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Marijuana smoking lounge raising legal questions with state, health district

Marijuana smoking lounge raising legal questions with state, health district

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A marijuana smoking lounge could open soon in Spokane Valley. It could be a place to get together and get high for a price, but it's raising questions the state isn't sure how to answer.

The Members Lounge will be located in the old Ringo's Casino in the 11000 block of East Sprague, and it raised one important question: How can it be legal considering the state's indoor smoking ban?

That ban makes it illegal to smoke even cigarettes inside a public place with employees.

This lounge would be members only and according to them they wouldn't actually be smoking. Instead, they would use an e-cigarette to inhale marijuana vapor and it's that distinction that may allow them to open their doors.

It's under construction now but soon the Members Lounge could be filled with furniture -- and pot vapor.

"It'll be modern, it'll be comfortable," Tim McKinney, one of the owners trying to open the lounge, said.

"The cannabis industry is blowing up and we're just trying to be apart of it," he added.

No alcohol, no food, not even pot for sale here. It's just a place where paying members can enjoy their marijuana. No smoking allowed either, only vape pens that emit marijuana oil vapor like a tobacco e-cigarette.

"This is a liquid, it's not combustible. It's just a liquid, similar to a fog machine," McKinney explained.

Only medical marijuana patients will be accepted as members when they open in about a month but he plans to quickly expand to recreational users in July.

But is this even legal?

"The industry is evolving everyday. We think regulatory agencies are evolving everyday with it so we think it'll be pretty acceptable by that time," McKinney said.

The legality of the lounge is another question the state will have to answer as it continues into marijuana's hazy uncharted territory. First off, is vaping tobacco or marijuana allowed in a private club? The state liquor control board regulates marijuana but says enforcement of this is actually the regional health district's responsibility.

"If vaping is not considered smoking then there's other implications that have to deal with I-502, and if that's considered using the marijuana in a public place," Kim Papich with the Spokane Regional Health District said.

Charging a membership fee may help McKinney's case. Memberships to the Members Lounge would be $15 a month after a $40 administrative fee. He hopes when they open the only cloudy thing about the situation will be the view from inside.

As for what happens if the state or health district comes in and says this won't be allowed, McKinney said he'll deal with that issue if it comes up.