Last month, we told you about the Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative, a proposal that would allow businesses to provide an area for people 21 and over to consume marijuana within the Denver city limits.
The City of Denver has now approved the final language for the measure — read it below — and proponents are holding an event this afternoon to officially launch a petition drive, with an eye toward landing the initiative on the November ballot.
Mason Tvert, one of the main proponents of the proposal (as he was with 2012's Amendment 64, which legalized limited recreational marijuana sales), is confident organizers will be able to obtain the approximately 4,700 signatures needed by early September to formally place the initiative before voters.
"People recognize that this makes sense," he maintains. "We are simply talking about limited social use for adults — allowing limited social use in businesses that choose to allow it. These businesses will only be accessible to people 21 and older, or they'll have an area that can only be accessed by people 21 and over. So it's hard to understand why that would be problematic to anyone."
Be that as it may, plenty of Denver officials have objected to the idea of so-called pot clubs — most notably Denver mayor Michael Hancock.
Back in April 2013, as we've reported, Hancock appeared at a marijuana subcommittee of the Denver City Council to argue passionately against allowing such businesses. Here's an excerpt from our coverage:
At the Monday session, Hancock framed his objections to marijuana clubs around the issuing of driving while stoned. He maintained that cops have only recently gotten a handle on how to tell if someone is suffering from THC impairment — a claim certain to be disputed by law-enforcement types, since the behavior has long been illegal — and suggested that such venues would put even more dangerous potheads on the road.
"We remind ourselves that we're still dealing with a federally controlled substance," he said, adding, "I don't believe it is wise to open the door even wider for people to move about our public from a private club to their private home while consuming marijuana. And the more we restrict it, to me, the more safe our community will be. There's no reason we need to open up that Pandora's box when the law doesn't speak to it.
"I propose and advocate for the most restrictive regulatory environment for marijuana," he went on, "and I believe that by allowing for private clubs, it doesn't speak to that value."
In response to such objections, Tvert references Hancock's many appearances at alcohol-related events, such as the kickoff of Prost Brewing's Oktoberfest festivities in 2012. Nonetheless, "he has a problem with adults using a less harmful substance in an establishment accessible only to adults 21 and over. The hypocrisy of that is glaring. But the voters of Denver have disagreed with Mayor Hancock several times on this issue, and we're confident they will again."
The language that voters will see if backers reach the signature goal is packed into just one sentence, but what a sentence it is — 262 words in total. Here it is:
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt a measure permitting the consumption of marijuana by individuals twenty-one years of age or older at certain premises that are not private residential property, provided that individuals under the age of twenty-one are prohibited from entering any space where the consumption of marijuana is allowed, the owner, operator, or individual in control of the premises has authorized the consumption of marijuana, and the individual consuming marijuana neither smokes marijuana indoors in violation of Colorado's Clean Indoor Air Act nor consumes marijuana in a location where the consumption is visible from a nearby public place; permitting the operation of business and commerce involving the consumption of marijuana; permitting the Denver City Council to adopt ordinances that regulate signage, marketing, and advertising for any business that permits the consumption of marijuana; permitting the Denver City Council to regulate the hours of operation and create distance restrictions for any business that permits the consumption of marijuana that does not also hold a license to sell alcohol for onsite consumption; declaring it unlawful to permit marijuana consumption at a premises that is not private residential property unless certain conditions are met; immunizing businesses and property owners from certain licensing sanctions and public nuisance enforcement actions related to the consumption of marijuana, provided the consumption is in accordance with applicable ordinances; and clarifying that owners and residents of adjacent properties may bring private nuisance actions against any business that permits marijuana consumption and that the City of Denver may enforce air quality standards against these businesses?
As you can see, smoking will not be allowed under the measure. Instead, Tvert imagines that the vast majority of customers will use vaporizers. Moreover, the language pertaining to regulation is intended to reassure officials that they'll be able to maintain the sort of control over these establishments as they exercise at places serving alcohol.
"In the case of businesses that don't have liquor licenses, the city will have more authority and will be able to regulate them," Tvert notes. "The idea is that they're already regulating locations of businesses with liquor licenses, so adults can use marijuana there as long as those businesses allow it and follow the rules. In the case of a place that doesn't have a liquor license, the city would have more authority to regulate those establishments."
In Tvert's view, this is only one of many ways in which initiative proponents are going the extra mile to accommodate the city's concerns.
"Voters have told us they want marijuana to be regulated like alcohol," he points out. "Obviously, if we were to treat marijuana exactly like alcohol, we wouldn't need to go as far as we have. The city doesn't have a problem with adults using alcohol in front of people who are under 21, for example. But we're taking it a step further. Opponents say they're worried about kids seeing adults using marijuana, but they don't need to be, because that won't be allowed."
The petition drive announcement is scheduled to take place at 2:30 p.m. today, July 2, at the office of Vicente Sederberg, 1244 Grant Street. In the meantime, here's the complete text of the Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative.