What America Really Needs: Marijuana Bars Malcolm Harris makes the case for pot hangouts as an 'urban-planning win-win' By Jenn Gidman, Newser Staff Posted Sep 30, 2014 1:29 PM CDT 54 comments Comments This Dec. 31, 2013, file photo shows partygoers smoking marijuana during a Prohibition-era-themed New Year's Eve party at a bar in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file) (Newser) – Malcolm Harris doesn't have a problem with more bars—he just thinks those bars should sell pot, not alcohol. In an opinion piece for Al-Jazeera America, Harris offers his take on how marijuana bars would give Americans more palatable gathering spaces with fewer health risks, creating an "urban-planning win-win" and possibly even saving lives. Some highlights: Harris points out the 88,000 deaths annually from excessive alcohol use as noted by the CDC and the "hundreds of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, health care, and property damage" that the National Institutes of Health has researched. Citing another NIH study, Harris says that pot would serve as an acceptable "substitute medication" for booze: "From a public health perspective, every drink we can replace with a toke is a victory." There are few places these days that resemble the famous bar from Cheers. "Fewer and fewer people have a third place (not work or home) where everyone knows their name," Harris writes. Because so many people have migrated to the suburbs and holed up with their cable TV and Internet, not as many people are heading out to congregate. "These spaces [would] promote community integration, friendship, and extrafamilial networks of support," Harris notes. Although he's optimistic that "eventually Americans will have public places to go and get high with their friends," Harris thinks government should ease up on strict regulations. "Not one Amsterdam-style coffee shop has managed to keep its doors open," he writes. "Though owners seem willing to conform to whatever guidelines they're given, so far, no locality wants to be the first to host an American marijuana bar." Harris also acknowledges some of the logistical hurdles that businesses may have to overcome. "One problem with weed bars is employees' right to a smoke-free workplace; even if cops allowed indoor marijuana smoking, no one would be allowed to work there," he writes. Click for his full piece.