On Friday, Denver’s lengthy social marijuana use saga finally reached a conclusion when city officials unveiled the comprehensive set of guidelines for businesses and patrons hoping to partake.
Back in November, Denver voters passed Initiative 300, where Denver businesses can apply for permits to allow for public cannabis consumption on their premises — the first of its kind in the nation. Initiative 300 calls for the rollout of a four-year social use pilot program that will now launch in the coming months.
Denver businesses hoping to acquire a permit for a social consumption area will be able to submit an application until the end of August. Permits will be available on an annual basis for brick-and-mortar businesses or a temporary basis for event organizers. If a business has their application for a permit approved by Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses, the fees will amount to $2,000, though it is not yet clear how much of that fee would have to be paid in subsequent years to renew a permit.
Which types of businesses are expected to participate?
While coffee shops and restaurants figure to claim many of the social use area permits in Denver, there are a surprising number of other businesses interested in catering to their cannabis-loving clientele. There has been tremendous interest from yoga studios, gyms, bookstores, and other establishments where people who love marijuana also love to spend time. Business owners hope the intersection of cultures will enhance the experience for some of their customers and create increased brand loyalty.
Who is prohibited from applying for a permit?
Businesses already permitted to cultivate or sell marijuana in the City of Denver will be prohibited from applying for a social use permit, as will restaurants and bars that hold liquor licenses. However, there is a loophole that will allow one business to hold a social use permit and a liquor license, provided the business does not serve alcohol while the social use area is actively being used. This means a bar could host a cannabis-driven event after hours when alcohol sales are finished or during the day when the bar is closed. Businesses or events that operate on public property or land owned by the City of Denver will be barred from securing a permit as well, i.e. Red Rocks Amphitheater.
What changes have been made to Initiative 300 since November?
One major change that will make implementation of Initiative 300 run far smoother is the exclusion of a previous requirement that would have asked businesses to collect signed waivers from any customer wishing to enter the social consumption area. Instead, the smoking areas will now only need to be affixed with a sign reminding customers that “they are responsible for their own actions, must consume marijuana responsibly, should not drive impaired and cannot share marijuana in exchange for money.”
Another early provision of Initiative 300 would have called for businesses to develop a new ventilation plan should they allow vaping in their consumption area, a requirement that was deemed redundant considering the city’s current building and ventilation codes.
Though there are still points of contention, such as advertising restrictions for cannabis events and relatively strict zoning regulations, both lawmakers and cannabis advocates alike can at least be proud that they’ve taken a giant leap in progressing marijuana culture forward in Colorado — and hopefully beyond.