MA: Is Cannabis Club Success Conceivable

Photo Credit: Brennan Linsley

A Worcester private social club has created a community for cannabis smokers as state regulators write rules for consumption at public locations, and local officials are watching for clues as to how a similar club might work here.

“I think everybody should pay attention because it’s here, it’s just a question about when we have to deal with it in the city of Leominster,” said City Council President Richard Marchand.

The Summit Lounge, a private social club on Water Street in Worcester that markets itself as the first membership-based organization for cannabis smokers, opened this month.

General Manager Kyle Moon said Friday he envisions his members one day having access to a network of chapters in cities across the state, and hasn’t ruled out the Fitchburg-Leominster area.

As of now, regulation of cannabis consumption at private social clubs does not fall under the authority of the Cannabis Control Commission, a spokeswoman for the state regulatory board said last week.

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale said Monday he expects others will join Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. in asking the CCC to regulate cannabis consumption at private membership organizations.

“I think there’s going to be a movement to make that part of the role of the Cannabis Control Commission,” he said.

The concerns voiced by Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau echoed those expressed this month by the state’s secretary of public safety regarding so-called cannabis cafes, where patrons could buy and smoke marijuana on site.

When it comes to clubs like the Summit Lounge that do not sell marijuana, Martineau said he still worries about access by minors and patrons possibly driving under the influence of marijuana, adding that his department would police a cannabis lounge similar to how they do bars.

Unlike with detecting alcohol intoxication, no standardized test exists for identifying drivers impaired by marijuana.

The Board of Health will be charged with ensuring any social club seeking a permit for an establishment like The Summit Lounge adheres to indoor safety standards, said DiNatale.

The board could also decide to ban smoking indoors at social clubs entirely, he said.

Regulators would do their due diligence before allowing a social club for cannabis smokers to make a home in Fitchburg, DiNatale said.

“The approach we’re taking is we’re not going to deny anyone until we thoroughly vet it through the (cannabis control) commission and committees,” he said.

In Leominster, as in Fitchburg, several social clubs exist, and City Council President Richard Marchand said he doubts any of them have policies allowing marijuana smoking on premise.

Marchand said City Council would have little power to curb cannabis consumption at a private nonprofit social club.

“I do respect the rights of private clubs to govern themselves…it sounds like people won’t be walking in off the street, they would have to be members, so basically they’ll have to govern their own policies,” he said.

Marchand echoed DiNatale in saying he would judge any proposal for a cannabis social club on the merits of its application. Factors such as the person operating the club, its hours of operation and location would weigh in his judgment.

Like Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Marchand said is watching Worcester to whether Moon’s Summit Lounge is successful.

A proposal for a similar venture in Leominster would “absolutely” be expected if the Worcester club is a success, the city councilor said.

Mazzarella, however, questioned whether or not The Summit Lounge has a sustainable business model. Moon said late last week his establishment is not turning a profit, emphasizing his mission to provide a communal space for cannabis smokers.

“I don’t know if there are enough people interested in it to make it successful, you can’t buy (marijuana) there so the only way that you can generate enough revenue is, I guess, you have to pay a membership. I can’t see the numbers working,” said Mazzarella.