A pot-friendly costume party scheduled to take place at a Denver bar last weekend was abruptly canceled after organizers say the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division threatened the status of the bar's liquor license.
The Chelloween Costume Bash had been scheduled for Saturday, October 14, at Tennyson's Tap in west Denver. The Facebook event page promised live music, food trucks, costumes aplenty and a mobile cannabis-consumption lounge parked outside. Event organizers with the Denver 420 Nurses believed that because the cannabis lounge was off-premises, they weren't breaking any rules. The LED felt otherwise.
After we listed the event in our weekly Cannabis Calendar, we were contacted by Tennyson's Tap owner Dave Fox, who said the event had been flagged by the LED; as a result, organizers were changing some of the event's features. But apparently the changes didn't satisfy the LED, because on October 12, the word "banned" appeared on the event's Facebook page, along with this message:
It is with no small amount of regret, that we must announce the cancellation of Chelloween 2017.
It seems that our exposure was a little much for the powers that be to ignore.
Despite being completely within compliance with Colorado state law regarding consumption in public, and at establishments that hold a liquor license, it seems that that Denver Westword article caught the attention of the liquor board — who made it clear that the event was not something that our venue could support if they want to keep their liquor license.
This highlights a much larger issue in Colorado with respect to consumption of cannabis: namely, that we are not regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, as per Amendment 64.
Our events are efforts to normalize social cannabis use, within the bounds of current laws. Our use of cannabis-friendly party buses is an effort to provide a safe, non-public place to consume cannabis in a social setting: Something alcohol has had for some time.
Our attempts to secure a last-minute alternative venue were sadly, unsuccessful, but this will not stifle our mission. We will be auctioning off the custom Chelloween 2017 Jetter Systems bong that was meant for our costume contest, with all proceeds benefitting RLA: Regulate Like Alcohol.
RLA is an entity meant as a diametric opposition to anti-cannabis groups like Smarter Colorado who seek to undermine the legislation enacted by Amendment 64.
RLA. will be hosting their Halloween party, and we urge you to attend: Door fees and raffle sales all go to benefit RLA and the mission to regulate like alcohol.
Denver 420 Nurses are proud members of RLA and would love to see you there!
Fox did not respond to our requests to discuss the cancellation. But the LED confirmed that it had contacted Tennyson's Tap about the event, pointing to a rule that bans cannabis consumption on any premises with a liquor license.
"The Liquor Enforcement Division advised Tennyson's of regulation 47-900 Conduct of Establishment, Section E - Marijuana consumption shall not be on any liquor licensed premises," Colorado Department of Revenue communications specialist Meghan Tanis writes in an email. "The Division constantly works to assist businesses in complying with the State's laws, rules and regulations. The event was later canceled."
Denver 420 Nurses director and event organizer Octavos Giovane doesn't dispute that the event was weed-friendly, but says he feels the LED flexed its muscles out of hypocrisy, not the law. Much like the Loopr bus seen around town that allows cannabis consumption inside, a private bus would have been used for consumption at Chelloween, and no one under the age 21 would have been allowed on. That setup is technically legal under Colorado consumption laws, he says, which state that any cannabis consumption must take place in a private area not visible to the public.
"In my perfect world, we're able to say those things and do them responsibly as adults," Giovane says, of postings that publicized the event as consumption-friendly. "But it's not the first time we've been pushed out of a venue. It gives us a good platform to explain the difference between taxed and being legal."
Giovane plans events for the Denver chapter of 420 Nurses, a national group of promotional models who appear at local events and put on their own to advocate for cannabis legalization. Every chapter approaches its advocacy a little differently, he says, and Denver's focus is on normalizing cannabis use. The organization is always looking for ways to legally circumvent the rules, Giovane adds, and he thinks the LED would have agreed that this event fell under the law...if the LED had allowed it to occur.
"Maybe it's just a misunderstanding," he says. "Maybe if they came down and saw the buses weren't on the property, that they fell outside of the Clean Indoor Air Act and our drivers were licensed and not consuming, they'd see nothing was wrong," he says. "I don't fault Tennyson's. They need to protect their liquor licenses. But at the end of the day, we do need someone to stand up with us and say, 'Hey, you can't do this.'"
Although he doesn't have plans to fight the LED over the cancellation, Octavos hopes to use it as an opportunity to further his cause. He says he's been in contact with several Denver business owners in hopes of hosting events under the city's new Cannabis Consumption Establishment License pilot program, but feels the rules are too restrictive.
"They've got us in a really interesting position here in Colorado. Tourists can come here and buy cannabis, but they can't really smoke it anywhere," Octavos says. "I've got a few friends in the industry, and there's talk from a few bookstores and similar places that are interested, but there are so many bits about I-300 that make it difficult."
Social consumption proponents and the drafters of I-300's original text are unhappy with the city's location restrictions, which require a 1,000-foot buffer between a social-consumption area and any school, child-care establishment, drug or treatment facility, city park, pool or recreation center; the rules also ban consumption licenses at any business with a liquor license.
No businesses have applied for a consumption license yet. Until one is granted, events like Chelloween could continue to face challenges in proving that they're legal.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.