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Can Restaurants Serve Marijuana in Food?

As more states legalize marijuana, more people are asking about the future of restaurants serving 'edibles' to customers. It's an interesting question touching on a number of tension points in the law, among them state vs. federal drug laws and regulation of the food and restaurant industry.

Marijuana-infused Food Is Still Largely Illegal

Marijuana is recreationally legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Washington State are the most populous. Most of the remaining states permit medical marijuana under some -- highly variable -- circumstances, while some still don't. And, as many expect, more states will follow. So if you can smoke it, grow it, and eat it at home, can you order it on a night out?

The answer is no, generally speaking, restaurants can't serve marijuana in food. Washington D.C. has even had to remind restaurants of that restriction. Now here come the caveats. Washington State and Colorado do allow edible sales under some circumstances, and smoking marijuana in bars and restaurants is a different than baking cakes with it. And, of course, as we hear ad nauseam these days, pot is still illegal under federal law.

What's a Restaurateur to Do?

It's important to note that most states where weed is legal have decriminalized possession for personal, recreational use. For the most part, other laws have generally been left intact, and those laws haven't changes or may slowly change as the pace of pot legalization unfolds. That can limit the ability to buy in bulk and transport marijuana. It also may leave in place local health and safety codes, which can be highly localized from county to county.

Look for changes to this area in the years to come. There is some connection between legalization and declining restaurant labor markets these days, so there might be a growing cohort of culinary-talented, pot enthusiastic entrepreneurs looking to stake a claim in an edibles market should it take off. Marijuana is, after all, a growing field these days.

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