Colorado is advancing with the country’s first effort to allow cannabis clubs. However, the proposal that recently passed a Republican state Senate committee doesn’t go as far as some cannabis advocates hoped. The measure would permit on-site cannabis consumption at private clubs in willing jurisdictions. And those clubs may permit indoor marijuana smoking, in spite of health concerns about indoor smoking.
However, the proposal is far from allowing a statewide network of cannabis clubs. For one, it would permit any jurisdiction to ban them, same as they can currently prohibit retail marijuana sales. Also, the measure does not allow cannabis clubs to serve food or alcohol. Since the cannabis-legalization proposal passed in 2012, cannabis advocates have complained that tourists and people who don’t want to use marijuana in front of their children need places to consume pot. Ashley Weber of Colorado NORML, a marijuana-legalization advocacy group stated, “We’re legal and we need a place for people to go. We need social clubs.” Smoking pot is banned on sidewalks, in parks, and most Colorado hotels and car-rental companies.
Colorado law presently neither restricts nor allows pot clubs. The result is a patchwork of local statutes regarding cannabis clubs. Advocates of the proposal called it more of a first step toward establishing the nation’s first Amsterdam-like clubs. Though bars couldn’t allow pot consumption, yoga studios, art galleries, coffee shops, or other public event spaces could apply for licenses. Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist for a Boulder County marijuana company said, “I don’t have time for perfect when we have an opportunity to move forward.”
The city of Denver is working on its own rules for bring-your-own cannabis clubs. Denver’s proposal does not permit indoor pot smoking, but the drug could be smoked on outdoor patios in some cases. The statewide measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate. Even if Colorado’s cannabis club proposal clears the Senate and then the House, the proposal still faces an uncertain path to becoming law. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper opposed Denver’s cannabis-club measure last fall, and he has told reporters more recently that he’s not sure if a statewide pot-club law would invite federal intervention in Colorado’s cannabis experiment.