Denver is the first city to allow the public consumption of marijuana in restaurants and cafes.
A total of eight states voted to expand legal marijuana consumption on Election Day, 2016. In Denver, voters approved a law to take things even further.
Prop. 300’s passage will create a four-year pilot program that will allow bars, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, yoga centers, and other businesses to set up “consumption areas” for marijuana. Business owners will have to gain the support of local neighborhoods before obtaining a permit for public consumption. Indoor use of vaporizers and edibles will be allowed, but smoking flower will be limited to private outdoor areas on business property. Business owners will be able to apply for permits in late January. There is no word yet on when the permits will be issued.
Proponents of Prop. 300 argue that public consumption areas can reduce marijuana usage on neighborhood streets and direct it toward specific locations. Many dispensaries have also sought public consumption areas especially after Colorado approved recreational marijuana use in 2012. In the four years since legalization, “green tourism” has been on the rise. Tourists are often without a legal place to consume marijuana.
“Initiative 300 will make it easier for dispensaries to guide consumers to regulated areas where they can consume the products they purchase without fear of breaking the law,” said CEO Andrew Schrot of BlueKudu, a Denver-based marijuana edibles maker.
Finding a legal place to consume marijuana is not an exclusive problem for tourists. “Landlords will now be able to direct tenants to locations where public consumption is allowed. This should make it easier for a landlord to ask that tenants avoid consuming within their rental properties,” Schrot said.
Alaska is the only state that currently permits consumption areas. However, state law only permits consumption in tasting rooms on the property of dispensaries. Consumption in bars and restaurants is not allowed. Final regulations are still being worked out and the tasting rooms are not operating yet. Legal marijuana cafes were also included in California’s recently passed Prop. 64. Denver is expected to have public consumption areas up and running before California and Alaska.
Prop. 300 will sunset in 2020 unless a permanent law is passed. If Denver does well in regulating public consumption areas, it could set a precedent for other municipalities and states.
“Social clubs that are well-run and follow regulations could bring the conversation about neighborhood-supported consumption to other cannabis-friendly states,” Schrot said.