Though a bill that would impose regulations on social marijuana use businesses has opponents in anti-pot groups and clean-air advocates, the six-year effort is largely supported by the marijuana industry. However, one of Colorado's largest dispensary chains is now resisting the measure.
With seventeen stores in ten Colorado cities, as well as several infused-product lines, The Green Solution is easily the most powerful opponent of the bill within the industry. Still, HB 1230 passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, 4-3, on Thursday, with proponents optimistic about its chances of becoming law.
"In the roughly 200 bills I've worked on, this may be the most thorough stakeholder process I've ever seen," said Southern Colorado Cannabis Council director and lobbyist Jason Warf during the hearing. "Any opposition that's coming out of the woodwork has had many years to do so."
When Colorado voters allowed for recreational marijuana in 2012, they also approved language that banned public use. A coalition of social use entrepreneurs and dispensary owners have been pushing HB 1230, which would allow dispensaries to apply to the state Marijuana Enforcement Division for a tasting room license similar to those utilized by breweries, while businesses such as hotels, restaurants, music venues and yoga studios could apply for private consumption licenses and limited pot sales; mobile lounges could also be licensed but not sell marijuana. Local governments would have to opt in to the licensing program and could modify it further to ban certain forms of consumption, like indoor smoking.
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But there's a new option for marijuana consumption in a different bill, according to Green Solution regulatory affairs counsel Tatiana Calvo, who testified on behalf of the company during the Senate hearing. A wide-ranging piece of legislation addressing expiring laws in the marijuana industry includes an amendment that addresses social pot use and would put the onus of social consumption regulation on local government, largely leaving the state government out of the approval process.
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"The bill clarifies this issue sufficiently so as to allow communities to pass ordinances and resolutions that authorize consumption in a manner that is sufficiently restricted," Calvo told committee members. "The second thing we’ve learned through our conversations [with local leaders] is that each community is unique, and its governing bodies are most effective when they respond to the unique needs and concerns of their residents."
However, social use entrepreneurs pushing HB 1230 view that amendment as more of a safety valve if their measure doesn't pass, adding that it wouldn't allow social use businesses to conduct limited pot sales. They would prefer to have the MED preside over a licensing system for dispensaries and businesses allowing pot use, similar to how the state Liquor Enforcement Division regulates bars and alcohol sales.
"No one would propose that we prohibit the existence of bars. Oh, that's right — we did that back about 100 years ago," Senator Pete Lee said before the vote. "For a lot of people, there's nowhere else to go, so this provides a space where it can be done safely and effectively. ... I say we're treating it just like alcohol."
The bill will now move on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shortly after HB 1230 passed, another bill proposing medical and retail marijuana delivery also passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, 4-3, and will be heard by Appropriations before it potentially lands on the Senate floor.