After more than a year since Denver voters approved legal marijuana consumption establishments, the city finally received its first applications.
Utopia All Natural Wellness and Spa, one of two proposed consumption facilities, would be located at 1244 Grant St. near the Colorado Capitol, according to reports. It would include yoga, massages and wellness services, with an accompanying cannabis consumption option. The other facility, Coffee Joint, would be located in a light industrial area off Interstate 25, according to reports.
The applications came as pleasant news to those who have spearheaded efforts to legalize consumption clubs. But the delay in action has been the result of uncertainties facing city regulators.
Denver voters in November 2016 backed marijuana consumption clubs, but the Social Consumption Advisory Committee that was established to implement the ordinance found itself grappling with a host of complicated issues. Much of the uncertainty revolved around a lack of guidance. Not even the state has laws governing marijuana consumption businesses or enforcement mechanisms within the state regulatory system.
The advisory committee began meeting in January 2017, though it took until December for the first application to be received by the city. Many businesses initially interested in obtaining the permits were excluded due to zoning requirements, while others did not ultimately find the regulations to be conducive to running a profitable business.
Previous efforts in the Colorado Legislature to pass measures that would regulate marijuana consumption establishments failed, setting up a patchwork of local rules and regulations. Meanwhile, residents and tourists continue to seek a safe, responsible place to consume marijuana, while prospective business owners fear lawsuits and regulatory uncertainty.
A new effort expected in the legislature this year would create a uniform policy for licensed marijuana consumption establishments. It would offer certainty and flexibility to local governments; provide a critical step toward cannabis-free public spaces; and allow consumers safe and supervised consumption while comporting with the state’s indoor smoking ban.
Most importantly, because the effort would heavily prioritize local control, the state legislation would do nothing to hinder the ability of cities like Denver from accepting more expansive consumption establishment applications. Towns and cities that want nothing to do with public consumption also would have the option to prohibit such establishments. The bill only offers statewide guidance on tasting rooms, thereby offering certainty for local governments to take a more expansive approach.
Stay tuned! More to come on this critical issue …