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420 in the 508: Cannabis Cafés

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Elliot Mercier

The one time you can smoke indoors!

Public consumption of marijuana is still considered illegal here in Massachusetts, but there might be a way to indulge in the substance in a social manner sometime in the future: Cannabis Cafés. Not here yet but possibly on their way soon, this form of establishment originally gained popularity in the Netherlands during the 70s. They were originally called Coffee Shops, because nothing screams be social like coffee breath and someone possibly blowing smoke in your eyes. After the usual pushback from government authorities concerning drug distribution, crime and morality, the establishments were ultimately welcomed due to the committee considering the distribution of marijuana in these places was more helpful than just leaving the inevitable selling of it by illegal dealers. This set the precedent for a setting similar to a typical bar with standard rules, but replacing alcohol with cannabis in all of its various forms.

Back to the United States, there actually have been efforts ever since last year to popularize these kinds of safe spaces where common folk can smoke in a social space without having to worry about getting arrested. California currently has a few smoking lounges in operation, with the most notable being the Barbary Coast. New Jersey is working on their own smoking coffee shops with an apparent BYOB-esque policy where you bring your own samples to share and consume.

There are two main obstacles to consider before any of these establishments can open in any area: clean-air and intoxication laws. Clean-air laws, first implemented in 1970, are a set of guidelines that are meant to enhance the well-being of humans by keeping emissions and pollution sources of any kind to a consistently healthy low. One of many reasons for why smoking indoors isn’t allowed is because of these guidelines, and this process will have to be reevaluated if we’re going to be allowing public use of marijuana indoors due to the inevitable health hazard that will be brought upon the lungs of any patrons and employees.

Surprisingly, there was an American coffee shop shaped after the Netherlands model melodramatically called the World Famous Coffee Café in Portland, Oregon. The place ran from 2009 to 2016, ultimately being closed down due to a change in the state’s clean air laws. Intoxication laws are the most straightforward subject but it’s also complicated by the fact that we still don’t seem to have a 100% reliable and quick way to gauge if someone is too high to drive home. For now, law enforcement will just have to gauge the level of inebriation by red eyes and unusual or dangerous driving behavior.

Just like the myriad of medical dispensaries and hydroponic farms, it’ll only be a matter of time before we’ll be seeing Cannabis Cafés pop up all over Worcester County. Old bars and tiny tea shops might shut down only to pop up again to display Coming Soon signs, detailing all the edibles you can now have with your dark roast coffee, Chai tea or fruit smoothie.

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