August 2018 Update: In the 14 months since we posted this in June 2017, a lot has happened on the question of legal places to smoke weed in Denver. City lawmakers have been busy reevaluating their flawed permitting program, while business owners are looking for ways to run successful social cannabis use spaces given the harsh restrictions the City has set on licensing.
- Feb 9, 2018 – The Coffee Joint became the first business to obtain a DCA (designated consumption area) license
- Aug 18, 2018 – The Denver Post’s Jon Murray calls the licensing initiative “mostly a bust”
- Aug 24, 2018 – Vape and Play (scheduled to open in late 2018) obtains the 2nd DCA license
Stay tuned for more news on this ongoing story about the voters’ demand for legal places to smoke weed in Denver and the City’s struggle to implement it effectively.
Original post below, published in June 2017:
Initiative 300 for Social Use Spaces Draws Nearer to Launch
As a pioneer cannabis tour company, My 420 Tours been on a wild ride over the past five years and run into a fair share of roadblocks. One of the biggest hurdles to create legal places to smoke weed in Denver has been the public consumption law, which prohibits cannabis from being consumed in public spaces or virtually anywhere aside from the privacy of one’s own home.
Current haziness about places to smoke weed in Denver
This restriction has led to a lot of confusion and frustration. Not only does a lack of social use venues leave visitors in a bind, but it’s also a problem for condo-dwellers whose HOAs prohibit consumption, for nursing home dwellers where restrictions also apply, and even for parents who are simply looking for places to smoke weed in Denver responsibly and socially outside their homes and away from minors — just as they would consume alcohol at a bar.
Currently, businesses and organizations are finding loopholes to the consumption laws by creating mobile smoking lounges inside shuttles and party buses for tourists, and by creating private invite-only events surrounding consumption. But the situation is tenuous at best. Most places to smoke weed in Denver feel like the speakeasies of the 1920s. We can do better.
Luckily, last November, voters in Denver chose to address the social use dilemma by passing Initiative 300. Unfortunately, implementation of the initiative and launch of the program program has been slow-moving and disagreement about the rules runs strong. The Denver Excise and Licenses Department has reached an impasse by including wording that places an unfair burden on consumers and businesses.
You can check out the most recent draft of the social consumption rules and regulations here.
The public dialogue about legal places to smoke weed in Denver continues. Next Wednesday, June 14, the Department of Excise and Licenses will hold a public hearing on Initiative 300 at the Wellington Webb Office just across the street from the Capitol Building. We’re joining together with other stakeholders and advocacy groups to make our voices heard. If you’d like to join the movement as a business owner or neighborhood association, or if you’re a consumer interested in truly legalizing places to smoke weed in Denver, then come join us at this important public hearing and community discussion.
We’ll be joining other stakeholders who are concerned that the rules that create unnecessary burdens on consumers and businesses. A few of the biggest concerns include:
- Additional prohibitions that significantly limit the types of businesses than can apply (i.e. bars, restaurants, and concert venues and special events that also hold alcohol permits) due to concerns about dual consumption
- Proximity restrictions on locations, zoning requirements, and stringent restrictions on visibility
- Requirement for users of the consumption areas to sign an acknowledgment form
- Several other rules that frustrate the intent of the initiative, which is to finally permit designated consumption areas under the voter approved Initiative 300
We’ll hope to see you at the public hearing! Until then, you can sign this letter stating the numerous concerns with how Initiative 300 is currently framed for implementation. This letter was organized by our friends at Denver Relief Consulting. The letter reads as follows:
Implement I-300 without placing unnecessary burdens on consumers or businesses!
Dear Denver Excise and Licenses,
As supporters of the voter approved initiative, we would like to ensure the pilot program is implemented fairly and quickly – without placing unnecessary burdens on consumers or businesses and without creating adverse consequences. The intent of the initiative is to create designated cannabis consumption areas (“DCA”), where adults can consume cannabis in social settings, safely, legally and responsibly.
We are writing to thank you for your work for the City of Denver and toward implementation of the voter approved cannabis consumption pilot program (Initiative 300), and we would like to ask for your consideration of our latest concerns. We are urging you to consider the following proposed rule changes to protect the intent of initiative 300:
- Remove prohibitions on the dual licensing and consumption of cannabis and alcohol – as this prohibits the vast majority of businesses from participating in the pilot program, (including concert and entertainment venues), where cannabis consumption is currently demanded by their customers and occurring in Denver. Concerns about dual consumption of both substances can be better addressed through staff training and monitoring. We will accept a compromise that prohibits consumers from using both cannabis and alcohol at the same time and in the same areas, but we would urge the rules be changed to allow businesses to create adjacent consumption areas on the same premises and allow consumption of either substance at the same location at different times. For example, a concert venue that serves alcohol should be able to permit a designated smoking patio on the same premises, where cannabis consumption would be allowed and alcohol would not, and they should be allowed to host events that allow cannabis consumption at times when alcohol is not being served.
- Remove prohibition on Cannabis Consumption Special Event Permits at events that also have special event liquor permits – for the same reasons listed above.
- In definitions, provide further clarification of “other places intended for use primarily by persons under 18 years of age.” If the current definition can be applied to restaurants, movie theaters, arcades, etc., the rule could make it difficult for businesses and neighborhoods to determine the appropriate locations for DCAs.
- Remove the requirement that government-issued identification is required from all patrons before they are allowed access into a consumption area, because this is far more stringent than the requirements for establishments that allow alcohol consumption. The rule is redundant and unnecessary because the rules already clearly require consumption areas be restricted to persons age 21 and older.
