Code RCW 69.50.1401 Will Prohibit Any “Marijuana Club”

Cannabis entrepreneurs have been planning Amsterdam-style marijuana cafes, smoking clubs, or vape lounges for years. Many began planning even before I-502 passed in 2013. The general prohibition on smoking anything in a public place or a place of employment, coupled with the I-502 ban on consuming any cannabis or cannabis-infused product in view of the general public have successfully deterred most of these lounges, clubs, or cafes from opening.

The industry recognizes the need for these lounges and they would be wildly popular because many legal consumers (including most Seattleites living in rented apartments) do not have a legal place to smoke or eat their cannabis; many others simply crave a social place to gather with other like-minded smokers. These facts led many policy makers to publically support loosening these rules, such as Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes January 4, 2015 Memo, where he supported creating a new license for “œmarijuana use lounges.”

However, the law is not shaping up how Mr. Holmes would like. This week, Governor Inslee signed into law SB 2136. The new law made many changes to cannabis policy, most dramatically changing the excise tax rate and structure. Buried within the law, however, is a specific ban on any person opening a “marijuana club,” and makes a doing so a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. For the full text, look at Part XIV of HB 2136, page 53.

Once codified, this will be RCW 69.50.1401. The ban prohibits any “Marijuana Club,” which is defined as any type of entity, for profit or not, who’s primary or incidental purpose is to provide a location where people, members or not, may keep or consume marijuana on the premises. This also specifically includes any private club where an admission fee is charged, or the owner earns any profit.

So, for those of us who were looking forward to the many smoking lounges slated to open this year, we may be waiting a bit longer than we thought.