Marijuana clubs, a place where stoners can gather in a social setting, are now illegal in Washington state.
Tucked inside HB 2136, a bill hailed by the state’s marijuana industry as a way to make the heavy taxation it faces more palatable, is a provision that outlaws marijuana clubs.
The new law makes operating “a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the primary or incidental purpose of providing a
location where members or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises” a class c felony.
The 2012 ballot measure that legalized marijuana in Washington prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public. A handful of establishments, such as the Members Lounge in Spokane Valley, have used legal loopholes to stay open. Ganja enthusiasts wanting to enter the lounge have to buy a membership, making the club a “private” not public setting. Members can bring their own marijuana or can obtain it at the lounge for a “donation” not a purchase.
However, local authorities have been uncomfortable with these lounges. Spokane Valley City Council, which placed a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, has been no exception and has sought greater regulatory control over the lounge.
"Right now, reading [the law] from my limited understanding, it says "public;" we’re not public,” says Eric Buchanan, the proprietor of the Members Lounge.
Buchanan says that the law is aimed at preventing marijuana bars from opening. Because his establishment is private, not unlike a religious organization, it's not covered by the new law, he says.
Carolbelle Branch, Spokane Valley’s public information officer, says that the city is also examining the new law.