A gram of budder? Check. A dash of hash oil? You bet. A few pinches of pot? Even that.
Welcome to the CannaPub, our futuristic marijuana bar where stoners would converge to get the first dibs on their prized pot, lounge around, get high and exchange weed stories.
And by the way, no booze, beer and coffee please!
Well, at least for now, this concept bar still remains in the blueprint of our grandest dreams, only to come alive when recreational marijuana becomes the new legal under the federal government, and when good politics makes way for unbiased license grants. But for now, we’ve got plenty of reasons why marijuana bars will someday replace the old-fashioned pubs across the United States. Let’ check them out.
The Problem With Alcohol Pubs: Alcohol
Matt Yglesias, political blogger and Executive Editor at Vox, has always engaged in heated arguments with America’s urban the liquor boards (link to: https://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/9/marijuana-pot-barscafesalcohol.html ). For Yglesias, whether or not there is high market demand for alcohol pubs, it was always the pressure from the city’s authorities that has limited the number of licenses issued to open more bars. As a result, the existing bars have become overcrowded and expensive.
Yglesias’s point of view may me clearly understood from a political perspective, but from a more scientific standpoint, there is good reason why limiting the expansion of these pubs is quite a good idea.
Let’s face it: No legally sold psychoactive substance is as closely associated with abuse, controversy, and thousands of accidents and deaths as alcohol. And that single fact has become the biggest problem among bar owners who like to expand their business across the country. They simply can’t — not without intense scrutiny and a little bit of luck.
Couple this issue with the movement to legalize marijuana and pops up a very interesting idea: Why not put up bars that sell marijuana instead of alcohol? Yes, the momentum to push the legalization of recreational marijuana is already there. And that force comes from the majority of Americans themselves, who would not mind using marijuana instead of the usual booze. After all, at this point, we already know that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis.
To support the growing potential of marijuana to replace alcohol, National Institutes of Health has published a study that suggested that cannabis is the best substitute medication for alcohol. It’s as if a doctor would prescribe the use of methadone as a substitute for heroin.
The mounting amount of evidence supporting the health benefits of marijuana has pushed the state of Colorado and Washington to finally legalize its recreational use. But many states are still figuring out what defines responsible recreational use.
Although marijuana bars and weed cafes are not yet officially existent in this country, there is growing demand for it. But unfortunately, it seems that states are not yet prepared for such new landscape in their cities. And efforts to suppress their introduction to American soil seem heavier than those calling for limiting the expansion of alcohol bars. After all, why think about putting up weed cafes or pot pubs when we haven’t even legalized recreational marijuana yet at federal level?
Underground Pot Pubs
Even though the federal law still categorizes pot as a drug that’s as bad as heroin, cocaine and meth, many of us already know that this is not the case.
Remember we used the word ‘officially existent?’ Well, a number of small entrepreneurs, particularly those who own local alcohol bars, have managed to sneak around the federal law by secretly opening smoking clubs. One bar that did exactly just that was Frankie’s in Washington. But when the Liquor Control Board discovered their secret pub, a ban on weed was placed in all establishments licensed to dispense alcohol.
Another case was in Colorado, where a teashop operated after-hours marijuana co-op where people could freely smoke their weed. But eventually, Lafayette also banned such use in all business locations.
Another challenge in putting up a marijuana pub is the clause that states that employees have the right to work in a smoke-free workplace. If a room is filled with pot smoke such as the case in weed bars, who would be allowed to work there? One case in point was pizza and rum bar Stonegate in Tacoma, Washington. To work around the legislation, the owners allowed the use of vaporizers instead of joints (link to: www.smokazon.com ). Nevertheless, Tacoma still revoked the bar’s business license.
With all these pressures coming from the local government, it only makes sense that we are nowhere near having those pot pubs in our cities, even in Washington and Colorado. So, how do we even start coming up with good models or existing systems to back our beliefs that everything will work out just fine?
The Dutch Example: Illegal, but Tolerated
It may come as a surprise, but recreational drugs are still illegal in the Netherlands. Of course, that includes your favorite weed. But why are there weed bars across the country? The answer is pretty simple: Netherlands has imposed a tolerance on the sale, production and possession of this drug. In other words, although marijuana trade is illegal in the country, no one is prosecuted. In addition, possessing five grams of cannabis or less is not a criminal offense.
This window of opportunity has given way to many “coffee shops” springing like mushrooms out of nowhere. No, they are not your ordinary “coffee shops,” but indoor places where you can choose from a menu of marijuana products for you to enjoy inside the establishment.
In Amsterdam, what makes this city very interesting are the pot shops, marijuana museums and other types of businesses cashing in on everything about this controversial herb. After all, about 90 percent of people in the city who use marijuana in shops are surprisingly not the Dutch themselves, but tourists and expats. It was also because of this fact that there came a time when the Dutch government raised the alarm. But in the end, the government revised its legislation, giving more freedom to each city in the Netherlands to decide on their rules on marijuana use. Amsterdam welcomed cannabis use with open arms, while things became different in Maastricht, a city near the border between Belgium and Germany. So now in Amsterdam, you’re free to smoke cannabis in coffee shops. While in Maastricht, you just can’t.
But of course, the freedom you enjoy in Amsterdam comes with rules to make sure the use of pot is regulated at a more acceptable standard. For one, you can only buy up to 5 grams of cannabis per day, or else you run the risk of paying fines or even going to jail. Also, you must be at least 18 years old to even grab your own pot from a coffee shop. It doesn’t really matter whether you smoke weed or use the best dry herb vaporizers for as long as you follow the rules.
Oh, by the way, when Visiting Amsterdam and buying your weed, any establishment that reads “coffee shop” is the right place to go. Want some real coffee or some hearty breakfast? Go to a “koffiehuis” or “café” instead.
What We Learn from the Dutch
Again, it’s pretty interesting to know that although recreational marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, the level of tolerance has come to a point when everybody can use cannabis without the risk of being prosecuted, unless of course you’re caught with more than five grams of it. It’s as if there is this unwritten agreement in effect.
In stark contrast is what we experience in America, even in states where recreational marijuana is already legal. As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are still pressures coming from the government regarding building pot shops even in Colorado and Washington. So, we can’t help but compare and get into some wishful thinking that maybe, we could at least be tolerant while legalization at the federal level is still in the works.
Well, to be fair, Amsterdam did not reach that level of tolerance without going through an almost equal level of controversy as what the U.S. is currently experiencing. So, how do we emerge from this quandary? The best answer for now is time itself.
Time: Our Best Ally
Despite all the setbacks that bar owners experience, we are still very positive that one day, all those bad publicities surrounding recreational marijuana will just wither away. We already have the backing of the scientific and medical community, so what we need now are testimonies from marijuana users to encourage even the most challenging of all policymakers to reconsider their stance on this issue.
Of course, we also understand where the government is coming from. In a way, being skeptical at first would even be more helpful rather than totally embracing what seems to be a revolutionary idea or a trend. By casting doubts on what others believe — recreational marijuana in particular — researchers and even those who privately use cannabis will even be more encouraged to tell the world their findings and stories.
In essence, time is our best friend because it only takes a matter of years to let the overwhelming amount of evidence to overshadow whatever stigma against marijuana is left. For now, our blueprint of perhaps one of the coolest marijuana pubs in the United States remains just in our imagination — but of course, only for a time being.