CannaLegislative: Where We Stand with Legal Marijuana Social Clubs

Story by Patrick L. Myers

     Owners of bars in Washington have struggled since marijuana was legalized to be able to legally accommodate marijuana consumers. The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has not received the idea very well and has even said that it will take steps to close existing loopholes to stop bars from hosting such activity.
     One such bar is Frankie’s Bar and Grill in Olympia, which has a private bar in the upstairs portion of the building that is membership only. It is a club called “Friends of Frankie’s.” Admission is $10 for the private room that is operated as a private smoking room.
     Frank Shnarr of Frankie’s Bar and Grill sat down to talk with Cannabiz Journal about how he accomplished the feat of keeping the establishment operational up to this point: “Did you see the glass room downstairs? It’s a smoking room. Twenty-five feet from the venue, ventilation and everything. What you do is draw up what you have, show that you have it 25 feet from the venue, and make it a private room,” said Schnarr.
     Because the laws prohibit consuming marijuana in a public place, the privacy of the separated club makes a case for itself; no illegal activity is occurring when someone consumes marijuana within the club. Eventually the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board intends to require Washington bars to ban marijuana altogether.
     Schnarr has met with some dissatisfaction by the state, and the state has subsequently sued Schnarr, with the court later ruling in Schnarr’s favor. The state continues to consult with lawyers about what they can do to close the loophole within which Friends of Frankie’s exists.
     Frank has had the bar since 1991, and has also worked as a contractor and restaurant owner.
     “My advice to anyone wanting to open a club that also allows for the consumption of cannabis: Do it. Abide by the law. First you should be approved by the health department. I told them I had something like a hotel here and was wondering about the requirements to have a smoking room at a hotel. The requirements were to have the area separated from the main area,” said Frankie, in summary.
     Frankie went on to talk about how the temperament and attitude of his bar has changed drastically since he has figured out a way to allow the patrons to consume marijuana, “If anything, implementing the marijuana has calmed down the patrons of this bar. The bar is much easier-going since then, and it’s about 60% of them here showing up just to consume marijuana. What the state doesn’t realize is that whether they’re smoking here, or out in their car in the parking lot, they are mixing marijuana and liquor already. If you get someone who smokes marijuana, they’re not going to be able to get over intoxicated like they would if they were drinking alcohol prior to coming to the bar,” said Frankie in a testament of how much good it has done for his bar.
     The patrons of Friends of Frankie’s have built a group of friends where they know they can come to hang out and not be bothered. One such patron’s name is C.J. Holloway, who Franky called over as a witness, “This is family; when they say friends of Frankies, it’s more like family. It’s always love here. It’s really like that whole family atmosphere. It’s a bunch of people and we get together to shoot pool and that’s what it is. Frankie is the voice of the voices,” said Holloway.
     There are social clubs in Colorado, one of the first of which was Club 64. Much like Washington’s laws, marijuana use is not allowed in public.The state legislation does not make marijuana social clubs exempt from indoor clean air regulations, unlike cigar clubs. Yet much like in Washington, there are “private” cannabis clubs where one may purchase a membership to be allowed to consume. Their legality is also being constantly questioned. Many of the private clubs are operating with a claim of rights afforded by Amendment 64, which could be interpreted as allowing formarijuana social clubs. Currently people are traveling to cannabis clubs under their “right to assemble,” and statutory language that it is “not unlawful and shall not be an offense under Colorado law for one adult to give marijuana to another adult.”
     Denver voters may consider a ballot measure this fall to allow the city to operate marijuana clubs. Worries about such social clubs include the fact that they lead to impaired driving and even encourage youth to try the drug. The ballot measure needs 5000 signatures to be put on the November ballot.