Draft rules for Denver's social marijuana clubs released; patron waiver draws early concern

DENVER – Businesses looking to get one of Denver’s first-of-its-kind social marijuana consumption permits got their first look Thursday at the stringent draft of rules and regulations they will likely have to adhere to if they want one of the permits.

Denver voters approved Initiative 300 last November, which opens up the possibility for the existence of the clubs. The city, state and local organizations have been hammering out exactly what requirements the businesses have to follow since.

But the city released its draft of rules and regulations on Thursday, which will be reviewed over the next month ahead of a public hearing on the rules on June 13.

As the draft rules currently stand, the idea that some people had that they’d be able to drink and smoke at the same time in the same building is out the window completely.

The draft rules say that a business that obtains a social marijuana license is not allowed to have a liquor license as well, unless the business is not currently serving alcohol. They could temporarily suspend their liquor license, but would have to go through a process to do that with the state.

Those rules come in response to new rules instituted in November, when just after proponents had declared victory, the Colorado Department of Revenue approved a rule prohibiting liquor licenses holders from allowing marijuana to be consumed on the same property.

Anyone who goes to the social marijuana clubs would have to be at least 21 years old, and will have to sign a waiver form that says they are responsible for their own actions, won’t drive impaired and won’t sell marijuana at the business.

The businesses themselves would be barred from selling any marijuana, however, so people would have to bring their own. But no one could bring in more than an ounce of marijuana; more than eight grams of marijuana concentrate, or more than 80 ten-milligram serving size edibles.

But the current rules also ban torches at the businesses, which leaves some questions about whether people who typically use wax or dabs -- marijuana concentrates usually vaporized on a torched surface -- would also be left out.

Prospective businesses will have to fill out an extensive survey; provide names and information on all their employees and owners to the state; floor plans of the building, description of their adherence to the Colorado Clean Indoor Act with their ventilation system (if they allow vaping indoors); a security plan and evidence of community support from neighborhood organizations, among many other things.

The city and county will allow for permits at designated businesses, as well as special event licenses.

But a special event license would only be valid for 10 days each year and could not be used on any public property, such as Civic Center Park, where the yearly 4/20 rally is typically held.

That’s one of several concerns already raised about the draft rules by Kayvan Khalatbari, a city business owner who was the lead proponent of Initiative 300.

He expressed some concerns about the public property special use permits, as well as the current draft rules that bar a license from being granted to the same business that holds a liquor license.

“Proposed rules prohibiting liquor licensed establishments from participating removes the vast majority of entertainment establishments where consumers are already using both alcohol and cannabis and demand fair treatment,” he told Denver7.

He also said that some of the current draft rules are unfair in regards to marijuana in that many of the requirements for social marijuana clubs don’t exist for bars that serve alcohol.

Among them are the waiver people would have to sign before entering, and a requirement than any social marijuana club be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, child care establishments, alcohol and drug treatment facilities or city-owned rec centers or pools.

“Requirements that consumers sign acknowledgement forms, restrictions on visibility and where consumption areas can be located create a prohibitionist environment that will oppress and stigmatize cannabis consumers unfairly, despite the city and state accommodating far greater opportunities to alcohol consumers, even allowing alcohol consumption in public places and at public events like beer festivals, which often take place in public parks and facilities, Khalatbari said.

But Daniel Landes, the owner of City O City and the business representative on the Initiative 300 advisory committee, says the draft rules are “a step in the right direction,” but said the waiver and 1,000-foot requirements concerned him as well.

“I hope that creative entrepreneurs are able to pull a permit and can provide a safe space to consume socially. My concerns are having people sign a waiver every time they go to a DCA,” Landes said. “That is an administrative hassle and highly inefficient. I can't imagine doing that at my bar. I am also concerned that having 1,000 feet of space between certain establishments will prohibit permits being pulled in desirable areas.”

The city says that depending on the number of changes sought to the rules and regulations, that it hopes to adopt the final version shortly after the June 13 meeting.

It is already issuing applications at the Denver Excise and Licenses office, but won’t accept any until the rules and regulations are finalized. The city hopes that will happen by the end of July.

The June 13 public hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Webb Municipal Office Building, Room 4.G.2, located at 201 W. Colfax Ave.

An online feedback form in response to the draft rules is already online here, where you can also learn more about the social consumption program.

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