Slowly but surely, marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation. As of now, there are legal weed dispensaries in 18 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam—that means that 44% of the U.S. population has above-board access to the devil’s lettuce. While you can get weed in edible form at those dispensaries, in some states there’s still pushback on allowing restaurants to serve cannabis-infused dishes on their menus, most recently in New York City where there’s a push for legalizing cannabis-infused pizza, The New York Post reports.
Why people are pushing back on legalizing weed-infused menu items
One of the biggest arguments against legalizing weed-infused food is the common refrain that marijuana is still considered illegal on a federal level. This feels like an easy fix: just legalize marijuana at the federal level, ya dweebs!
Another potential legal issue, The New York Post reports, is whether or not insurance companies would cover costs for customers complaining about “bad trips” induced from edible products. It seems that dispensaries could be potentially facing the same issue, so looking at the models in place for those businesses would be key to weed cafes making sure they’re covered.
Then of course there are the health and safety problems that may arise from partaking in too much infused pizza or ending up cross-faded if you’re sipping on a beer with your Mary Jane ’za. This simply means there need to be clear regulations in place when it comes to procuring both a cannabis and liquor license for your establishment.
The case for legalizing cannabis-infused food in restaurants
The demand for legal weed across the board is apparent. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 91% of adults are all for legalization. Restaurants that want to serve pot pizza no longer have to be afraid of an angry mob of “Just Say No!” moms trying to get them shut down. The people have spoken, and the people support pot pizza.
Healthline reports that while there is admittedly still little concrete research on the topic of weed-infused food, alcohol is more likely to be misused, cause long-term health problems, and cause a hangover the next day. That first point is the most relevant one here: restaurants that serve alcohol, an extremely common practice, are already familiar with the risks that come with customers potentially misusing the substance. There are the obvious guardrails in place, like checking IDs, but also best practices like cutting people off when they’ve clearly had too much and offering to call cabs for customers who shouldn’t be driving home. Assuming that weed will be less likely to be abused in the same way alcohol is, it would be easy to transfer over those systems to customers who get high while dining out.
And for both alcohol and weed, the flipside of the risk of serving these substances is the reward of higher profits. Back in 2016, Marijuana Business Daily reported that profit margins for infused products and concentrates were around 32%. Even offering a limited infused menu could quickly boost restaurant profits and allow business that might still be struggling from pandemic losses to thrive.
But perhaps the most convincing argument for continued legalization of cannabis-infused menus is the current quiet existence of marijuana cafes. Here in Chicago, places like Wake-N-Bakery, Herbal Notes, and Canna Cafe have been successfully selling weed-infused foods with no issues or complaints. It’s proof that the kinds of people who will run and frequent these establishments will uphold ultimate levels of chill, so for goodness sake, just let them.