© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Maryland’s first cannabis lounge is part of a growing trend

Patrons at Ceylon House roll up marijuana to smoke.
Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner
Patrons at Ceylon House roll up marijuana to smoke.

Pulling up to Ceylon House in Burtonsville, an unincorporated community in Montgomery County, you might think you’re about to head to the doctor’s office.

The building has the nondescript brick-façade of a medical complex. In fact, a dentist is one of the occupants of the building.

But Ceylon House isn’t a place people go for traditional medicine. Once you open the door, multicolor glass bongs greet you on your left, a DJ is pumping out reggae music and the distinctive smell of marijuana fills your nostrils.

The establishment is Maryland’s first cannabis café, a place where people can gather, and smoke weed legally without being relegated to their homes.

“I'm constantly in pain, and so I don't really go out at all,” said Sherry White, a medical marijuana patient from Montgomery County. “I really like this. It's a place to socialize and relax and take your medicine as well.”

Cannabis cafes aren’t a new phenomenon. Most people might know them from the shops made famous in Amsterdam, but only six states have made designated-use areas legal in the United States.

Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana, saw a need for the cafes as pot tourists started flocking to the state.

“Tourists can't legally use cannabis when they go back to their hotel or out on the street,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. ”There needs to be a privately-owned, state-licensed facility where these individuals who may simply be traveling through the state have the opportunity to use the cannabis that they've legally purchased while staying there.”

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in 21 states, the idea of cannabis cafes is gaining steam. Some states are even considering allowing the cafes to act more like bars by selling food and hosting bands.

Earlier this month, the Las Vegas city council approved regulations for cannabis lounges and Nevada will permit 20 establishments as designated-use areas. Atlantic City is in the process of converting a 10,000-square-foot casino into a dispensary and lounge.

“These cafes represent an evolution in the state being comfortable with legal cannabis,” Armentano said. “It took many years before state and local governments were comfortable instituting regulations regarding the establishment of onsite cannabis lounges.”

Ceylon House, for now, is open only to medical marijuana patients. The lounge checks licenses and labels at the door and patrons must pay $25 to get in.

The lounge operates in a bit of a legal limbo in Maryland. Medical marijuana has been legal for almost a decade, but voters approved recreational marijuana last November.

Marijuana cafes aren’t necessarily legal, but they aren’t illegal either at the moment.

“There's a lot of restrictions within that the county has put on us,” said Venushki “Venus” Hemachandra, the owner of the Ceylon House. “It really is run like a typical cigar lounge, for instance, there are requirements to have particular air quality.”

Ceylon House can’t sell food, drinks or marijuana on the premises. But, people can rent and buy extravagant bongs and other paraphernalia.

Who can visit the lounge and further restrictions will loosen soon. Maryland is currently in the process of reforming its marijuana laws to set up a legal, recreational marketplace.

The bill currently making its way through the Maryland legislature allows for 15 designated-use establishments in the state.

Hemachandra says she hopes the lounge will be able to serve food and act more like a bar in the future.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
Related Content