DENVER – A bill that would have legalized cannabis dispensary tasting rooms has burned out.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed HB 1258 this week. The bill was not universally supported in the state legislature but did pass the House (39-24) and the Senate (22-12) by healthy margins.
Hickenlooper does not seem to be digging in for a larger battle on legalized cannabis, rather, he seemed wary of dispensary tasting rooms encouraging public consumption.
“Since Colorado approved Amendment 64 in 2012, this Administration implemented a robust regulatory system to carry out the intent of this voter-initiated measure,” Governor John Hickenlooper in his veto letter. “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.”
HB 1258 would have set up a licensing system for dispensaries similar to how wine and brewery tasting rooms are regulated. Customers would have been able to legally vape or consume infused edibles in these designated areas.
“This was a modest step forward to educate cannabis consumers before they get on the road,” State Representative Jonathan Singer, a sponsor of HB1258, in a statement. “Today’s outcome just proves we need to work harder to show that cannabis consumers don’t belong in the shadows.”
As Hickenlooper said, Amendment 64. prohibits public consumption of cannabis. However, it is not clear if law enforcement or the courts would view designated areas on dispensary property as a public area.
Part of the rationale for HB 1258 relates to tourists. Many visitors purchase cannabis but have few legal options when it comes to consumption. Almost all hotels prohibit cannabis use in guest rooms.
Even if HB 1258 passed, local governments would still have had the opportunity to ban the tasting rooms.
Many dispensary operators voiced their support for the bill but were met with opposition from groups such as the Colorado State Patrol, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Smart Colorado.
“What we were trying to do with House Bill 1258 was offer certainty on the issue of public cannabis consumption so that regulators could have a bright line when it comes to enforcement,” Chris Woods, the owner of Terrapin Care Station, said in a statement. “In its wisdom, the Colorado Legislature sought to close a significant gap in regulation. It’s unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators. This fight is not over.”