The results are in on Initiative 300, and Denver voters have passed the measure that will allow some form of public marijuana consumption within city limits. Now we just have to figure out what that will look like.
Initiative 300 passed with about 53 percent in favor, though the final official tally won’t be available until next week. Among the more likely ways to put it into effect, existing bars could create pot-smoking (or -vaping) spaces on their premises.* (Dispensaries remain ineligible to allow public consumption.) These sites still must follow established rules that ban indoor smoking, and the most likely scenario seems to be bars that have patios that sit away from the entrance and are not visible to passersby.
The problem here is that the smoke from such patios—particularly in LoDo—could still waft to surrounding residential balconies, which might cause some neighbors to object. This begs the question of why you’d buy or rent in a downtown bar district and expect to avoid the occasional uninvited aroma, but that’s the sort of thing these places will have to work around.
Neither Denver city officials nor pro-300 activists seem to have much idea how exactly this will be implemented, but they have until 2020 to work it out, and most expect some kind of licensing procedure to start rolling out next year.
Although I voted in favor of 300, it wasn’t because I was dying to hang out with a bunch of fellow stoners at a dank pot club. By approving this measure, we’re undoing more of the lingering stigma associated with marijuana and further normalizing it in a way that’s deliberate and responsible. With eight of the nine states approving the recreational or medical marijuana measures that were on their respective ballots last week, legal pot has probably passed the tipping point of widespread acceptance; even President-elect Trump has said—so far—that he’s inclined to leave weed-related issues to the states.
These are signs of pot’s broadening acceptance and of its economic potential: The nationwide market for it is expected to surpass $7 billion in 2016 and is projected to climb as high as $100 billion annually over the next 30-35 years. As has been the case from the beginning, Colorado will continue to lead its development, and now Denver will play its own groundbreaking role in making marijuana more mainstream.
*Update: Last week, the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue announced that no businesses that serve alcohol would also be allowed to create a social marijuana space, which means the pro-300 folks will have to be a little more creative about how and where to set up these new spaces.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.