DENVER -- Police pulled over marijuana tour buses and cited passengers in what appears to be a new crackdown on businesses that shuttle tourists between dispensaries, often letting them smoke onboard.
Thirty-one people were cited last week for public consumption of marijuana and one driver is being accused of driving under the influence of drugs.
The enforcement action happened on buses for Colorado Cannabis Tours and My 420 Tour. The companies started right as Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use and they have been operating without any major threat until now.
"Honestly, I can say that I felt this was harassment," said Hal Taback, Senior Vice President for Loopr.
Taback runs Denver's self-proclaimed mobile cannabis lounge. Police did not pull over his bus but he is working with the owners of the other tour buses to form a coalition and fight the city.
In late March and early April, Denver's Department of Excise and License sent letters to My 420 Tour and Colorado Cannabis Tours. The letter stated marijuana consumption is only legal in a purely private setting like someone's house and several laws do not allow it on a bus.
"When we evaluated these circumstances we believe this is public consumption of marijuana," said Eric Escudero, a spokesperson for the Department of Excise and License.
There's a debate over what constitutes public consumption and that's where these companies disagree with the city. Taback insists that his events are private.
"There's no way that there could be anything public going on in the back of my vehicle, you have to purchase a ticket, sign a waiver and enter through two different doors that don't open at the same time," said Taback.
Marijuana tourism is big business. Colorado Cannabis Tours has 40 employees and sees about 100,000 guests per year. Their owner told Denver7 in a statement that he will continue operating despite the citations.
CCT was surprised and disappointed about the recent citations issued related to our tours. Our attorney sent Excise and Licensing a detailed letter in April which explained the legal justification for us operating and requested to meet with the City if they disagreed. Instead of meeting with our attorneys as we requested, they decided to needlessly issue citations to innocent customers. This could all have been avoided if the City had simply met with our attorneys as we requested.
Although we contend these citations are unjust and uncalled for, we are willing and eager to work with the city of Denver to create a viable model for companies such as ours so that we can serve our guests in a manner that they desire and continue to bring much needed tourist dollars into the city and state.