Since Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012, the state has been very clear on not allowing any form of public consumption of cannabis outside of the home or private spaces… until now. An initiative called the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program, designed to create social smoking areas for cannabis users over 21, was approved by the Denver Elections Division on Thursday. Supporters of the initiative turned in 10,800 signatures supporting the proposal, well above the minimum 4,726 signatures required. The measure will now appear on the November 8th ballot, allowing the residents of Denver, Colorado to decide on whether or not to pass the initiative.
Inside the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program
The Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program would allow for businesses such as cafes, bars and even yoga studios to create an indoor or outdoor area that would permit the social consumption of marijuana to take place. This social smoking area would need to be approved by an eligible organization or association representing the neighborhood or business improvement district. The location of the public smoking area must comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, meaning that the smoking area must not interfere with regular public places. It must be contained and restricted to people over the age of 21 and it must be at least 1000 feet away from any schools. According to the language on the ballot, the marijuana smoking area “cannot be visible from a public right-of-way or a place where children congregate.” The initiative could also open the door for tourists to be able to stay at hotels that permit smoking.
A Grace Period for Social Smoking
The initiative is designed to be studied and monitored by a task force who will evaluate the impact of the measure until December 31, 2020, which is when the program will expire. At this point in time, the city can decide to apply more regulations and generally tweak the program. The city also has the option to terminate the program altogether or make it permanent, depending on the evaluation and recommendations offered by the task force at the end of 2020. Of course, if regulations governing marijuana change before that date, the city has the option to terminate the program sooner.
A similar measure created by Denver NORML was not able to get the signatures required to appear on the ballot. Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock hasn’t taken any stance on the measure in general, allowing the residents of Denver to decide on whether the proposal should pass. There are already a few towns in Colorado that have already allowed for public social smoking clubs for cannabis users.
The Future of the Initiative
Kayvan Khalatbari of Denver Relief Consulting has been behind the pilot program. Khalatbari has expressed that they will be looking for support from businesses as they begin the campaign to get public approval for the initiative. They have already signed up 50, including some big name marijuana businesses and they aim to get the support of 500 businesses total. The campaign will also include outreach to Denver neighborhoods, discussing the measure and answering questions. The program would allow for other states contemplating legalization to see how an initiative like this would work, paving the way for safer social smoking options in the future.