Skip to main content
Arts & Entertainment

Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes? This lawmaker wants to see them in California

Assemblymember Matt Haney’s bill aims to draw international tourists while shoring up the state’s struggling cannabis industry. | Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images | Source: Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

When most people think of visiting Amsterdam, they think of one thing: the widespread availability of potent cannabis. California may be the birthplace of modern cannabis culture, but you can’t buy pot brownies at a cafe. Assemblymember Matt Haney has introduced legislation that would change that, by permitting California jurisdictions to license cannabis cafes. 

In a release sent on Monday morning, Haney’s office said AB 374 would allow struggling cannabis dispensaries to diversify by allowing on-site consumption as well as food, live music, coffee and other elements of nightlife and entertainment that state law currently prohibits. 

In other words, he’s calling for Amsterdam-style pot cafes, which have been a cornerstone of that city’s international reputation for 50 years.

“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” Haney said in the release. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal.”

Haney cites the 700 cannabis cafes across the Netherlands, which draw 1.5 million tourists each year to the famously tolerant nation widely regarded as the world’s cannabis paradise. Technically, however, weed is merely decriminalized in small amounts there, whereas adult recreational use has been legal in California for five years (although it remains illegal under federal law). 

The Dutch aren’t opening “Santa Cruz-style pot cafes” because, as Haney notes, California law has hung onto a pharmacy model from when the state only allowed medical use. If enacted, Haney’s bill would make Moe Greens and the Apothecarium as well-known worldwide as the canal-lined capital’s Grey Area and The Bulldog the First.

In addition to attracting more tourists to San Francisco and across California, the legislation is intended to shore up a cannabis sector that has gone from High Times to hard times. Once flush with optimism and investor cash, California’s industry has faced oversupply and competition from other states, undercutting the Golden State’s dominance to the point that Flow Cannabis is all but out of business. Led by its well-known brand, Flow Kana, the company had until recently been Mendocino County’s largest employer and a flashy symbol of legalized marijuana’s promise.

Haney’s bill faces an uncertain future. He and his hometown colleague in the state Senate, Scott Wiener, have repeatedly attempted to enact a 4 a.m. last call for California’s bars, watering down their legislation each time in the face of entrenched resistance in Sacramento. Additionally, attempts to open dispensaries in San Francisco’s more conservative west side have met with staunch neighborhood opposition.