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What Colorado’s ‘First’ Cannabis Lounge Means for Weed

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What Colorado’s ‘First’ Cannabis Lounge Means for Weed

A Colorado coffee shop making headlines for its cannabis consumption permit application isn’t really “the first,” but it’s still incredibly important to the future of adult use.

The Coffee Joint, a coffee shop adjacent to downtown Denver, Colorado, has been receiving a lot of press for being the first applicant for the city’s cannabis consumption establishment permit, sometimes called an “I-300” permit because of its genesis in the 2016 voter approved Initiative 300.

While The Coffee Joint would be far from the first place to provide a space for social cannabis consumption, if its application goes through, it will be the first of its kind. 

What Colorado already has are cannabis “social clubs,” which are based out of private establishments that require payment of membership dues for access. These clubs operate in a legal grey area, but more importantly, they tend to serve the needs of “legacy” cannabis consumers, offering little appeal to the largest segment of the expanding cannabis community — new consumers.

For those people who may consume cannabis only occasionally, paying dues for access to a dedicated consumption space makes little sense financially or otherwise. However, the ability to pop into a public business that provides a safe, legal space to enjoy cannabis makes it more accessible to more people, and that’s exactly what I-300 lounges could do.

From the Denver Post:

If the application is approved, its owners plan to allow on-site vaping and consumption of edibles in the 21-and-over business at 1130 Yuma Court, just east of Interstate 25. They will charge a $5 admission fee that includes basic coffee and tea offerings… They hope to offer a welcoming atmosphere, she said, by offering premium drinks and packaged food for sale along with board games, retail items for sale, art and music.

If the old chestnut is to be believed, there are three crucial factors when it comes to real estate; location, location, location. Not for nothing, The Coffee Joint’s owners, Rita Tsalyuk and Kirill Merkulovthe, have chosen to locate their coffee shop directly next door to a cannabis dispensary co-owned by their husbands. This move will undoubtedly help drive interest and traffic for both businesses.

And although not every I-300 business in Colorado will benefit from such an ideal location, there are certainly properties adjacent to other existing dispensaries throughout Denver, creating a real opportunity for the entire city.

Outside of Colorado, there have been several other cannabis consumption lounges, but most have ultimately run into legal obstacles. In the golden age of California’s medicinal cannabis system, there were lounges all across the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles where you could smoke, vape and otherwise consume weed. San Francisco had dozens of these lounges, mostly attached to dispensaries, ranging from simple chill rooms to elaborately decorated “hash bars.”

But nothing gold can stay, and the first thing to go was the smoking — first the blunts, then everything at many locations that ultimately shuttered. Now it’s down to a handful of dispensary lounges in SF like the Barbary Coast, and a smattering of Measure Z speakeasies in Oakland like… who’s asking?

And as adult use of cannabis moves further into the cultural mainstream, there needs to be a way to foster the evolution of a new “salon culture” built around cannabis lounges instead of bars or coffeeshops. Not just a place where people can safely consume cannabis, meet friends and make new ones, but the nucleus of a new cannabis culture built around open, responsible use.

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