Why the future of cannabis consumption lounges won’t be going up in smoke

Cannabis consumption lounges are starting to pop up in recreational states. What you need to know and a primer on the best way to open one.

woman sitting down smoking cannabis
Photo by Justin Aikin

By Tracy McGuire May 5, 2022

My quick take

  • 70% of recreational cannabis users find the concept of cannabis lounges appealing.
  • The eight states that allow cannabis consumption lounges.
  • To smoke or not to smoke conundrum.
  • The best delivery option for consumption lounges.

Why cannabis consumption lounges are so appealing

With the increase in states that allow recreational cannabis use now up to 13. More and more users want to use cannabis in public and out of the deep recesses of their sofas.

But none of the Thirtheeen states that allow recreational cannabis allow consumption in public. This includes cannabis use on streets, sidewalks, parks, and beaches.

Just about everywhere, it’s prohibited to light up.

Most recreational users are Young adults aged 18 to 25 and are three times more likely to be cannabis users than older adults.

It’s natural younger people want to be in social gatherings with their peers. But- pulling on the bong with a buddy or two in your apartment gets boring real quick.

This is the primary reason cannabis consumption lounges are so appealing to the younger demographic.

Outline of cannabis leaf
Photo by 2H Media

States that allow cannabis consumption lounges continue to grow

As of May 1, 2022, eight states allow cannabis consumption lounges.

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Pennslyvania
  • New Mexico

Each of these states has different laws and regulations for establishing cannabis consumption lounges. This can be confusing for the public, lawmakers, and even regulators.

But, having a safe social gathering place can be a better fit for some to consume their weed rather than putting themselves in dangerous, boring, or illegal settings.

As the United States gets closer and closer to the re-legalization of THC cannabis, more of these types of lounges will start to appear.

Just don’t expect loud booming music and flashing disco lights bouncing off the walls. Cannabis lounges look more like a Starbucks than a trendy nightclub because that’s the environment best suited for getting high instead of getting drunk.

Smoke rising
Photo by Stephen Hocking

To smoke or not to smoke conundrum.

There are many pitfalls to having a consumption lounge.

Part of the problem is how alcohol and cannabis produce different reactions in the body.

Some people overconsume cannabis. Having a qualified nurse on staff who can talk those overconsumers down from their high is necessary.

And- Having a professional budtender/server who can recommend the appropriate product is vital.

The design and operational methods with cannabis consumption lounges can vary.

Some lounges are set up as membership clubs that allow customers to bring in their own weed. The membership owner makes revenue by offering specialty smoking or vaping devices for sale or rent and renting out the space for cannabis-friendly shows or events.

Other consumption lounge models have customers go into a “smoking room” and enjoy the weed, then join together in the “dining room” to enjoy food and beverages.

This could be a monitoring nightmare for lounge owners and staff needing to “turn tables” to be profitable.

Of course, consuming cannabis edibles is an option for consumption lounges, but the onset of highs for customers could take up to an hour in some cases.

However, one method to regulate the amount of time a table is occupied is setting a time limit per table or reservation.

cannabis cocktail
Photo by Justin Aikin

The best delivery option for consumption lounges.

Smoking a joint or a bowl is the traditional way of consuming cannabis. It’s an excellent way to get the immediate onset of high and a perfect way to monitor a guest’s intoxication level from the lounge staff and self-regulation from the guest.

But local laws forbidding smoking in an eatery could make this a less than desirable option for lounge owners.

Plus, if you do have the ability to have a “smoking area,” the costs of installing a decent ventilation system could kill any profits.

The best option for a cannabis consumption lounge to be profitable, in my opinion, is to offer single-serving THC-infused beverages combined with an attractive food menu.

Think of this delivery option more like a traditional restaurant or bar, and the THC beverages are treated more like glasses of wine and beer.

The key advantages of this type of delivery are:

  • Single servings can be easily monitored for dosage
  • Sales and Inventory can be easily tracked
  • Onset high with THC beverages is quicker than edibles
  • Smoking area and infrastructure costs are eliminated

One thing is for sure cannabis consumption lounges are here to stay.

I’ve spent over 40 years in the food and beverage/ hospitality space. If you’re considering opening a cannabis consumption lounge, I would love to help guide you through the steps needed to have a fun, safe, clean, and profitable operation.

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