When the first states legalized recreational cannabis sales in the US, many marijuana users were presented with a new problem – where to legally smoke their purchases?
Except for New York and Connecticut, which both legalized recreational marijuana in 2021, states that legalized cannabis continue to prohibit public cannabis consumption.
This means the only legal place to consume marijuana is, typically, a private residence with the permission of the owner. For many renters, as well as tourists and homeless people, there is therefore no obvious legal place to smoke cannabis.
To address this issue, more and more states have started to pass legislation authorizing the licensing of on-site cannabis consumption lounges. These are spaces where customers are permitted to smoke, vape, or otherwise consume marijuana. The final decision on whether to opt in or opt out and what specific regulations are put in place, however, lies with local jurisdictions.
Marijuana consumption lounge
In general though, on-site cannabis consumption lounges are subject to licensing requirements which include strict controls on air quality, zoning, employee training, and ID checks, with many also stipulating the consumption area must be separated from the rest of the premises.
In this brief guide, we’ll cover the nine states that now permit some form of on-site cannabis consumption in 2022.
States that allow on-site cannabis consumption:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
On-site cannabis consumption lounge
Alaska was the first state to permit on-site cannabis consumption after the Alaska Marijuana Control Board adopted rules authorizing the practice in December 2018.
Customers are not permitted to bring their own marijuana, while concentrates, alcohol, and tobacco products are also prohibited.
State regulators further prohibit the marketing of “happy hour” deals or discounts.
On-site cannabis consumption at retailers and microbusinesses was permitted in California through passage of the Medicinal and Adult Use of Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA).
Cannabis consumption areas must be restricted to individuals 21 and older and must not be visible from a public place. The sale or consumption of alcohol is also not permitted in cannabis consumption lounges.
Other regulations, such as whether to allow for smoking and purchase limits, lie with local authorities.
Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division is authorized to issue on-site cannabis consumption licenses to cannabis retailers and hospitality establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, so long as the local authority approves.
Marijuana dispensaries can apply for a Retail Marijuana Hospitality and Sales Business license, while hospitality establishments can apply for a Marijuana Hospitality Business license.
Hospitality venues cannot hold a liquor license alongside one permitting on-site cannabis consumption, meaning patrons must bring their own.
At marijuana dispensaries with a social-use license, marijuana must be purchased, consumed, and disposed of on-site.
On-site cannabis consumption in Illinois is permitted, subject to local approval. They needn’t be attached to an existing cannabis retailer, which means customers must bring their own marijuana.
On-site cannabis consumption lounges are yet to become a reality in Massachusetts, but the legislature has advanced legislation that would put a regulatory framework in place for them to operate which is likely to receive the governor’s approval.
This would initially take the form of a three-year pilot program involving six to 12 municipalities.
Michigan also does not yet have on-site cannabis consumption lounges, but recently enacted legislation – the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA) – that will allow for a limited form of on-site cannabis use, with the approval of the local authority.
Marijuana could not be sold, but so long as the premises are not fully open to the public i.e. through the use of a membership fee, patrons could consume cannabis on-site legally.
On-site cannabis consumption lounges were not part of the bill that legalized cannabis in New Jersey, but local authorities can decide whether or not to permit them in their communities. So far, only Atlantic City and Jersey City have chosen to do so.
On-site consumption lounges must be attached to existing licensed cannabis businesses.
On-site cannabis consumption was permitted in New Mexico under the state’s medical cannabis law in 2019, which stipulated these areas must be attached to a dispensary.
This approach has been adopted under New Mexico’s recreational marijuana law – the Cannabis Regulation Act – which authorizes jurisdictions to “allow for the smoking, vaporizing and ingesting of cannabis products within an indoor or outdoor cannabis consumption area.”
Assembly Bill 341 authorizes the Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) to license and regulate marijuana consumption lounges across Nevada. The rules are yet to be finalized, but it is likely that alcohol will be prohibited and that marijuana will be sold as a single-serving that’s ready-to-consume.