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Colorado Lawmakers Still Not Onboard With Social Marijuana

Colorado social use Cannabis Now
Photo Chad Miller


Colorado Lawmakers Still Not Onboard With Social Marijuana

Cannabis is legal in Colorado, but there is still no place to smoke it beyond your home.

No matter how hard Colorado cannabis advocates work to expand the state’s recreational marijuana law, the suits over at the Capitol just cannot seem to wrap their heads around social use. Earlier this week, the Colorado General Assembly butchered and left for dead a proposal that would have brought the concept of cannabis lounges to fruition. Yet, they did not stop there. As if flushing another social use proposal down the proverbial drain wasn’t enough, lawmakers also canned a separate measure that would have allowed dispensaries to host cannabis tasting events. But why? Mostly because some state officials believe the measures are risks to public safety.

The latest social use bill, which was introduced by state Senator Vicki Marble, was designed to give local jurisdictions the freedom to license cannabis lounges. Both the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) would have overseen the regulatory affairs surrounding this upgrade. But neither agency wanted anything to do with it. Instead, MED director Jim Burack begged state lawmakers not to tender their support, saying that cannabis lounges posed “significant enforcement challenges and health and safety risks.” Burack also complained that a social use law would be a nightmare for his agency because of the extra work.

However, supporters of the “Marijuana Consumption Club License” bill (SB 211) argued that social use is coming – like it or not. Denver is already working to launch its experimental version of this concept. The city recently approved its first social marijuana license. The Coffee Joint, which is located in the Lincoln Park area, will soon allow customers 21 and over to vape or consume pot edibles. It’s not a perfect plan, especially since it is a BYOB (bring your own bud). The shop is prohibited from selling marijuana products on site.

Still, some lawmakers believe it is just matter of time before social use spirals into a more comprehensive monster.

Senator Marble said the state could have chiseled away at public consumption and other problems by moving forward with social use. It’s a projected progression in the state’s marijuana law and it will come to pass eventually, she told those in attendance of a meeting where MED voiced its opposition. “I’m just having a real hard time where you’re just closing the door, saying ‘no’ on something that’s an inevitable growth process,” she added.

Burack said the MED was neutral on the idea of marijuana “tasting rooms” because the bill seemed to be designed with public safety in mind. But there was a lot of confusion from those who testified before the Senate Business, Labor & Technology committee over how exactly a cannabis sampling event was safer than allowing people to consume cannabis in lounges But the argument fell on deaf ears. The committee went on to kill the measure.

Last year, Colorado’s plan to bring social marijuana use to life was stopped when Governor John Hickenlooper said he would not support any measure that allowed people to smoke marijuana in public. He argued that the state made too much progress by banning smoking in public establishments to let it come unhinged at this juncture.

The only good news to come from the recent legislative battles is the advancement of a bill intended to allow some members of the cannabis industry to sample pot products. This proposal would give managers of cannabis operations the right to try new cannabis items, as a way to pass that information to the customer should they ask for a review. This sort of thing isn’t possible right now because of the seed to sale system. The Senate is now set to debate.

As for allowing cannabis consumers the same freedoms as those who drink alcohol — that appears to be a dead issue for the moment. Perhaps the issue can be revived in the not so distant future once lawmakers and city officials are able to see how this practice pans out in Denver?

TELL US, would you go to a smoking lounge?

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