As a cannabis business owner living in Denver, it is likely no surprise I plan to vote yes on 300. This initiative is integral for the evolving cannabis industry. We need to accommodate both tourists and locals looking for places to legally, responsibly, and socially consume the cannabis products they purchase in dispensaries.
As the owner of BlueKudu, a premium chocolate edibles manufacturer, I will not see a boost in business from the passage of the neighborhood-supported cannabis consumption pilot program. Our products can be consumed discreetly anywhere. I’m in favor because it’s the right thing to do for the future of the industry. This ballot initiative positions Denver as a continuing leader in the rapidly expanding post-prohibition era and it protects gains made in Colorado’s booming tourism industry.
Protecting Colorado’s Economic Gains:
Record numbers of tourists have recently been streaming into Colorado. According to a state-commissioned study done by Strategic Marketing & Research Insight, 23% of tourists who visited Colorado in 2015 said the availability of marijuana positively influenced their decision to vacation here.
At the same time, sales figures from Colorado cannabis dispensaries have been rapidly rising, reaching nearly $1 billion in 2015 and expected to rise well above that staggering amount by the end of this year. The demand is real.
Colorado dispensary records show a large percentage of purchases come from out-of-state visitors, and it is well-known that those customers are having trouble finding places to legally consume the products they buy.
Imagine being a tourist and booking your Colorado visit, planning on partaking in all that Colorado has to offer, including legally purchasing marijuana. Imagine finding yourself standing outside the dispensary with your purchase in hand, “Where do I go to use this?”, having no legal options. This is a problem that must be addressed.
Colorado is one of the top U.S. states for tourism spending. Soon, Colorado will face greater competition when tourists are deciding where to experience cannabis and if we are going to continue to capitalize on the revenue brought into the state from out-of-state visitors, we must find ways to better serve the visitors of Colorado.
Social Use Benefits:
- Gives Denver a competitive advantage over other states experiencing marijuana-driven tourism
- Offers tourists the opportunity to consume cannabis legally while also contributing to non-cannabis based businesses (hotels, restaurants, shopping, attractions)
- Provides a place for Colorado residents to consume cannabis legally
- Further legitimizes and improves the professionalism of Colorado’s cannabis industry as a whole
- Further defines the law and offers a structure for policing consumption
- Reduces illegal consumption
How It Will Work:
Passage of initiative 300 will compel the City and County of Denver to allow the creation of a four-year cannabis consumption pilot program, where businesses with support from neighborhood associations can operate cannabis consumption areas for adults, within agreed upon limits. For example, social consumption areas may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school or be visible from a public right-of-way or place where children congregate.
The ordinance also wisely calls for the creation of a Task Force to study the impacts of cannabis consumption permits on the city through December 31, 2020, when the pilot program would expire. At that time the City Council could examine findings from the Task Force and choose to make changes to the program, make the program permanent or let it expire.
This is a forward-thinking and sensible approach to managing an issue and will encourage collaboration in communities and give leaders a meaningful amount of time to gather evidence to inform future policy decisions that meet the needs of all concerned.
Questions to Consider During Implementation:
- How will security be addressed regarding patrons’ use and interactions in the business?
- How will the hours of operation be determined for social use businesses?
- How will the number of permits for Denver businesses be managed?
If Initiative 300 Fails:
Voters should take this opportunity to support a win-win situation for consumers and communities, a move that will keep Denver and Colorado at the forefront of the legal cannabis use movement.
As an industry leader benefiting from cannabis tax revenues, it is imperative for Colorado to accommodate the consumption of cannabis in a safe and legal way. If Initiative 300 fails to pass, many may soon look to other states that develop more cannabis-friendly programs.
On election day, voters in California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine and Massachusetts will be deciding whether to allow recreational cannabis sales. Currently, 25 states allow some form of medical marijuana with Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana voters poised to decide whether to allow that form of use.
Now is the time to take a progressive and professional approach toward studying what is a commerce and tourism-related challenge we are well positioned to solve. Initiative 300 moves us in the right direction.