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Cannabis, COVID, Community . . . and Cheers!

“Sometimes you want to go; Where everybody knows your name; And they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see; Our troubles are all the same”.

Just like Norm and Frasier in Cheers, everyone craves the feeling of being welcomed into a space with familiar people and familiar struggles – a community. Places of worship, fitness centers, book clubs, the local dive bar…each have their own distinct reasons for bringing people together, but they represent community all the same. Cannabis consumers are no different. Just as Norm and Frasier might grab a beer with friends, others might be inclined to puff, puff, pass. 

Publicly accessible spaces that allow cannabis use are a growing trend across the country, and a key component in developing communities.

Seeing the phrase “cannabis consumption lounge” might evoke mental images laced with prohibitionist undertones – a dark, smoke-filled room, littered with dirty bongs and passed-out stoners. Given sensible regulations and licensing opportunities, this image could not be further from the truth. Instead, picture a restaurant that serves spreadable cannabis butter; a comedy club that offers a higher level of laughter; a quaint cafe where customers can pair a joint with their coffee; or a tasting room where customers can observe the flavor profiles of craft cannabis strains…pinkies up

In an industry plagued by stigmas and ignorance, businesses like these can portray credibility to skeptics and foster acceptance throughout society. Communities are places where people come together in common interest, with common experiences – the cannabis community is no different. A collection of patients, wellness purveyors, armchair philosophers, connoisseurs, and first-time users. Consumption lounges bring people together

Consumption lounges are not only nice places to visit and socialize – for some, they are an essential element of maintaining health and wellness in a legal way. Those who rent or reside in federally-subsidized housing face severe penalties for consuming cannabis at home, even for medical purposes; in this respect, consumption lounges become a safe haven for medical patients as well.

The problem is (as of March 2022), only half of the states that have legalized cannabis for adult-use have permitted this type of business. In an industry increasingly reliant on innovation, public policy must create opportunities, not build barriers. Consumption lounges, just like retail dispensaries and cultivation operations, can be vehicles for job creation, tax revenue, and reductions in crime. 

As the world begins to emerge from the fallout of a global pandemic and the division it created, building sources of community becomes paramount. Cannabis can deliver. The value of cannabis was legitimized partially through dispensaries being labeled “essential” businesses during the era of COVID-19 – but more can, and must, be done.

Upon reaching the decision to issue licenses, policymakers’ jobs are far from finished. Sensible regulations encompassing employee education and safety training, air quality and ventilation standards, and anti-intoxicated driving efforts can ensure that these businesses are safe, accessible, and fun social environments for cannabis consumers to visit – novice or otherwise. Lawmakers must not stop innovating after baseline cannabis legalization; there is an entire universe of economic opportunity and social benefits that come with consumption lounges. Bringing responsible cannabis use out of the shadows is not without challenges, but it’s high time that we provide a path toward normalization. 

Cannabis needs communities, and communities need cannabis. Because sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.