Medical-Marijuana "Vapor Lounge" in West Valley Allows Patients to Toke Up, Rent Bongs and Hang Out
For two bucks, patients can rent high-quality glass bongs -- which they can use in the lounge.
On Thursday afternoon, about a dozen members were at the lounge. One puffed on a blunt while most used bongs or pipes. Members chatted and joked among each other as they smoked. It's "Cheers" with weed.
One patient at the bar held a large bong, using a gas torch to heat up a bowl containing "wax," a marijuana resin, until it glowed red.
"You can't have this at home, especially with kids around," he says of the high-tech bong after taking a hit. "It's an easier environment to smoke into."
Small events have been held at the lounge, and pro-pot groups like Moms for Marijuana have used it as a meeting place.
Smoking isn't allowed in any Arizona bar that we know of. But again, this is a private lounge, for members only. We have no idea if the concept is truly legal under the Medical Marijuana Act or other state laws, but Hayes exudes confidence. He's had police stop at the lounge a couple of times; he says he told the officers they can't go past the screen just inside the front door unless they have medical-marijuana cards, and they went away.
We asked Hayes if he and his partners might be considered partially responsible if an accident happens after someone leaves the lounge and drives while impaired.
"It's similar to a bar," he answers. "If you close your eyes in here, I'm calling you a cab."
The law doesn't prohibit patients from driving with marijuana in their systems, but does prohibit driving while impaired. The situation is similar to driving after drinking a couple of beers or glasses of wine -- legal, unless the driver is impaired to the "slightest degree." A major difference, though, is that booze-consuming drivers could be prosecuted for a DUI with a BAC of .08 or above, while the law has no such threshold for marijuana use.
Neither the lounge's business model, nor that of the cannabis clubs, have been declared illegal by any court. State Attorney General Tom Horne deemed the clubs to be illegal back in August of 2011. He sued in Maricopa County Superior Court with the hopes of getting a judge to rule in his favor. The case ended instead with a settlement that merely kept a couple of clubs closed.
However, Montgomery, the county attorney, has prosecuted successfully several principals of cannabis clubs, including one managed by Al Sobol, the high-profile marijuana marketer we wrote about in a cover story last year. With the owners of state-authorized dispensaries now calling for the closure of the clubs, it's tough to predict whether Hayes' dream of a statewide franchise of coffeeshop-esque vapor lounges will ever come true.
But for now, the flagship lounge on Dunlap is no pipe-dream -- it's a concrete example of the revolutionary change in how Arizonans view the use of marijuana.
After we left the lounge, we wandered into the dive bar next door in the same strip mall, the Amber Inn. Just for grins, we ask one of the old-timers nursing a beer what he thought of the "marijuana bar" next door.
"It doesn't bother me," he says. "Why would it?"