The windows of the party bus are blacked out and the Coors in the ice buckets are free as we drive around downtown Denver vaping highly-potent cannabis concentrates on the way to various after-parties. The complimentary ride, provided by the Dab Bus during the Champs glass blowers convention in October, also included free dabs courtesy of the advertisers that sponsored the bus.
“Basically, the laws are if it’s private you can do it,” Dab Bus owner George Siha said of the marijuana consumption laws outlined in Amendment 64. “As long as you’re not selling [cannabis] and getting money directly for it, it’s pretty much legal.”
Amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters in November 2012, allows Colorado residents and tourists over 21 to legally purchase recreational cannabis. The state’s first recreational stores opened on New Year’s Day 2013, but the amendment prohibits consuming marijuana “openly and publicly,” leaving visitors eager to sample recreational cannabis wondering where they are allowed to smoke the herb.
The Colorado Clean Indoor Act, as amended in 2013 to include marijuana smoking, bans smoking in “indoor, but public” locations such as bars, restaurants and common areas. Exceptions to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act include limousines under public hire, hotel rooms in which smoking must be limited to 25 percent of the rooms, cigar and tobacco bars and retail tobacco businesses.
Thurlow “TL” Weed, the owner of iBake Denver, compares his private club to a Sam’s Club or Costco of the headshop industry.
“We’re a headshop that allows cannabis consumption,” he says.
In order to gain access to iBake’s smoking area, members must have a medical marijuana “red card” or be over the age of 21 and pay a monthly fee of $7.64, taxes included. Membership, Weed says, includes discounts in the tobacco shop as well as at events the headshop hosts, such as a recent New Year’s Eve celebration that featured all the “weed and wax you can smoke” for the price of a $99 ticket.
Weed has also been offering a gift of a gram of cannabis for membership as well as gifts including a gram of wax or an eighth of flower for spending $100 in the 24-hour pipe and tobacco store. The smoking area, which Weed is hesitant to call a lounge, has pipes, papers, dab rigs and torches for smokers to use.
Amendment 64 allows the “transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is 21 years of age or older.”
Weed compares the smoking environment at iBake to hanging out in the basement with friends and said he has 2,000 members from six to seven different countries and 20 states.
“It’s just kind of a chill little environment,” he said. “We know for sure that we’re not operating in any gray area or loophole at all.”
Jose Ramirez, the owner of Mary Jane Entertainment, Mile High Times and Dab City Radio, started driving a 14-passenger party bus to bars and different venues around Denver to offer free dabs this spring. He now offers a limo service that supplies cannabis samples on the way to touring dispensaries and commercial grows.
“The marijuana can’t outweigh the service,” he said, noting that the cannabis is sampled in small doses. “It’s like wine tasting in a sense. The whole idea is not to choke on it and die, it’s to enjoy it and taste the flavor.”
In Colorado Springs, the city opted out of recreational stores in July 2013, but its planning commission is now examining whether a social club, Studio A64, violated zoning issues by allowing onsite smoking. The club is one of several that have popped up in Colorado Springs including the Lazy Lion and Club 710.
“We’ll appeal this one all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to,” A64 owner KC Stark said to the Colorado Springs Independent. “If we lose this one, we’ll appeal it to city council. If we lose that one, we’ll appeal it to the El Paso County courthouse. If we lose that one, we’ll appeal it to the Colorado Supreme Court.”
Others operating businesses involving cannabis consumption in Colorado also feel they are operating within their rights under state law.
“Everything is passed through our attorney before we do anything,” Ramirez said, adding no cannabis is sold and no passengers receive cannabis to take away. “What we are doing is within the law.”
In the meantime more and more cannabis social clubs, limousines and bus services are springing up.
“It’s not really something people shy away from here at all, they see it as opportunity, I think kind of like a new Gold Rush,” Siha said. “I’m sure they’ll close the loophole somehow, but its here for now.”
Update: Since this article was first published the smoking lounge laws in Colorado continue to evolve, for updates check back in at cannabisnow.com
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