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Denver Authorities Are Cracking Down on Cannabis Tour Buses

420-friendly bus tours are a popular way for out-of-towners to explore Colorado’s green rush, but Denver cops and cannabis regulators say the mobile tourist attractions are breaking the law.

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Lead photo via My420 Tours

Denver police wrote 31 citations for public marijuana consumption and arrested one driver for a DUI on Friday in the Mile High City's first criminal crackdown on cannabis-friendly bus tours.

According to Denver's 9NEWS, city cannabis regulators have argued for months that the popular tourist attraction buses are breaking marijuana consumption laws, and decided last week to carry out raids on two local toke-and-tour companies, My420 Tours and Colorado Cannabis Tour Buses.

Introduced shortly after the Centennial State recreational cannabis market opened in 2014, 420-friendly tour buses offered a place for out-of-towners to light up without worrying about hotel security, losing an AirBnB deposit, or running into police on the street. Since most legalization laws, including in Colorado, only allow consumption in private buildings with approval from the owner, tourists are often left looking for a safe place to get stoned. In between trips to grow facilities, dispensaries, and other weed-themed destinations, tour bus riders are free to spark up and experience all the benefits of legalization first-hand.

After four years of tolerance, Denver regulators have now decided that those companies are crossing the line of allowed cannabis consumption. According to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, smoking on the traveling tourist wagons still constitutes public consumption. Before executing last week's roadside stings, Excise and Licenses officials sent multiple cease and desist letters to both My420 Tours and Colorado Cannabis Tour Buses.

"We saw a business that was operating unlawfully. We talked to them, we worked with them, and we even sent them letters to try to make sure that they understood what they were doing was unlawful and that if they continued it that there would be enforcement action," Eric Escudero with the Department of Excise and Licenses told 9NEWS. "Unfortunately, it appears in this case that they did not heed our warning."

Both bus companies involved in Friday's criminal crackdown argue that their buses constitute private property, and operate under the same legal guidelines as party buses for bachelor or birthday parties where passengers are allowed to drink alcohol. In a passage from Colorado's state cannabis law uncovered by 9NEWS, limousines are included as a legal place for marijuana consumption, as long as the driver is separated from passengers by some sort of partition.

"I find it hard to believe that a $300,000 limousine party bus that has very dark tinted windows that is not open access could by any way be considered open or public," Danny Schaefer, CEO of My420 Tours, told 9NEWS.

As for the DUI charge, My420 Tours has said that it was their driver who was arrested, but that the company does not believe the driver was under the influence and will challenge the arrest. My420 said that they contract their drivers from an outside service that regularly drug tests all of its employees.

Earlier this year, Denver awarded its first license for public cannabis consumption, but has failed to permit any subsequent social-use cafes or clubs. Denver regulators say that to join the legal cannabis economy, tour bus companies will have to apply for and win their own public consumption licenses. Both of the tour bus operators say that the mobile nature of their business would make that impossible.

Despite the recent legal complications, as of press time the websites for My420 Tours and Colorado Cannabis Tour Buses were still up and offering THC-filled bus trips later this week.

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