The Future of Public Pot Use and Private Marijuana Clubs in Denver
“Where can I smoke weed in Denver?” It's usually one of the first questions asked by tourists, second only to “where can I buy weed in Denver?” While marijuana dispensaries in Denver are plentiful, and Green Star Excursions will even pick you up at the airport and take you right to a dispensary, places to smoke marijuana without fear of getting a ticket aren't quite so out in the open. Marijuana activists have been working for years now to reform current public pot use laws and private marijuana club regulations so that people will have more places to be able to safely blaze up. Many of these efforts have remained fruitless, but with momentum building and support mounting, voters and activists might have another shot this November.
Although one citywide initiative that would have made private marijuana clubs fully legal in Denver failed to make the November 8th ballot, there is still a chance for a similar but different measure to be brought to a vote. The failed initiative, called the Responsible Use Denver Initiative, fell nearly 2000 signatures short of the 4,726 verifiable signatures required to make the ballot, despite the group behind the measure, Denver NORML, having turned in over 7,500 signatures. When the signatures were reviewed, many turned out to be from unregistered voters or from voters living in other counties. While disappointing to the many marijuana activists who worked countless hours on the effort, the news is not completely disheartening, as another initiative regarding pot consumption in businesses still has a chance. Deemed the Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program, this initiative would allow marijuana to be smoked at certain establishments like cafes and bars. Such businesses would be required to seek and obtain approval from the neighborhood where the establishment is located before they can allow marijuana consumption on their premises. The Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption initiative is currently under review by the Denver Elections Division. If there are enough verifiable signatures on the petition to get the measure placed on the ballot, Denver voters could be deciding within just a few months whether or not to legalize toking up at bars and other neighborhood-approved establishments. The Denver Elections Division is expected to complete their signature verification process by sometime next week.
Many are hopeful that this measure will indeed make the ballot, as the rules against public pot smoking cause a lot of confusion and inconvenience, especially for marijuana tourists. You can walk into any number of marijuana dispensaries in Denver such as Medicine Man Denver and easily buy weed, but then you're left with no place to legally smoke it. While Amendment 64 legalized the sell and possession of pot, consuming marijuana openly and publicly remains illegal under Colorado state law. Most hotels don't allow indoor smoking, which leaves the marijuana tourist with no obvious options when it comes to knowing where to smoke weed in Denver. Being able to just go to a bar or cafe or other business and sit back and light up would provide for an easy and convenient way for marijuana tourists and residents alike to enjoy Colorado cannabis culture to the fullest. It could also be a boon for the businesses that choose to allow marijuana consumption, attracting new customers and especially marijuana tourists to their establishments. The petition to get the Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program on the Denver November election ballot has 10,800 signatures, so there is a strong chance that the Denver Elections Division will be able to verify enough of those signatures for the measure to come to a vote. The ballot measure has the backing of the Marijuana Policy Project, Veterans for Cannabis, Cannabis Business Alliance, Sensible Colorado, The Church, Club Vinyl, My 420 Tours, Colorado Cannabis Tours, and many other influential organizations and businesses. If the Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program makes it on the ballot, hopes are high that the measure will pass.