Denver Voters Pass Onsite Consumption Initiative
The New Regulation Will Enable Some Local Businesses To Apply For “Social Use” Permits
Passed this election cycle, Denver Initiative 300, the “Neighborhood-Supported Social Cannabis Consumption Initiative,” a policy type known industry-wide as “Social Use,” allows businesses to seek a permit for cannabis consumption on premises. This makes Denver one of the first cities in the United States to manifest something remotely similar to Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes.
Beginning in January 2017, Denver businesses can apply for annual temporary permits enabling regular businesses to allow bring-your-own cannabis and over-21 indoor vaping and edible consumption, and/or outdoor cannabis smoking. The new initiative is structured as an early pilot program which could eventually template the implementation of social use regulations state-wide.
Still, a few caveats exist.
The new Denver initiative will not allow businesses that serve alcohol, or activities requiring a liquor license, to apply. This rules out most bars, restaurants, some event venues and even public events which plan to serve alcohol. However, talks of yoga studios, galleries, cafes and private clubs able to apply are motivating these local businesses and others to seek permits. As it remains under state law, licensed recreational cannabis businesses, like dispensaries, still can’t allow social use consumption on premises.
Business seeking an onsite Social Use permit will have to obtain the approval of nearby neighbors plus the support of their local business association in order to apply. At this time, it’s uncertain just how many businesses will attempt licensure and how long it will take to receive local support and subsequent permitting. It may be several months into 2017 before social use comes online throughout Denver. Nonetheless, “Amsterdam-style” coffee shops, yoga studios, maybe even movie theaters should soon be reality, so long as they don’t sell cannabis or alcohol.
Additionally, all Social Use permitted businesses will have to adhere to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, a state regulation that prohibits smoking in nearly all public indoor areas. Businesses may create indoor consumption areas so long as they are not for smoking; vaporizing cannabis and consuming BYO edibles is permissible. Businesses will be able to designate outdoor consumption areas so long as the business prevents unwanted odors of cannabis from reaching people outside.
It’s also possible businesses may be able to push for traditional “cigar bar” licensing and designate an indoor smoking section with an added cigar bar permit.
Participating businesses are required to develop operations plans outlining training and security protocols meant to prevent the underage use of cannabis. Written policy and procedures for handling and preventing highly intoxicated consumers must exist as well.
While early regulations may complicate permitting, many of the particulars will play out as the permitting process begins to take effect. The initiative is open to change and amendments as Denver’s early pilot program rolls out.
Elsewhere, Alaska currently has Social Use regulations in place to allow on-site consumption at retail cannabis stores. However, Alaska initiatives are still quite young, the first cannabis retailers only began opening throughout the state in October 2016. The implementation of Alaska’s onsite consumption regulations are still under review.
California, Massachusetts, and Maine all have new recreational cannabis regulations about to set in place and each will soon consider how to implement Social Use consumption. At this time, Social Use remains prohibited throughout Oregon, Washington and Nevada.
With an expedient implementation of the new Social Use initiative, Denver will be the first U.S. city where people can legally consume cannabis in traditional business establishments.
Photo Credit: David Rodriguez
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