Currently marijuana is legal to purchase, possess and consume in the state of Colorado, but the question is: Where can it be legally consumed? Well, if you happen to be in the city of Denver (or most anywhere else in Colorado) the answer is very simple: marijuana can only be legally consumed in a private residence. But what if your landlord won’t allow it or you are one of the thousands of tourists who regularly visits our great city? It appears that we’ll have to continue to wait for state lawmakers to answer that question.
Denver Moves Forward with Social Consumption
Last November, Denver voters passed I-300; a social use initiative that approved the commingling of marijuana and alcohol in bars and restaurants across Denver. Obviously a much different approach when compared to Denver NORML’s Responsible Use Campaign and something the State of Colorado disagreed with. In response, the State of Colorado adopted language making it clear that liquor licenses would not be allowed to permit the consumption of marijuana on their premises. According to the Denver Post, this change went into effect on January 1st of this year and vastly changed the intent of I-300.
“We all want adult consumption everywhere, but this is reality,” said Judd Golden, Legal Counsel for Denver NORML. The news of removing language that allowed the comingling of alcohol and marijuana frustrated proponents of I-300 so a lawsuit was filed against the State of Colorado to push the issue.
Kevin Mahmalji, outreach director for NORML shared his thoughts on combining the two substances. “As it currently stands, we can easily make the argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol, because the two are separated. If we allow the two to be mixed, any incident fueled by alcohol could potentially be blamed on marijuana. That’s why I believe responsible adults deserve their own space to consume marijuana similar to those who enjoy craft beer or cigars.”
In addition to the state’s decision to prevent the commingling of marijuana and alcohol, the City of Denver created the Social Consumption Advisory Committee that consisted of 22 influential decision makers – ranging from city officials to marijuana business owners – to go over the language line by line. The group met six times over several months and offered countless suggestions to improve the original language of I-300. Including a recommendation that would require patrons to sign a waiver before entering consumption areas. Essentially providing a layer of protections against unwanted exposure by non-consumers and those under 21 years of age. A recommendation that Denver NORML fully supports.
The 12 page document lists pages and pages of suggestions to make the law work effectively for the city of Denver. Last week the draft rules were finally posted.
Push for Social Consumption Statewide: SB-184
In addition to our work on the local level, members of Denver NORML spent a lot of time at the state Capitol educating lawmakers on social consumption and the need for a legislative solution. The result? SB-184, which would have empowered local governments to permit private marijuana clubs and better defined what “open and public” means to marijuana consumers. Once the bill was introduced, Denver NORML organized two citizen lobby days with more than 45 participants followed by months of face to face meetings with state lawmakers in support of a statewide solution.
Unfortunately during the final weeks of Colorado’s legislative session, many things with the bill began to change. Most notably, the bill’s sponsors tried to include language that would have criminalized marijuana consumption on the front porch of a private residence and aimed to exclude a newly established cannabis church from operating as a marijuana club. Thankfully the Senate and the House could not come to a consensus and the bill died in committee on the last day of the 2017 legislative session.
Until state lawmakers are willing to pass legislation that will provide a set of rules and protections for business owners and marijuana consumers to responsibly consume marijuana, Colorado municipalities will continue to struggle with this issue.
With the Denver’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee wrapping up its final meeting and Colorado’s legislative session coming to an end, there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the social consumption of marijuana in Colorado.
Denver NORML will apply the lessons learned this year and with their allies, continue to push for statewide reform in the next legislative session.