For almost the past year, there has been much discussion over the launch of the first ever legal cannabis clubs in the United States. However, as Colorado’s largest city prepares to dole out licenses for this very purpose, there are concerns that not many businesses will be eager to participate due to the restrictive nature of the program.
In 2016, Denver voters approved a measure intended to establish the first city in the nation to open an Americanized version of the cannabis lounge. Yet, while the consensus was that the scene was going to look something like Amsterdam did in the 1980’s, city officials have seized every opportunity to transform the concept into a measure that will benefit very few.
The original idea was designed to give people the right to smoke marijuana in designated public spaces, and was intended to give the cannabis community the same kind of freedom as those who venture outside the home consume alcoholic beverages.
But that’s not how the law shook out.
The city has since removed the ability for marijuana to be smoked is so-called “social clubs,” not to mention eliminated any possibility of restaurants or bars from taking advantage.
At this point, the only types of establishments with a chance at being approved for a license are places like laundromat, yoga studios, and other public facilities without a license to sell beer, wine and spirits. Not even dispensaries qualify to be licensed for social use.
"There are plenty of places where you can consume alcohol. Let's give people a place to go to consume marijuana," Jordan Person, who oversees Denver NORML, told the Associated Press.
The biggest downfall of the social use pilot program is that it does not allow the co-existence of marijuana and alcohol.
Kayvan Khalatbari, who had a heavy hand in the city’s social use initiative, told the AP that he has filed a lawsuit against the city’s liquor regulators over, and is considering a similar complaint against the city. He says city officials have absolutely no problem allowing mobile bars, which give people the luxury of getting drunk in route to the next bar, but will not treat marijuana consumers with a similar respect.
"You can ride these stupid moronic bike bars down the street, getting hammered in public. But we're not giving people a safer choice, even though voters have said over and over again they want to go that way," Khalatbari said.
Most advocates agree the idea of public marijuana consumption will take some time to get right.
The Colorado Legislature attempted to pass a statewide social use bill earlier this year, but it failed to going the distance. It seems that lawmakers simply cannot decide what the law should look like, and many are worried that giving people the ability to consume marijuana in public will lead to higher rates of stoned driving and other public safety issues. Others, including Governor Hickenlooper, have vowed not to support any measure that allows marijuana to be smoked in public.