For the first time in recent years, all three Colorado chapters of NORML came together to lobby for cannabis on the state level. Denver NORML, Southern Colorado NORML and Colorado NORML joined forces on Tuesday, March 7, to educate state lawmakers on some key cannabis measures, including SB17-184, the Private Marijuana Clubs Open and Public Use bill.
“It was a first,” says Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML, who also notes that for the first time, women are running each of the three chapters.
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The day was full of meetings with state lawmakers or their aides, and focused on one of the most pressing issues in Colorado’s cannabis industry right now: how to define “open and public consumption.”
Colorado Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert told the group that while he was originally against cannabis, he'd learned more about the controversial plant after a constituent in his community found relief from seizures with hemp oil.
“I will support the bill,” Holbert told NORML, adding that he now sees the benefit of finally agreeing on language to define the lawful consumption of cannabis. Right now, public consumption is not lawful — but Denver law enforcement isn't interested in prosecuting tourists and locals for smoking on the sidewalks, he said.
“If [people] drink craft beer, we have lots of places to go,” he pointed out. “But we don't have that for smokable marijuana. I'd rather have places for them to do that that are more secure, not on the sidewalk.”
Alayna Adair, a tour guide at Denver-based Colorado Cannabis Tours, spent the day at the Capitol with other members of NORML, knocking on doors and asking for support for SB17-184. She says she was surprised at some of the concerns she heard.
"They think these places are going to sell marijuana on-site,” Adair says. “As if there are no other ways to make a business out of being a licensed marijuana club.”
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Talking with some legislative aides, she got the impression that skeptics think there’s a hidden agenda. “That is not the case as all,” she notes. “It could be a yoga studio, cafe, art gallery, etc. that gets this license, and they become the hot spot because they allow cannabis consumption. We just want the smoke off the street and a safe place to socially consume. This is a community problem, and SB 184 is the solution."
“We are expecting bipartisan support, and are confident and optimistic SB17-184 will be approved in the Senate,” says Judd Golden, who serves on the state board of Colorado NORML and is legal counsel for Denver NORML. “While the Senate is majority Republicans, the sponsor is Republican….We expect to get most to all Democrats and, of course, we need five to six Republicans at least.”
Holbert will be one of them. “We are talking about public safety and convenience,” he says. As it stands, "we're asking tourists to come here and potentially break the law."
SB 84 i heading for a vote of the full Senate.