The board voted Wednesday night to create rules preventing puffing in bars, citing concerns about people mixing herb and booze together.
“These licensed locations are allowing patrons to either smoke, vaporize or otherwise ingest marijuana on the premises,” the board said in a statement. “It is important that the board clarify now that consuming marijuana in a state liquor-licensed establishment is not acceptable. Public consumption of marijuana is clearly illegal under Washington’s new law.”
The board cited state laws preventing public display and use of cannabis, punishable by a civil fine up $103. The law doesn’t discuss penalties for business owners who let customers light up on their premises though. The laws by the Liquor Control Board would change that.
“You can’t open it up, you can’t show somebody, and you certainly can’t smoke it or ingest it in some way in a public place,” board spokesman Brian Smith told Reuters. “Bars and restaurants are public places that we license.”
But bar owners who have opened their doors to ganja puffers over the last few months say the Liquor Control Board is creating problems that don’t exist. Many have set up separate, private rooms for people to recreationally smoke and vape. Jeff Call, owner of Stonegate Pizza and Rum Bar, tells Reuters that they want to comply with state law – but also want to respect the will of the voters who said they wanted recreational cannabis use to be legalized. “It all depends on the rules. We want to comply. I am trying to work with the state. We are trying to do it in a responsible manner,” he said.
If it isn’t allowed, people are “just going to go out to the alley or their car,” Call told the AP last week. “It seems like the board wants to steer it toward having separate pot clubs. You’re just going to have pot clubs spring up next to liquor bars, and people are going to be going next door and then coming back over to the bar.”
The rules aren’t in place yet, and a draft won’t be ready until May 22. The board is currently taking public comment, and would also hold public hearings on June 26. If passed, the new laws could be in place by Independence Day.