Denver may not see the social use of marijuana as soon as some people would like.
On December 5, Denver City Council members met with representatives from the City Attorney's Office and the Department of Excise and Licenses to discuss the process and timeline for implementation of Initiative 300, which Denver voters approved November 8. The city will have applications available by January 21 for businesses that want to apply for social-use licenses under I-300, but Ashley Kilroy, director of Excise and Licenses, warned that the city may not accept those applications for some time.
"We will make the applications available, but we won't begin accepting them until we've gotten through the process," Kilroy said, explaining that she doesn't think it's fair for the city to accept the application fee without having the rules finalized.
"We'd be holding on to that money for a period of time, and maybe we would have added some kind of criteria that they would no longer be eligible," Kilroy said. It's possible that rules won't be finalized until April or May. In the meantime, the initiative is "self-executing," meaning no immediate action by Denver City Council is required. The members will, however, need to form a task force "to study the impact of cannabis consumption permits on the city."
That task force will include stakeholders from the marijuana industry, opponents of 300, and some of the people who pushed for 300, among others. The wide range of people on the task force could be a challenge, warned one council rep.
"I am a little nervous about what the expectations of stakeholders are," said councilwoman-at-large Robin Kniech. "The voters have spoken and we can debate that choice, but I think to spend time on this task force debating the health effects of marijuana or the impact on children, I mean, you have a very tight timeline for implementation. So I guess what I would ask is if you're going to include that diversity of stakeholders, their lens needs to be as it pertains to this obligation. I just think we're setting expectations for frustration if (people think) they're going to come in and have a debate."
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Councilmembers have been getting questions from constituents about the difference between public and private use; representatives from the Denver City Attorney's Office said they're hoping to balance the language of I-300 to clear up any confusion. Initiative 300 states that marijuana consumption can occur in a "designated consumption area," while the language of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana across the state, says that "nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others." State law prohibits "open and public" consumption of marijuana, and Denver law prohibits the display or consumption of marijuana that is done "openly and publicly."
Councilman Albus Brooks, who represents District 9, said it's important for the city to work alongside the state as it begins implementation efforts in order to avoid any issues down the line where city rules might conflict with the state's laws.
"It is a delicate balance and is partially why we are taking a very thoughtful and methodical approach to rolling this out," said Denver City Attorney Kristen Bronson.