Cannabis consumers in Colorado are one step closer to having a regulated space to partake socially after the legislature sent a bipartisan measure to the governor.
Proponents are hopeful that Gov. Jared Polis will sign House Bill 1230 after he pledged his support for last year’s effort to advance a cannabis hospitality measure. Last year’s bill was vetoed by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Polis, however, has embraced the economic development potential of cannabis in Colorado.
HB 1230 passed the Senate on Wednesday with a 23-12 bipartisan vote. The measure had the support of six Republicans in the Senate who joined 17 Democrats. With a concurrence vote in the House on Thursday approving a technical amendment, the bill was sent to the governor’s office.
Under the measure, existing dispensaries could apply for a limited consumption license, while entrepreneurs who have found entrance to the cannabis industry difficult would have a new chance to seize opportunities in establishing their own separate establishments. This would create new workforce development and local community impact opportunities. All licenses would require local approval.
The ancillary opportunity for businesses is immense, which is why cannabis hospitality has received support from outside the cannabis industry. Companies developing consumption products would be able to sell those goods in the same room where consumers are testing devices; restaurateurs could find opportunity pairing cannabis with traditional cuisine; and venue/theater operators could find new homes for arts and entertainment, to name a few.
“We are excited to see the bill pass with regulated consumption for adults looking for a social alternative,” said Michael Polansky, chief executive of the Honey Pot Lounge, a Denver-based business that touts itself as the world’s first cannabis-friendly concert and arts venue at 1753 S. Broadway. Honey Pot Lounge is backed by Dean Ween, co-founder of the iconic alternative rock group, Ween.
“We’ve seen that our kind of lounge fills a very real need for the Denver community: a safe, vibrant place to consume legally,” Polansky continued. “We remain committed to compliance, while providing our growing cannabis community with legal consumption paired with music, comedy and local art.”
“Cannabis in Colorado has officially graduated from humble beginnings to now entering the final phase of normalization at the social level,” said Michael Eymer, founder of Colorado Cannabis Tours. “On behalf of my business partners, myself and my entire staff, we are overwhelmingly proud to be able to play a part in this historic transition. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with this amazing group of entrepreneurs and leaders in drafting comprehensive language and participating in the legislative process.”
“I am very appreciative of our elected officials for standing behind and supporting this common-sense regulation that provides the cannabis industry an opportunity to flourish by addressing the topic of social consumption,” said Danny Schaefer, chief executive of My 420 Tours. “Through the passage of HB 1230, I believe the state of Colorado will further solidify its position in history as the thought leader of legal cannabis with our standardized regulations. I also tip my hat to the many operators like us that have proven they are worthy of the responsibilities involved in supporting our tourists, patients, vets and locals through their exploration of legal cannabis in a responsible manner.”
Chris Woods, founder and owner of Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, which has six cannabis retail stores in Colorado, said the proposal is “a step towards providing a licensed and supervised environment for residents and tourists seeking a safe, responsible place to consume marijuana.”
“Regulatory uncertainty on the local level has resulted in confusion, prompting the need for a statewide uniform policy,” Woods said. “This bill creates that uniform policy for licensed marijuana consumption establishments; provides a critical step towards cannabis-free public spaces; and allows consumers safe and supervised consumption while protecting the integrity of Colorado’s regulatory system.”
“This bill honors the reality that Colorado consumes cannabis. Patients and consumers have had to hide in the shadows for far too long,” added Cindy Sovine, a social consumption consultant with Social Use Avengers and the chief executive of Utopia Natural Healing Lounge, which hopes to be the nation’s first cannabis spa. “I got into this to create a community for patients like my dad, who deserve a place to go for education on treatment and for comradery. I look forward to seeing my goal come to fruition and to use my experience to help others achieve their dreams in the cannabis hospitality space.”
“This legislation has been years in the making,” said Jason Warf, executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, which represented several cannabis hospitality business owners throughout five years of work in passing a consumption measure. “The work of our coalition will result in tremendous opportunity for existing consumption businesses, as well as open a world of opportunity to new consumption licensees.”
“As Colorado’s largest cannabis consumer organization, Colorado NORML represents thousands of medical and recreational members who will now have the right to safe access to legally use cannabis in a safe and legal environment,” continued Ashley Weber, executive director of Colorado NORML. “This bill offers retail consumers the option to consume legally in a social setting. With the cannabis industry reaching a billion dollars in revenue, Coloradans understand that they cannot continue to re-criminalize the use of a legal substance.”
The cannabis hospitality coalition that spearheaded the effort in the legislature this year included Colorado Cannabis Tours, My 420 Tours, the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, Terrapin Care Station, Honey Pot Lounge, Colorado NORML and Social Use Avengers.
House Bill 1230 would allow licensed cannabis hospitality establishments, where there would be limited onsite sales and consumption beginning in January 2020. The measure achieves the goal of Colorado voters when more than six years ago they passed Amendment 64 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
- House Bill 1230 requires consumers be at least 21 years old;
- Allows for sampling single-serving infused products in addition to flower and concentrate;
- Allows restaurateurs to pair cannabis with non-cannabis infused food and non-alcoholic drink;
- Includes both establishments selling limited quantities of cannabis for sampling and a non-sales model where consumers can bring their own limited supplies;
- Places a heavy focus on local control, giving towns and cities the power to decide whether to allow cannabis hospitality establishments;
- Clarifies policy for cannabis hospitality tours, which take consumers on mobile education rides;
- Sets consumer purchase limits, keeping in line with standard serving sizes that already exist under Colorado law;
- Promotes cannabis-free public spaces, which reduces burdens on state and local law enforcement while offering a safe alternative for parents who want to sample products outside of the home and away from kids;
- Mandates training for employees to spot for intoxication and to educate consumers on safe and responsible consumption practices; and
- Creates a consistent statewide policy with oversight that local regulators can understand.
“We did our job in the legislature ensuring a safe and responsible system for cannabis consumption and education that offers Coloradans the ability to choose an alternative for social activities,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. “With this bill, Colorado is one step closer to fulfilling the will of voters when they told us to regulate marijuana like alcohol.”
In addition to Gonzales, HB 1230 was sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and in the House by Reps. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.
“In expanding access to regulated spaces for adults to consume cannabis, we are taking the responsible approach to cannabis consumption in a safe environment,” added Marble. “HB 1230 protects the will of voters who asked for the freedom to choose marijuana as an alternative and to curb dealing and use in parks and on the street.”