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Cannabis users waiting for places to be socially consumed in Colorado are slowly burning, though recreational marijuana has been legal here since late 2012 and pharmacy tasting rooms and pot lounges will get state approval in 2020.
While recreational pots sales began in January 2014, social consumption businesses were not legalized to the same level until House Bill 1230 – a measure that allows pharmacies, restaurants, hotels, mobile lounges, and other businesses to obtain permits to use social pots to apply and give customers the opportunity to purchase up to a gram of flower, a quarter of a gram of concentrate or foods with no more than 10 milligrams of THC came into effect at the beginning of this year. However, the vast majority of local governments have been slow to take advantage of the opportunity.
The law requires cities or counties to register before potential socially responsible companies can apply for an operating license. Denver and Colorado Springs had social consumption ordinances in place before the bill was passed (the only communities in Colorado to do so), but so far Denver has only one licensed lounge, two in Colorado Springs.
Denver City Council is likely to look into the social use rules of the state, which are more extensive than those of the city, at some point in 2020. However, Denver marijuana regulators would like to learn more about the distribution of current marijuana business licenses as part of a social enterprise. Equity appraisal before a re-social consumption review, and that appraisal is expected to continue well into the year. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs social consumption regulations expire in 2024, and the local council just decided to leave the rules unchanged, rather than adapting them to the state rules or the licenses to the city’s current pot lounges to extend.
Denver “is likely to be a little longer because of the size and impact the city has on the state’s top industries,” notes Brandy DeLange, a law and policy attorney for the Colorado Municipal League. “A lot of people are waiting to see what happens,” she says of other cities in the metropolitan area, adding that “some of them” are interested in developments in Denver.
Meanwhile, a handful of mountain communities and a small town near Denver could be the first communities to adopt the state’s new social utility program.
Glendale, which is completely surrounded by Denver but is an independent entity, has scheduled a Glendale City Council hearing on March 3rd on social benefits. The owners of the Smokin Gun Apothecary have announced that if Glendale approves the proposed measure, they are ready to apply for a tasting room license and hope the room will be open by April 20th or April 20th. According to Chuck Line, the city’s assistant administrator, Glendale would only allow tasting rooms for pharmacies and not standalone pot lounges, cafes, or other pot-friendly shops.
Line anticipates approximately half of Glendale’s six pharmacies will apply for social use licenses. Tasting rooms are the most likely outcome of the new law, he explains, as state location regulations for social pot use businesses are similar to the rules that pharmacies currently operate by, with a law prohibiting the sale of activated alcohol and marijuana in the same location.
“We already have pharmacies where everyone knows they have marijuana,” he says. “Who knows, maybe we will allow it in the future [social marijuana use] in some restaurants, but we need to see how these things work first. “
At least three cities in Summit County are currently choosing to turn social consumption on or off. Dillon City Council is considering opting for it, according to Summit Daily, and would also restrict social use licenses to pharmacies as well. Breckenridge also checks the registration, but lukewarm. Silverthorne, the town next to Dillon, has already started to sign out.
Durango City Council started preliminary discussion on social consumption businesses in December but has not yet officially decided whether to opt to enter or leave the country.
The districts can also decide whether to opt for the new law in their unincorporated areas. According to Eric Bergman, police director of Colorado Counties Inc., some mountain counties have initiated the process. Eagle, Pitkin, and Summit counties are relatively open considering the measure, as is San Miguel County in the southwest corner of Colorado.
“I think you will see most of these stores within the city limits, but a few [counties] take a look, “adds Bergman.
When considering whether to sign up, local governments must weigh up what type of license to issue, how many licenses to distribute, and whether to allow indoor smoking in such businesses. While neither Denver nor Colorado Spring local bylaws allow indoor smoking (vaping is fine), Glendale would be under its proposed measure.
As Colorado cities slowly explore the opportunities of social consumption, Line sees the challenges prospect business owners face as they shift from acquiring business rights to the difficulties of running a profitable business.
“I would assume that we will see a lot more regulations on this in the next year,” predicts Line.
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Thomas Mitchell has been writing about everything cannabis-related for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news en route to publications like the Republic of Arizona, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.