- Remove the requirement that all patrons entering a consumption area must sign an acknowledgement form. We will accept a compromise that the acknowledgements are posted visibly near the entrance, containing a declaration that all customers are responsible for his/her own actions, will consume responsibly, will not drive impaired, and will not sell or distribute cannabis for remuneration.
- Reduce proximity restrictions from 1,000 feet to 500 feet, from any school, child care establishment, alcohol or drug treatment facility, or city-owned recreation center or city-owned outdoor pool. These proximity restrictions are far greater than the restrictions on liquor licenses, and significantly reduce the areas and number of properties that may be eligible.
- Remove the permit location restrictions that prohibit any particular parcel of land containing a liquor license or marijuana establishment from participating, regardless of units, suites, rooms, or other similar descriptors, which essentially prohibits “neighboring” or “adjacent” businesses from participating and will exclude tenants at most multi-unit properties “mini malls” from participating.
- Remove the permit location restriction for any location on public property and owned by the city. This rule prohibits major events like the 420 rally, cannabis cup, and Red Rocks concerts and events from responsibly managing and designating consumption areas, although cannabis consumption is currently demanded by customers at these events and occurring. We believe this decision is best determined by the respective city departments responsible for maintaining such properties (Parks and Recreation), or ultimately the City Council.
- Remove the permit location restriction for any location that is situated in a residential zone district – because this directly conflicts with language in the initiative which states “A designated consumption area shall not require specific zoning permits, and shall be permitted in any zone lot where the underlying business or event is permitted”, and because this rule will significantly reduce the areas and number of properties that may be eligible.
- Remove requirements for a ventilation plan because this rule is unnecessary for outdoor patios where open air flow is unable to be properly ventilated, and because this is redundant with the requirements to provide both evidence of compliance with the Clean Indoor Air Act and an Odor Control Plan.
- Remove the prohibition on public advertising or reduce its scope and effect to allow for some forms of limited public advertising – as this prevents businesses from effectively reaching and welcoming tourists who need access to designated consumption areas.
- Remove the proposed rule that makes permits non-transferable, because this is more restrictive than for other liquor and marijuana licenses, and because this rule circumvents the flexibility that eligible neighborhood organizations were intended to have when creating workable agreements with permit applicants and potential future transferees.
- Revise the proposed rule limiting possession of edibles to eighty (80) ten milligrams servings within a DCA, because rarely are edibles sold in eighty milligram serving seizes and recreational users can purchase a single, 100 milligram product. It does not make sense to restrict possession of cannabis and cannabis products more stringently than what state law already permits or inconsistent with the market, and it could create problems for enforcement.
Overall, we remain concerned the rules impose too many burdens and restrictions on businesses and consumers. We believe the current draft rules frustrate the intent of the initiative and should be revised substantially. Please consider our proposed recommendations. We have supported the Initiative 300 campaign since it launched last summer and through the current implementation process, and we appreciate your consideration of our recommendations to more effectively and fairly implement the initiative.
We are grateful for the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules, and hope you will consider making several changes to improve the rules and reduce unnecessary burdens on consumers and businesses, before or at the June 13 public hearing.
Furthermore, we whole-heatedly agree with the following statement issued by the I-300 campaign shortly after the draft rules were released earlier this month:
We are glad city officials are moving forward with implementing the voter-approved initiative to permit social cannabis consumption in certain venues, but we have strong concerns about some of the unreasonable rules they have proposed. Cannabis is a legal product for adults in Denver, and voters have repeatedly asked that it be treated similarly to alcohol. The city’s proposed rules fail to do that and treat cannabis in a far more restrictive fashion despite it being a far less harmful substance to consumers and to the community. Why should adults have to sign an acknowledgment form every time they enter an area where cannabis consumption is allowed, when such a requirement would be unthinkable when it comes to venues that allow alcohol consumption? Why should cannabis consumption areas need to be located twice as far away from public recreation centers and childcare facilities as bars and other venues that serve alcohol? Why should cannabis consumption be prohibited on a rooftop deck solely because it is visible to someone standing on the roof of an adjacent building? The goal of Initiative 300 was to end the unfair treatment of cannabis consumers, but some of the proposed rules reinforce the stigma it was intended to break. Prohibiting liquor-licensed establishments from allowing cannabis consumption areas disqualifies virtually every entertainment venue in town. These unnecessary and overly burdensome rules will deter businesses from seeking permits, in which case consumption will continue to take place in non-permitted areas. If permitted cannabis consumption areas are not allowed inside these businesses, the city will have to deal with it taking place outside on the streets and in the alleys surrounding them.
My 420 Tours is committed to keeping visitors safe, legal and educated in their cannabis experiences during their stay in Denver. We’ll keep you posted with Initiative 300 updates as they arise, and you can bet that as soon as the application process opens and the pilot program launches, we’ll be among the first in line to get a designated consumption area licensed.
Legalization is a long bumpy process and it will take time and hard work before we truly treat cannabis like alcohol, which was the intent of Colorado’s historic Amendment 64 that passed in 2012. We’ve come a long way since then, but there’s still more progress to make.
Learn more about the legality of cannabis and gain behind-the-scenes access on one of our original Denver pot tours. As far as places to smoke weed in Denver are concerned, our 420 friendly hotels offer a great solution as part of our all-inclusive vacation packages. Just imagine what we’ll dream up once social use venues are established! Exciting times ahead.