Cannabis advocates in Colorado are up in arms in this week after Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have allowed licensed pot retailers to set up on-site tasting rooms. House Bill 18-1258 was intended to offer cannabis retailers the authority to let their customers sample their wares, just like alcohol retailers are allowed to let customers taste their products. Hickenlooper struck down the proposed law, however, arguing that it violated the state's original legalization amendment, which banned public marijuana use.
"Amendment 64 is clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted 'openly' or 'publicly' on 'in a manner that endangers others,'" Hickenlooper wrote in his veto letter, CBS Denver reports. "We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement." The governor also said he was concerned that customers taking advantage of these tasting rooms might get too stoned to safely drive home.
"We may agree with the proponents' goals to protect the public and children; however, we strongly disagree that this bill is the correct path to achieve those goals," Hickenlooper wrote. The governor's veto drew praise from the American Cancer Society Action Network, who had campaigned against the bill, arguing that a tasting room would expose customers "to dangerous secondhand marijuana smoke including e-cigarette aerosol."
The state's cannabis industry was not so pleased with the governor's veto, though. Supporters of the bill argued that legal tasting rooms would have cut down on the proliferation of illegal, unregulated cannabis clubs. "In its wisdom, the Colorado Legislature sought to close a significant gap in regulation," Chris Woods, owner of Terrapin Care Station, said to the Associated Press. "It's unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators. This fight is not over."
Several other canna-legal states are mulling limited public consumption spaces, but they have been delaying the adoption of these programs in hopes that another state will try it first. In Alaska, regulators have put off discussions about allowing on-site cannabis use inside licensed retail stores, but are expected to resume deliberations this month.
In Denver, voters approved an initiative legalizing bring-your-own-weed "social consumption facilities," but state and local regulations have made it nearly impossible for these facilities to open. Las Vegas regulators have also delayed discussions of public-use establishments, hoping to first see how it might work out in Denver. San Francisco remains the only U.S. city to allow lounges where adults can consume cannabis products of their choice in public.