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Private Cannabis Clubs Are Now Illegal In Washington

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo

There won’t be private cannabis clubs in Washington anytime soon. State lawmakers outlawed the establishment of such clubs, places where people could go to legally use marijuana. The ban caught legal pot advocates by surprise.

In the waning days of the Washington legislative session,  an amendment  banning cannabis clubs was added to a bill, House Bill 2136, meant to tweak the laws regarding the state’s fledgling legal marijuana industry.

Among other things, House Bill 2136 simplified taxes on marijuana, moving to a single point of sale tax, and loosened the restrictions on the location of pot businesses.

But, in the end, with the addition of Sect. 1401, the bill also prohibited private pot clubs. And legal pot advocate Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says it won’t just be illegal to set up such businesses.

“ It makes it a felony to actually operate a business like this. Frankly, it’s a stupid provision and I think that it’s overkill,” Holmes said.

Holmes, who helped write the state measure that legalized recreational marijuana, says the state should be  paving the way for private cannabis clubs, where tourists and even renters whose landlords don’t allow pot could go and legally use what they’ve purchased. He says it’s important because, by law, public consumption of pot is forbidden.

Holmes had been working on a model ordinance for the Seattle City Council regarding private cannabis clubs. He says the biggest stumbling block had been the local health department because of the indoor smoking ban. But now, with the statewide ban on private clubs, those efforts are futile.

What really irks Holmes and some marijuana business owners is that they were unaware the “no private cannabis clubs” provision was even being considered by the state legislature until it had already passed. Holmes says he would have asked Governor Jay Inslee to veto it if he had known it was there.

Some advocates say it seems to be "three steps forward, one step back" when it comes to legalized marijuana in Washington.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.