Denver, Colorado recently approved Initiative 300, a measure that would allow the social use of marijuana in licensed businesses. The initiative allows cafes and even yoga studios to apply for a permit to create a designated area for marijuana usage. While the move has been considered a victory for marijuana advocates, a provision has just been announced that will upset a few people. On Friday, it was announced that businesses that have a liquor license will not be allowed to have marijuana usage on their premises. This means that bars and restaurants that serve liquor will not be pot friendly locations.
Decision Based on “Public Safety”
The ruling appears to have been pushed forward by the alcohol industry, who were concerned that consumers would drink less if given the option to choose. The alcohol industry was supported by opposition groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was also in favor of the ruling, expressing concern about individuals being doubly impaired by alcohol and marijuana usage. The Colorado Department of Revenue backed up this claim, saying that it was a decision based on public safety.
Marijuana Usage Treated Differently Than Alcohol Usage
Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project believes that the primary concern is being placed on the needs of the liquor industry. He told The Post, “It is astonishing that the Department of Revenue is so openly fighting a turf battle on behalf of the liquor industry. They seem to think it’s fine for patrons of bars and concert venues to get blackout drunk, but unacceptable for them to use a far less harmful substance like marijuana instead.” He said that the alcohol policies already rely on the judgement of the server. Marijuana users would wear a green wristband and the servers would have discretion regarding service in the same way that they do with alcohol users.
The Details of Initiative 300
Initiative 300 is a pilot program to test how social marijuana consumption would work. It is set to expire in 2020. The initiative allows marijuana to be consumed indoors, in designated areas, but businesses would have to get approval from neighbors or businesses before being able to attain the permit. That latest provision means that coffee clubs, cafes and yoga studios will be the likely businesses applying. Marijuana products will not be allowed to be sold and consumers would need to bring their own cannabis.
The Future of the Pilot Program
Should the initiative turn out to be successful, it may spread to other cities. Currently 8 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. 4 of these states just legalized the plant on November 8th. California and Nevada have been a couple of the most recent states to legalize and they are areas with a large number of tourists. Social consumption areas are a way that tourists can legally smoke now in Denver and this prospect may be appealing to cities such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles, who receive thousands of tourists every year.
For now, liquor license holders will not be able to partake in the benefits of Initiative 300 but it is still early days. With attitudes changing in a positive direction towards marijuana all over the country, that is likely to shift in time.