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Denver Legalizes Cannabis Cafes

New pilot program will give businesses the right to allow cannabis consumption.

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Cannabis cafes are on the verge of becoming a reality in Denver, following last Tuesday’s election.

Last week, Initiative 300 was approved by 53 percent of the voting public, putting into place a new pilot program that will allow the city to test the concept of social marijuana use for the next few years. Essentially, the new ordinance will allow businesses that already have a license to operate within the Denver city limits to apply for a separate permit that gives them the freedom to set up a “designated consumption area” for pot smokers.

During the signature-collecting phase of the social use campaign, there was some speculation that the initiative would lead to a barrage of bars and restaurants opening up a portion of their facilities to cater to the marijuana use. But supporters say that, while not at all impossible, pot smoking in places where food and alcoholic beverages are served is not a likely scenario.

“Bars and restaurants are probably the least likely type of business to apply for the permit because of other food and liquor licensing restrictions likely taking effect in the near future,” Emmett Reistroffer, a key figure behind Initiative 300, told MERRY JANE back in September. “In reality, I don't expect more than a handful of businesses to apply for or qualify for the permit because of how restrictive our proposal is."

“Our initiative doesn't limit or define the business model, but it requires the business to receive official support from their neighborhood in order to be eligible for a permit,” Reistroffer added. “This could apply to some bars and restaurants, but it could actually be any type of business such as a cafe, coffee shop, music venue, arcade, yoga studio, movie theater, heck, even a laundromat.”

When Colorado became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana in a manner similar to beer, the initiative that made it all possible (Amendment 64) did not come with a provision to allow cannabis to be consumed anywhere other than a private residence. This, in part, has created some issues for the tourism trade that has been pouring into the state since 2014 for a taste of the novelty that is “legal weed," as some out-of-state patrons have not had anywhere to go to smoke their weed purchases.

Under Initiative 300, a four-year pilot program will be used to determine whether social marijuana use is something that Denver can handle, while also providing lawmakers with some insight when it comes time to draft a more permanent ordinance in the future.

Marijuana legalization initiatives passed last week in Massachusetts and Nevada also come with provisions that will allow cannabis to be consumed on the premises of retail pot shops and in some public places.

It is not known exactly when Denver businesses will be allowed to apply for the new marijuana license.