Bongs bubbled and lighter flames flickered as the doors opened to Montgomery County, Maryland’s first lounge for marijuana users.
It’s called Ceylon House Cannabis Lounge, and because recreational use of the drug is not allowed yet, the lounge — located in Burtonsville — is just for medical marijuana users to come in and smoke while striking up conversation with other users.
“We are essentially a safe space for any medical cannabis patients currently in the state to come in, hang out, have your medication, meet some new people, learn about some new products and you know, enjoy yourself essentially while you’re here,” said owner Venushki “Venus” Hemachandra.
The lounge is like a cigar bar or a hookah lounge but with a Sri Lankan theme, paying homage to the country where Hemachandra was born. But unlike a cigar bar, visitors can’t purchase the product they smoke inside.
Until this summer, recreational marijuana usage remains illegal, so those who come into the lounge to smoke must have a doctor sign-off and be registered with the state.
“We are only open for medical cannabis patients currently here, but once July 1 comes around and recreational marijuana gets approved, we are good to go, and you can come on in — as long as you have an ID and you’re over the age of 21,” Hemachandra said.
Smoking, possessing and growing marijuana will be legal in Maryland for adults 21 and older, as of July 1. Adults 21 and older will also be allowed to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of the drug.
Hemachandra said right now, those who come to the lounge must bring their own cannabis, but her company’s neighboring dispensary, Herbiculture, will be open when the lounge is.
Due to county health rules, the lounge is also not allowed to sell food or drinks, but a solution for that on the weekends according to Hemachandra, is organizing food options outside.
“Right now, it’s over the weekends to try and partner with food trucks so that y’all have food here when especially the munchies hit,” she said.
Patrons can also rent and purchase bongs and vaporizers, used for consuming marijuana. This includes a Volcano Vaporizer, which Hemachandra said retails for nearly $1,000.
She said some of the more decorative items inside are brought in from Sri Lanka, to support the community there.
Hemachandra said the lounge was an idea she had before the pandemic began, but being the first of its kind, it took time to get the county and others who needed to sign off on it on board. But she hopes the Burtonsville location will help pave the way for others who want do something similar.
“I truly hope that there will be much more facilities like this to breakdown the stigma of what cannabis is and I’m sure with … bars, it was the same way when it started,” said Hemachandra.