Colorado Cannabis Bill Aims to Regulate Public Consumption
Colorado was one of the first to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s been all high times for the Centennial State.
Amendment 64 allowed for the legal personal use of cannabis for adults 21 and up. In contrast, public consumption was not allowed.
What does the law consider public space versus private space?
Alcohol consumption is not prohibited in public spaces, but is legal in bars, restaurants and event spaces. With that said, those exact spaces are considered gray areas in terms of cannabis consumption. Some people believe prohibition of cannabis in these areas has forced users into even more public spaces, such as parks.
House Bill 19-1230 will clear up some of the confusion, while keeping everyone safe and boosting the cannabis economy.
First, if the bill is passed, it would classify the consumption of cannabis similar to wine, beer and hard alcohol. As a result, cannabis could be purchased and consumed in certain, licensed hospitality spaces. Lastly, bill also amends the Colorado Clean Air Act to allow smoking on the premises of such spaces.
The new bill would go into effect in January 2020.
Colorado sets the example for responsible cannabis consumption
Colorado lawmakers hope the bill will act as an example for other states and help them clarify their cannabis laws.
Introducing such a bill isn’t just about drawing clear lines for law enforcement; it’s about making the consumption of cannabis safer for everyone. Representatives aim to set clear limits and establish rules and regulations for responsible recreational use.
“This bill will help make sure people are consuming responsibly, similar to what you would see at a winery, brewery or distillery,” argues Democratic Representative Jonathan Singer. “Local law enforcement won’t have to worry about residents and tourists smoking in parks, because they’ll now have a place to go.”
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Lawmakers and politicians on both sides of the aisle hope the bill passes.
“Coloradans voted for the freedom to choose cannabis as an alternative,” says Senator Vicki Marble, a Republican from Fort Collins. “But we have not extended similar liberties to the consumption aspect of cannabis legalization. With this legislation, we are upholding the will of voters while providing a safe and responsible place for people to consume outside of parks and off the street.”
The bill draws a clear distinction between public and private spaces where cannabis will and will not be considered legal.
Big impacts in the hospitality industry
One of the major gray areas has been the hospitality industry (cannabis friendly hotels and cannabis tours). The new bill will clear up the confusion so that residents and tourists can enjoy cannabis in designated areas.
If this all feels a little familiar, it’s because it is. A similar bill was vetoed in June 2018 by Governor John Hickenlooper. House Bill 1258 (the ‘tasting room bill’) had been expected to pass as it had enough support to do so.
Hickenlooper had backed up his decision by stating, “Amendment 64 is clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’ on ‘in a manner that endangers others.’ We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement.”
Yet many hope the new bill will not meet the same fate as HB 18-1258.
Lobbyist Cindy Sovine seems confident this new bill is all about safety.
“This legislation is about harm reduction and monitoring intoxication,” she says. “It is about honoring the reality that if we benefit economically from the sale of cannabis products, we should also be respecting where and how it is consumed.”