The legalization of recreational marijuana for adult use in Colorado came with an agreement that, in Denver, public consumption of it would remain a no-no.
Now some prominent local activists are advocating for a change to that restriction. Mason Tvert and Brian Vicente are helping promote a ballot initiative this fall that would open up certain places—primarily bars and clubs—to pot vaporizing or smoking. The venues would have to opt in to the arrangement and would create designated spaces for indoor vaping or outdoor smoking that satisfy Denver’s overall ban on public consumption.
The proposal is nothing if not logical. In seeking to regulate marijuana like alcohol, it makes sense that supporters would eventually want the product to be able to be consumed as freely as beer and booze are. And while we have seen other suggestions around the creation of special “cannabis clubs” catering to weed enthusiasts, the approval of this new measure would take marijuana directly to existing mainstream venues.
That doesn’t mean it would be easy to execute. For example, a LoDo bar could theoretically designate an outdoor area for marijuana consumption the way it does for cigarette smokers. But if that area is visible—or “smellable”—to the street or to any residential balconies around the bar, those partaking might find themselves in violation of the public consumption law.
What’s more, that distinct marijuana odor may not be a welcome addition to the environment a bar owner is trying to create. Whether that aroma entices or repulses you, there’s no denying it’s tough to escape when it’s wafting nearby. And if bar patrons are bringing in their own intoxicants, it could reduce their desire or need to buy as many beers as they otherwise would have, which wouldn’t exactly appeal to the proprietors. (Though their chicken wing and nacho revenue would probably skyrocket.)
Regardless, if you begin from the position that marijuana use is safer than drinking in numerous ways, then it should be our goal to normalize its consumption as much as possible. If you object to that contention, the only logical retort you have is that we should be making alcohol tougher to get—which isn’t going to happen, especially in Colorado.
The beauty and burden of being at the forefront of legalization is that it forces us to be first in line whenever new issues such as this one arise. The activists have until early September to get enough signatures to put this topic on the November ballot, but we’d be smart to begin having the discussions about it now.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.