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Denver Passes Measure to Allow Social Marijuana Use

Adults in Denver will be allowed to consume cannabis at particular places of business in the city after voters approved a measure to legalize “social use.”

Denver voters approved a ballot initiative last week to legalize the social use of marijuana, the Denver Post reports. Initiative 300, which passed with 52.6 percent support, creates a four-year pilot program where businesses can apply for permits to allow adult customers over the age of 21 to consume marijuana. Smoking will be allowed on business grounds when outdoors, but indoor consumption will be limited to vaping and edibles.

“We are truly grateful to the people of Denver for approving this sensible measure to allow social cannabis use in the city,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, lead proponent for the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program. “This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in 2012, and sales began January 1, 2014. As the first state to legalize adult use cannabis, Colorado was the recipient of a significant influx of tourists. However, the tourists didn’t have access to a space where the legal consumption of marijuana is allowed. Additionally, while consumption is legal inside private residences, renters living in Denver had to acquire the permission of the home or property owner.

“It’s a tourist issue, but it’s also a resident issue, when you think about the fact that a lot of people live in HOA- or landlord-controlled properties that don’t allow the use on-site,” Khalatbari said in September on a episode of The Cannabist Show. “There’s folks that, veterans for instance, that live in federal housing or a lot of these places that disallow that use on-site.”

As a result, many adults were consuming marijuana in illegal locations, including public spaces like sidewalks and in parks. Supporters of the measure argued that Initiative 300 would help keep adult marijuana use unseen by children and youth. Rather than consuming out in public, adults could use their marijuana products in businesses like bars, restaurants, cafes and yoga studios.

U.S. Marijuana Laws

“When we talk about folks wanting to keep cannabis away from children, I would hope that they’d be in support of this, understanding that the only way that it’s going to get off the streets and out of parks and away from kids, is to take it inside and into regulated spaces,” Khalatbari said.

For businesses to apply for an annual or temporary permit, they must first acquire the backing from a single neighborhood group. The group could be a Business Improvement District or a city-registered neighborhood group. The neighborhood group will have a say on the days and times that marijuana use will be permitted.

Businesses or other licensed premises cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school and the outdoor designated consumption area cannot be visible from the public right-of-way or where children congregate.

Once the election is certified November 22, the Denver City Council will get to work establishing a task force and framework to begin issuing licenses to businesses. City spokesman Dan Rowland told Denverite that he’s unsure when the city will begin issuing licenses, but doesn’t expect it to happen in 2017.

Throughout the four-year pilot period, city officials will examine the social and public health effects of the law. The city can choose to kill the program early or extend it once the period is up.

Supporters of Initiative 300 included Senator Irene Aguilar, Rep. Jonathan Singer, New Era Colorado and the Democratic Party of Denver.

Learn more about Colorado’s cannabis laws by visiting our education page.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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