Washington may have legalized marijuana, but they are not allowing marijuana smokers to have free reign in terms of consumption. Some bar owners have been converting part of their properties into “private clubs” where people can go to smoke marijuana, and now state officials are taking steps to ensure that marijuana smoking in bars is not allowed.
The Liquor Control Board is cracking down on such establishments, as public consumption of marijuana is not legal under I-502. Additionally, it is argued that marijuana smoke is treated like cigarette smoke– neither should be allowed in public places such as restaurants or bars.
In a statement released Wednesday, the board explained, “These licensed locations are allowing patrons to either smoke, vaporize or otherwise ingest marijuana on the premises.”
Board spokesman Brian Smith said that smoking marijuana in public is a civil infraction, punishable by a $103 fine on the customer. While the punishment falls on the customer, he says it is the responsibility of the business owner to not encourage illegal activity. There are currently at least two bars in Washington that allow pot smoking in private sections of their establishment.
Frank Schnarr, owner of Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill in Olympia, was the first to set up a private room so patrons can smoke marijuana. If any limitations are put on his business, Schnarr says he will challenge them in court. “It got passed for recreational use,” he explained. “They should let it be smoked everywhere.”
Governor Jay Inslee does not agree with Schnarr’s sentiments, however. Inslee’s spokesman David Postman explained, “The law is clear that marijuana cannot be consumed in public. Allowing that would run counter to the state’s commitment to responsible implementation and send just the wrong message.”