Denver's social cannabis consumption licensing program has been in place for over two years, but the city just issued its first special-event license for pot use right in time for a popular street art festival.
HTBX International, a company that converts shipping containers into mobile cannabis lounges, had planned to debut its new service in RiNo in May, but settled instead on this weekend, right in the middle of the Crush Walls festivities, at 31st and Blake streets. Just one problem: The day before the event was set to take place, HTBX still hadn't received the official go-ahead from the city.
However, HTBX and founder John McCaskill were able to get up to code for several city inspections within a matter of hours, and just received approval from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses for a social pot lounge at 3102 Blake Street that will be open today, September 6, through Sunday, September 8. The city-issued license for a special cannabis event is the first of its kind in Colorado.
Although tonight is for VIP visitors and friends, on Saturday (7 to 10 p.m.) and Sunday (8 to 10 p.m.) the venue will be open for free to anyone 21 and up who wants to smoke or vape pot as they check out the newly adorned alleyways of the Crush Walls festival.
"We needed to stay optimistic during this," McCaskill says. "We developed a new use for something. Sometimes managing expectations is really key."
The lounge, a converted shipping container with added space, can fit up to twelve people at a time for cannabis use, with a designated area similar to a standing-room smoking section at a sports stadium or airport. Visitors cannot purchase cannabis at the lounge — you must bring your own pot and consumption devices — but the lounge will have rolling papers, lighters and other smoking accessories for sale, and the RiNo Supply Co. dispensary is one block away.
Although viewed as a neighborhood full of breweries and bars, there are no licensed cannabis establishments in RiNo. In fact, there's only one in Denver: the Coffee Joint, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood off Interstate 25. "We have thousands of consumption spaces for alcohol. This weekend, at least, there will be two spaces for cannabis," McCaskill says.
Crush artists will be hanging out at the HTBX space throughout the weekend, he adds, with art from the Ladies Fancywork Society featured outside, on the lounge's exterior.
HTBX also has a license for November 1 through November 3 in the same space, according to Excise and Licenses. McCaskill says he chose the dates to line up with Denver Arts Week, a nine-day span in early November with over 300 cultural events citywide.
"We'll be rockin' this weekend, but I'm excited to showcase some enhancements we're going to make in November," he says.
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