Are California pot shops becoming smoking lounges?

Though recreational use of marijuana is now legal in California, some pot users are finding there are few places where they can light up legally, and they are now clamoring for the addition of smoking lounges to pot dispensaries. [Sacramento Bee]

Under Proposition 64, Californians are allowed to smoke at home. However, landlords can prohibit pot use inside the home. Also, it is illegal to use marijuana in federal public housing.

Outside of the house, state law only permits marijuana use inside dispensaries and at special events. The special events must take place at county fairgrounds, and they can last no longer than four days.

Likewise, tourists are not allowed to smoke in hotel rooms, and smoking on the street could draw a citation from an officer.

In order for dispensaries to open and operate smoking lounges, they must gain approval from local jurisdictions. With San Francisco leading the way, some cities are now allowing pot shops to double as smoking facilities.

There is no registry of California pot lounges, but a cluster of them is known to exist in the Bay Area — San Francisco has eight, and Oakland has one. There is also a pot smoking lounge in South Lake Tahoe. In Southern California, some cities, such as West Hollywood, are in the process of approving on-site marijuana consumption.

In San Francisco, five retail dispensaries and three medical marijuana shops have received approval for on-site consumption. The city has permitted on-site pot use since 2005 — all of which occurred at medical marijuana dispensaries until this year.

Three of San Francisco’s retail dispensaries are located in the neighborhood SoMa. One of the dispensaries, Barbary Coast, is viewed by some as the California equivalent to an Amsterdam-style pot cafe. Its lounge is so popular that Barbary Coast asks its customers to stay no longer than 30 minutes.

Nicole Elliot, San Francisco’s pot czar, said renters and individuals living in federal public housing motivated local officials to approve smoking lounges. It is important to have a safe alternative to consuming marijuana in public space, Elliot said.