Colorado Springs Declines New Pot Lounge Regulations

Jacqueline Collins
Some very social consumption, which won't be encouraged in Colorado Springs.
The future of cannabis lounges in Colorado Springs is in doubt after the Colorado Springs City Council rejected a proposal to study a new state law that allows social pot use businesses.

During a meeting Monday, January 27, the council decided against researching the law, which requires that municipalities opt in before businesses are permitted to allow cannabis use. The move is a significant blow to marijuana entrepreneurs interested in opening new pot lounges to Colorado's second-largest city, and could be the death knell for the two pot clubs already operating in Colorado Springs.

Long ago, Colorado Springs permitted two cannabis lounges to operate with local approval, though the city and the businesses never had a rosy relationship. The two clubs, Studio A64 and Speakeasy Vape Lounge, opened before the city officially banned such businesses in 2016. They were both given temporary local licenses to operate after the ban was implemented; those licenses are set to end in 2024.

Last year, after the state legislature passed a law that would officially license pot clubs, dispensary tasting rooms and other social use establishments, cannabis entrepreneurs hoped to move forward with adding more social consumption businesses in Colorado Springs. The law, however, mandates that any social use business must be permitted by the local jurisdiction in which it operates.

"I think there’s many more important things that we should be using our resources for," Councilman Wayne Williams said during the January 27 meeting.

Although home to well over 100 medical marijuana dispensaries, Colorado Springs still bans recreational pot sales, and Mayor John Suthers is a vocal opponent of legalization. A former Colorado attorney general, Suthers has already said that he would veto any bill allowing further social pot consumption, and he's fought off several attempts to legalize recreational sales in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs and Denver are the only two municipalities in the state with local ordinances allowing some form of social pot consumption; both addressed the issue years before the legislature passed a social consumption bill. That new law creates a more liberal program to license and regulate such businesses throughout the state, but gives towns and counties the right to alter some of the rules, such as banning indoor smoking, or prohibit the businesses altogether. If either city were to change its rules to align more closely with the state's, the local government would have to approve those changes.

The majority of Colorado Springs City Council members still aren't ready to do that, since they've officially declined to look into the new law, extend Speakeasy Vape and Studio A64's licenses, or allow new social businesses to open; Denver City Council is still considering its options. Studio A64 has already applied for a state license, which will be required to operate starting in 2021 — but if the club's local license isn't extended by 2024, it won't be allowed to stay open in Colorado Springs.

Not every person on the council was against the idea of social pot consumption. Councilmembers Richard Skorman, Jill Gaebler and Bill Murray all voted in favor of taking another look at social consumption regulations.

"We can keep people off the street driving. Or we can just put our heads in the sand and say we’re never, never going to cross this line," Skorman said.