy and use marijuana in a pleasant coffeehouse setting. Think Starbucks, but with patrons rolling joints or consuming edibles instead of drinking lattes and eating bagels. No state with legal marijuana here in the United States has embraced the coffee shop model, though that may change soon since there are increasingly fewer places in which one can consume marijuana outside one’s own home and, sometimes, not even there.

Most states with robust marijuana regulations (in line with the Cole Memo) prohibit using cannabis inside any state-licensed marijuana business. Those states also usually require that cannabis only be consumed outside the view of the public. In both Colorado and Washington, using marijuana in most hotels, clubs, and bars is also forbidden under both public consumption and general smoking laws. Even cherished Cannabis Cups and competitions are feeling the heat from increased state marijuana regulations surrounding public consumption, prohibition on open containers, and operational licensing. Both Washington and Colorado essentially confine consumption to one’s actual residence. Since many rental apartments and HOA-controlled condos already forbid smoking or any federally illegal drug activity, many marijuana users are left without a lawful venue in which to indulge.

A number of private entrepreneurs are trying to solve this venue problem. For instance, in May, the Colorado Symphony hosted three nights of “Bring Your Own Green” (BYOG), with its “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series.” Entrepreneurs in both Colorado and Washington have advertised for and sought to provide private marijuana clubs, “Bud and Breakfasts,” cannabis-friendly hotels, marijuana-focused travel agencies, and “canna crawls” for touring state-licensed marijuana businesses. Toke’n Brush even puts on a marijuana-friendly painting class. But are these sorts of events and offerings legal under state law?

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