Cannabis leaders and community members gathered this week to discuss details for the rollout of the voter-approved Initiative 300, which allows qualifying businesses to apply for cannabis consumption permits in Denver.
The campaign behind I-300 organized the public forum at the Denver law office of Vicente Sederberg on January 11. A panel of experts discussed implementation of the measure, responsible cannabis consumption, staff training and mitigation, then took questions.
While the language of I-300 made it possible for any business to apply for a social-use permit, after the November 8 vote, the Colorado Department of Revenue, which includes the Liquor Enforcement Division, determined that any business with a liquor license could not obtain a cannabis consumption permit.
"We weren't really surprised," said Emmett Reistroffer, policy consultant at Denver Relief Consulting and Campaign Director for the Yes on 300 campaign. "It was mostly yoga studios and art galleries that came to us."
According to panelists, the initial intention with I-300 was to make liquor and cannabis licenses available to all businesses — but not allowing businesses to serve marijuana with alcohol makes sense from a public-policy standpoint.
"It's better if the venue knows all that's going on, in order to best keep track of patrons' intake," said Josh Kappel of Vicente Sederberg.
"Businesses with alcohol licenses are more hesitant. The concern is still out there because now we don't get to monitor the poly-consumption," added Reistroffer, referring to the intake of two substances. "Now it's pushed to the back alley or their car, which are things we don't want."
Education is the key to success for I-300, Reistroffer continued, and that's where staff training comes in.
Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers, is acting as an adviser to the city. She said that training to identify poly-consumption could be mandatory for businesses that register for a permit to serve marijuana.
Although poly-use won't be permitted, she assured the audience that businesses allowing cannabis use will be trained to look for signs that someone's had a little too much and needs to be cut off.
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Concerned Denver residents were also assured that cannabis permits would be given on a trial basis, for a specified period of time. Permits could be for a one-day event or long-term, and all businesses applying for a social-use permit will need the support of at least one neighborhood or local business group.
The overarching theme was clear: Neighborhood involvement is critical.
Panelists encouraged business owners in the room to start a dialogue with their neighbors to encourage cooperation going forward.
"We hope you, as business owners, will take a look at the neighborhood and match what you see," Reistroffer said. "Our goal is to have it where it's wanted."