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Colorado Law to Allow Social Cannabis Consumption

Colorado Allows Public Cannabis Consumption
Photo by Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Colorado Law to Allow Social Cannabis Consumption

Colorado has passed a law allowing Amsterdam-style public cannabis smoking in “Marijuana Hospitality Establishments,” along with a measure lowering penalties for cannabis possession above the permitted limit in the adult-use market.

Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis last week signed into law a measure long sought by Centennial State cannabis advocates, allowing businesses to apply for licenses for “social use” spaces, which opens the way for Amsterdam-style coffeeshops or smoking lounges.

House Bill 19-1230 authorizes consumption of cannabis in licensed “Marijuana Hospitality Establishments.” 

“Colorado has many tourists and residents who choose to participate [in legal cannabis use]. Up until this bill, there’s been no way to have safe public consumption,” Polis said before signing the bill on May 28. 

In a line that seemed shrewdly crafted to appease cultural conservatives uncomfortable with public use, he added: “I’ve smelled it walking my dog. For many of us with kids, we want to make sure we don’t have that in our neighborhoods.”

Denver: Amsterdam in the Rockies?

As Westword reports, Colorado dispensaries will be now able to apply for tasting-room licenses similar to those issued for breweries, while other businesses will be able to apply for private consumption licenses and limited on-site sales. Mobile “marijuana lounges” such as tour buses and limousines will also be licensed but will not be authorized to sell cannabis. Temporary licenses for special events will also be available.

At least one boutique hotel in Denver, the Patterson Inn, is said to be interested in the idea of applying for a new license. Owner Chris Chiari currently allows his guests to smoke cannabis on their private outdoor patios or vape in their rooms at the nine-room bed-and-breakfast in Denver’s bohemian-flavored Capitol Hill neighborhood. “I would love to be able to carve out a space for the guests in the hotel — I already have a specific room in my mind,” he testified in support of the measure per a Westword report in March. 

Another Westworld article notes that beyond dispensaries and hotels, many other Denver businesses might apply for such licenses: restaurants, coffee shops, music venues, art galleries, bookstores and game arcades. One obstacle is that Marijuana Hospitality licenses and liquor licenses will be mutually exclusive for any one establishment — but that may not slow things down too much.

“Good luck finding a restaurant willing to part with its liquor license in favor of marijuana (even if it might help with food sales), but eateries without them could see an opportunity,” Westword writes. “And restaurants with an active liquor license could conceivably pause their liquor licenses for a night or two if they ever wanted to try out a pot-friendly atmosphere. There’s also the option of getting a social pot use license for a neighboring property.”

Advocates have sought to get a “social use” measure passed every year since 2013 (the year after Colorado voted to legalize). The “social use” bill that was introduced a year ago was vetoed by then-governor John Hickenlooper. Meanwhile, another state beat Colorado to the punch as the first to allow “social use.” With approval of new regs earlier this year, Alaska become to the first state to officially oversee cannabis use at licensed retail outlets.

Penalties Lowered for Illicit Quantities

Gov, Polis also signed two related measures that day, including one that lowers penalties for cannabis possession in quantities exceeding those legalized by Amendment 64. 

House Bill 19-1263
 affects several controlled substances, including flunitrazepam, ketamine and cathinones as well as cannabis. Where cannabis is concerned, the penalty for one-time personal possession of more than six ounces of herbaceous marijuana or more than three ounces of concentrate are dropped from a level 4 felony to a level 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to two years probation. In most cases, there will be no jail time except for a violation of the terms of probation. The new penalties are to take effect on March 1, 2020.

House Bill 1234 establishes regulations for the delivery of cannabis products from state-licensed retailers, as opposed to on-site purchases — a question still unresolved seven years after the approval of Amendment 64. Under the law, deliveries are limited to one per day per household, and only in municipalities that allow such activities. Deliveries to college campuses are prohibited. The delivery of medical marijuana products is to begin on Jan. 2, 2020, while deliveries for the general adult-use market are set to begin Jan. 2, 2021.

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