The Growing Popularity of Cannabis Consumption Lounges
As cannabis legalization sweeps across US states from coast to coast, the effort to merge cannabis culture with mainstream norms extends from private personal use to public consumption lounges where cannabis can be used socially in a safe enclosed setting.
Much like a bar or pub environment for alcoholic beverages and drawing parallels to Amsterdam’s coffee shop and cannabis set-up, social consumption lounges are an ideal meeting place for cannabis enthusiasts and cannabis tourists of legal age to use legal cannabis in a friendly social setting. Such lounges have been a part of underground cannabis culture for years before legalization became the trend, and the push to bring more into the legal landscape will only intensify. Businesses like Amsterdam Coffee Co. are setting themselves up for success in jurisdictions that don’t allow consumption lounges but might in the future.
Efforts to expand the consumption lounge business are underway in states like Illinois, where new lounges are being established, and states like Nevada and New York, where new bills allowing consumption lounges have been introduced. It’s happening north of the border too, where some Ontario retail stores are opening consumption spaces to further entice shoppers to stop by their stores and stay awhile.
While it is yet to be determined what impact these spaces will have on the industry, there is undoubtedly growing interested in the establishment of public settings where legally-purchased cannabis can be used socially.
The Legal Landscape
Cannabis use is still prohibited in most places indoors, and street consumption can be problematic in some states even if personal possession and use are technically allowed, leaving little options for harmless social cannabis activities. Licensed cannabis-friendly enclosed patios, cafes, and Air BnB-type retreats provide options for cannabis shoppers to enjoy their products socially and are becoming increasingly interesting attractions for curious tourists who want to immerse themselves in the local cannabis community.
Operating cannabis lounges can be legally tricky because of tight regulations. In some states, cannabis lounges must be operated by existing cannabis businesses like medical dispensaries that provide a consumption lounge on the premises.
Depending on the state, the lounge may have to be an enclosed space on location but walled off to remain separate from the retail space, as would be the case in New Jersey, for example.
Big Ambition, Big Potential
Happy Munkey in New York City has been in the illicit consumption lounge franchise for some time, hosting cannabis enthusiasts, selling brand merchandise, and organizing events like immersive cannabis-and-art experiences for the local community. Its dedication to promoting cannabis culture and breaking associated stigmas has gained the attention of multiple major news outlets, including the New York Post dubbing it the city’s “hottest illegal weed speakeasy” in 2018.
Happy Munkey’s aims are to shift into the legal cannabis market by obtaining a recreational dispensary and delivery license in New York City. Says the owner of the brand Vladimir Bautista, “weʼre going to see Happy Munkey become a global consumption lounge franchise.”
This will likely begin a trend of similar cannabis consumption lounges in other states to attempt a move into the legal market, applying for licenses to sell cannabis as well as host guests for its consumption on location.