Cannabis cafes in California may rise from the ashes

Haney introduces new legislation to bring a bit of Amsterdam to California; Tulare County cities weigh in on bill’s potential impact at local dispensaries

Valley Pure on Noble Avenue in Farmersville seen from Highway 198. Valley Pure has several locations in cities in Tulare County. Photo by Rigo Moran
Mid Valley Times Staff
Published January 15, 2024  • 
11:00 am

TULARE COUNTY – State Assemblyman Matt Haney is holding out on his belief that Californians want to eat, drink and listen to music while enjoying their favorite cannabis products, and would like to make it so with a proposed assembly bill (AB). While local cities have no immediate inquiries or plans of action regarding the bill, it seems some could be open to consideration of cannabis cafes if the law is to pass.

On Feb. 1, 2023, Haney introduced AB 374. The bill, which was eventually passed by the Assembly and Senate, would have given cities the authority to allow licensed cannabis dispensaries to sell non-cannabis food and nonalcoholic drinks and to host live music on the premises.

After he introduced AB 374, Haney said, “To be clear, we’re not saying that coffee shops should be allowed to sell cannabis. We’re saying that cannabis shops should be allowed to sell coffee. It shouldn’t be illegal for an existing cannabis business to move away from only selling marijuana and instead have the opportunity to grow and create jobs by offering coffee or live jazz.”

However, Governor Newsom vetoed the bill on Oct. 8. He vetoed it out of concerns that the bill, as written, could undermine California’s smoke free workplace protections.

Undaunted, Haney has decided to try again. On Jan. 3 of this year, he brought back the idea by introducing AB 1775, which mirrors AB 374 exactly except for a few revisions that may make it eligible to pass Newsom’s muster.

A Jan. 10 press release from Haney’s office noted that the San Francisco-based legislator is in conversations with Newsom’s office and the Department of Cannabis Control to address the issues that led Newsom to veto AB 374. The goal of the conversations is to come to an agreement on a bill that allows the Amsterdam-style cafes to operate but also protects workers’ health.

HIGHLY TAXED

According to the press release, Haney introduced AB 374 to help the legitimate cannabis industry compete against a thriving black market.

Californians approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in November 2016, which legalized recreational use of cannabis for individuals 21 and older. But legalization has done nothing to slow illegal cannabis sales. According to Haney’s office, legal cannabis sales in California in 2012 totaled $4 billion; that year, illegal sales totaled over $8 billion.

“It’s really about fairness and supporting businesses that follow the rules,” Haney said. “If we keep allowing unnecessary regulations to strangle California’s legal cannabis businesses, we’re just encouraging illegal drug sales and all of the problems that come with that.”

California levels a 15% excise tax on cannabis sales. This is on top of state sales taxes, which range between 7.25% to 10.25%, and any local taxes imposed by cities and counties.

According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, taxable cannabis sales in 2023 reached $5,392,671,357. For the first three quarters of 2023, taxable sales reached $3,867,706,476.

LOCAL SAY

California has 1,242 licensed cannabis dispensaries in 47 counties – Los Angeles boasts the lion’ share with 384. There are 16 licensed dispensaries in Fresno County and 13 in Tulare County.

If passed, AB 1775 would give cities the ultimate say whether or not a licensed dispensary would be allowed to sell food and drinks or host live entertainment. Kingsburg and Reedley prohibit cannabis dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

The Times reached out to cities in Tulare County that do have licensed dispensaries and asked if the bill passes, would their cities be amenable to the idea of having Amsterdam-style coffee houses.

The city of Tulare has three licensed dispensaries. City Manager Marc Mondell said the city only allows three dispensaries to operate. Mondell said at this time, Tulare has no plans to change its current configuration.

City Administrator Ramon Lara said the Woodlake City Council has been supportive of cannabis projects that have been properly planned and rolled out. He said he believes the city council would consider all types of cannabis facilities if they were properly implemented.

Jennifer Gomez of Farmersville said none of the dispensaries in her city have inquired about the bill.

The Times also reached out to Lemoore, Lindsay, Porterville and Visalia, but received no reply as of report. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on Jan. 16 to confirm that Reedley and Kingsburg prohibit cannabis dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

Mid Valley Times Staff