Adding Cannabis to Your Menu? Read This First
Adding cannabis to your menu
Adding cannabis to your menu is now a real thing in the restaurant industry. With the wave of states legalizing recreational marijuana, it’s no wonder restaurants are capitalizing on this new, highly popular ingredient. There are even a slew of cookbooks out detailing how to make cannabis-infused snacks and drinks. But this begs the question: Is it even legal to serve marijuana at a restaurant? The short answer is, it’s complicated.
The Chemical Components
If you’re dining at a restaurant that incorporates recreational marijuana into its dishes and drinks, chances are you’re enjoying something called cannabidiol, or CBD. Naturally occurring, it doesn’t have the same intoxicating effects as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the government (in the same category as heroin and LSD). CBD products have been classified as “supplements” because they don’t alter your state of mind, however California is cracking down on its use.
Today, there are 8 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana. Before you make any moves to infuse it into your menu, you’ll need to make sure you’re even legally allowed. Your best bet? Talk to your lawyer about the laws in your jurisdiction, as they vary so widely from state to state and county to county. You’ll likely need a state and local cannabis-use permit; in many states, such as Colorado and Oregon, you aren’t eligible for a cannabis-use permit if your business owns a liquor license. You should opt to serve cannabis-infused meals in a private setting; currently, Californian’s in many areas can enjoy private cannabis-infused dining experiences. But just because recreational marijuana is legal in a state doesn’t mean a restaurant can serve it, and it’s important to note that cannabis is still technically illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
The director of advocacy research and insights for the National Restaurant Association, Adam Hasley, recently predicted that marijuana restaurants will be a $22.6 billion business by 2021. This isn’t without some murky waters to navigate, however. First and foremost, there’s liability to consider. What happens to a guest who indulges too much, and then gets behind the wheel? Is the establishment responsible? Because we have no weed equivalent to the breathalyzer (yet), it’s nearly impossible to tell whether someone is too high to operate a vehicle. Plus, marijuana is consumed, stored and burned differently than alcohol; detecting it is a whole new ball game that technology hasn’t caught up to yet. And if a restaurant is ever able to serve CBD or THC, staff will need to be trained on how to speak to each strain, so patrons understand its effects and nuances (think of a wine sommelier for pot).
Another item that will need to be considered before restaurants can tap into this new ingredient will be revenue management. Since cannabis is still federally illegal and banks are federally regulated, they can’t handle any of the money resulting from the sale of marijuana. This means all of the money made from these sales has to be cash, pending changes in regulations.
The Long and Short of It
Cannabis-infused dining experiences, while becoming more and more accepted by the mainstream, still have a long way to go in terms of legality. There are a lot of laws to consider, which is why your very best bet is to talk to your lawyer about what you can and cannot do.
To answer the biggest question of all: Can you serve cannabis-infused food and drinks at restaurants operating in states that have legalized marijuana? No, at least not yet. Most states that have legalized recreational marijuana have decriminalized possession for personal use, leaving other laws pertaining to the drug’s use completely intact. This isn’t to say things won’t change as more legislation comes to fruition, however. For now, proceed with caution—but keep your eyes on this trending topic, as many agree it’s high time restaurants are able to tap into this culinary newcomer.
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