Denver's Office on Marijuana Policy: The Next Steps for Social Use

Now that the count is finally completed and Denver voters have approved the social use of marijuana, here's the question everyone's asking: What happens next?

The ordinance does not include a timeline that requires the city to start licensing businesses right away. Instead, Denver has a sixty-day window to create the application that a business will use to apply for a social-use permit, according to Dan Rowland, citywide communications advisor for the City and County of Denver. City officials will start drafting that application on Tuesday, November 22.

But that's just the first step, Rowland notes. So we asked him for more background on the process and what can be expected moving forward.

Westword: What happens now that 300 passed?

Dan Rowland: It's just a matter of doing our due diligence around what implementation needs to look like. There's a lot of assessment of how we can implement this law, and the approach isn't much different than, say, when Amendment 64 passed and the city needed to create a licensing structure for this new business type. The good news is that we've got this well-established Office of Marijuana Policy that works in concert with all the various city agencies that would be affected by anything like this: our building department, our environmental-health department, obviously police, fire...anyone that's going to be in that realm of how to implement this and make sure people are getting the proper permitting and inspections.

We'll be hearing from everybody on that and going forward with implementation.

What does the coordination with the city agencies look like?

As a marijuana policy office, that's why we're here. Whether it's licensing issues or home-hash extraction explosions or unlicensed grows that are creating issues, or looking at the moratorium and the capping bill that went through Denver City Council last year, that's what we do. We coordinate the various agencies that work on all that stuff. This is no different; it's just a new thing on our list to look at.

Have you already heard from businesses that are interested in allowing social use?

I actually have not seen anything like that. I think most people are aware that our application isn't developed yet. We've gotten some questions from concerned residents already...but I haven't seen anything from businesses. I imagine we'll start hearing from folks pretty soon.

What kinds of questions have concerned residents reached out to you with?

Where are these businesses going to be? I don't want my kids anywhere near them. [People saying] don't do this...

I think a lot of it is general questions right now: Where are these places going to be? When is this going to start happening? I think there's going to be a lot of education that goes along with this, and part of that is us needing to set up the rules. We need to set up the regulatory framework for this, and then we can answer a lot of the questions about how this is actually going to play out on the street. We're going to take our time to see if people have questions about that.... We answer them to the best of our ability, but we need to go slow and get this right versus just cranking out a new law real quick — because that's a recipe for disaster.

It's much harder to go back and change things than the alternative, which is to take our time and really get this right and make sure we're really thinking about all of the issues at play.

For more information on Denver policy, visit the city's online Marijuana Information center.

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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.