Officials in Denver are working on regulations to open a one-year pilot of bring-your-own weed clubs, while state legislators are expected to consider measures to allow either marijuana “tasting rooms” run by cannabis dispensaries, or smoke-friendly clubs comparable to cigar bars. Colorado representatives from both parties have come around to the idea of Amsterdam-style marijuana clubs for a simple reason: People are tired of seeing weed smokers out in public. State Senator Chris Holbert, a suburban Denver Republican who opposes cannabis legalization stated, “It’s a problem we’ve got to address.” Holbert said he’s even had panhandlers ask him for pot near the state Capitol. Holbert stated, “I mean, look at me. If I’m getting hassled, everyone’s getting hassled.” Democrats here agree that tourists need an out-of-sight place to use marijuana.
State Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver stated, “No voter in Colorado voted to allow the use of marijuana on their sidewalk, in their parks, in their public view. But that’s essentially what we’ve done by not allowing private club space for marijuana uses.” So both parties agree that Colorado needs to allow for places that let patrons smoke marijuana. However, that is where agreement breaks down. A Republican-sponsored measure to allow pot clubs to be regulated like cigar bars was put on hold for a revision. That is because sponsors are trying to address issues that marijuana clubs should not allow medical cannabis use, along with other legal wrinkles. Rachel O’Bryan, who opposes marijuana clubs and ran an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a Denver social-use measure last fall stated, “Telling people to socially use their medicine? That’s like we’re legalizing pill parties.” There is also intense conflict over whether establishing marijuana clubs would invite a federal crackdown. Democratic state Representative Jonathan Singer said, “Jeff Sessions is the big question mark right now. I think we need to send a message to him that Colorado’s doing it right.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposes the legalization of marijuana but is undecided on signing a bill to allow clubs, said he is not sure how the administration would respond to clubs. Hickenlooper stated, “I don’t know whether we’d be inviting federal intervention, but certainly that’s one argument I’ve heard used persuasively.” The governor did indicate he would veto a proposal that allowed indoor smoking, not just smoking on enclosed private patios. The Denver clubs would have to follow clean-air regulations banning burned cannabis inside; the statewide measure would allow indoor smoking with “proper ventilation.” Hickenlooper said, “We spent a long time letting everyone know that smoking is bad for you. Just cause that smoke makes you happy, and dumb, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”
The cannabis industry seems frustrated by Colorado’s halting attempts to figure out how to allow pot clubs. Because current marijuana law is vague, Colorado currently has a patchwork of underground clubs, many of them raided when they try to pay taxes or file permits. Chris Jetter, a licensed marijuana grower who owned a west Denver pot club that was raided twice, stated, “The situation right now is a disaster.” Jetter said authorities took more than six pounds of cannabis, along with tens of thousands in cash, then charged him with illegally distributing marijuana. Jetter stated, “Two or more people can get together and consume alcohol almost anywhere, and there’s no problem with that. But we’re not treating marijuana like alcohol. What’s going to happen with the feds? If they start kicking in doors, I don’t know, but we need to figure something out.”