Seattle city attorney proposes pot vapor lounge

Danielle Leigh reports

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes wants to legalize pot lounges in the city.

The idea is part of a much larger plan to align city and state marijuana laws detailed in a 20-page memo released by Holmes.

In his memo, Holmes argues I-502 legalizes marijuana but significantly limits where people can legally smoke it.

Because public use is prohibited, the memo states, "Single family homeowners have a legal place to consume marijuana; others however, such as out-of-town visitors, the homeless, and renters and condominium owners whose buildings do not permit marijuana use, have fewer options."

"You can enforce that law much better if you, at the same time, provide an outlet for that demand," Holmes said.

Under his proposal, the lounges would be open only to those 21 years of age and older, prohibit alcohol, have minimum ventilation requirements, allow smoking only through vaporizers and require customers to bring their own marijuana.

In Colorado, where marijuana is also legal, private cannabis clubs have already opened.

Amber McGowan manages Cannabis City, a recreational marijuana store, and she calls pot lounges the next crucial step, especially if the city wants to become a tourist destination for cannabis.

"It would be wonderful to have that ability to realistically have an adjacent business that people can walk out our doors and into a lounge and be able to consume it safely," McGowan said.

Inside Medina Hookah Lounge, a private hookah club, patrons said they come for more than the hookah. They come to socialize.

The venue offers music and non-alcoholic drinks as well as hookah, and patrons can bring food in or order delivery.

While owner Alias Mohammed isn't interested in operating a pot lounge, he said he thinks legalizing pot lounges would be a good idea.

"If you opened those lounges, people would have somewhere to smoke it," Mohammed said. "People don't come in here for the hookah, just like people wouldn't go to the weed bars just to smoke the weed but to have somewhere to hang out."

Tourists and locals walking around Pike Place Market said they hate the smell of pot that lingers on the streets and welcomed the idea of pot lounges.

"I don't want to smell it. It's like, annoying," said Sergio Ramirez, a tourist from Costa Rica.

"I would prefer not being exposed to it, or my grandchildren or children as well," said Glenn Cutler, who lives in Port Angeles.

Holmes said this idea would bring pot indoors exposing only those people who choose to participate and providing those who choose to smoke a legal venue to do so.

Before these lounges could open they would need the approval of the City Council and also a waiver from the Health Department.

KING 5 reached out the entire City Council about whether they would support pot lounges.

Only Sally Clark responded.

She said, "I read through the City Attorney's memo just today and haven't had a chance to talk with him about the details, but I'm open to the concept. We've talked for a while about the challenge of legal consumption of marijuana if you're a renter and your landlord prohibits pot on the premises. A pretty big chunk of the City is cut out if you allow only people who own their own homes to consume marijuana legally."

Mayor Ed Murray said he hasn't taken a position on the issue yet.


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