The idea of cannabis dispensary tasting rooms is getting more traction at the State Capitol, with a bill that would allow such establishments making its way out of committee hearings and going before the full Colorado House of Representatives this week.
SB 1258 would allow dispensaries to apply for consumption-room licenses similar to those of breweries or wineries, but with more restrictions on purchasing and consumption limits. Sponsored by state representatives Jonathan Singer and Jovan Melton, the bill passed its second House hearing on April 6, with a 9-5 victory in the House Appropriations Committee and a favorable recommendation. It will be considered by the full House on Monday, April 9.
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As currently written, the measure would allow patrons of such establishments to consume 3.5 grams of flower, one gram of cannabis concentrate or a ten-milligram edible, despite calls from the state Marijuana Enforcement Division to lower that limit. Both Singer and Melton have been working with dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station to craft the bill, which would allow Colorado municipalities and counties to opt in or out of the licensing program, just as they can all other licensed cannabis businesses under Amendment 64. It would also allow localities to craft their own rules for the rooms, like Denver's Cannabis Consumption Establishment program, which allows non-cannabis businesses to apply for private consumption spaces.
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It's currently illegal to use cannabis "openly and publicly," according to the Colorado Constitution, which has left a lot of Coloradans and tourists without places to consume. Private events and members-only clubs have provided a handful of venues, but the laws surrounding them are often debated among law enforcement and regulatory agencies, leading to undercover police-officer stings and businesses getting shut down.
Under the proposal, as at a brewery's taproom, all cannabis products consumed in the tasting room must be bought from the connected dispensary; no food (other than edibles) may be sold on the premises. Electronic vaping of cannabis and concentrates and edibles consumption would be allowed, but smoking would be prohibited.
The bill has been opposed by the Colorado State Patrol and the Cancer Action Network, which are concerned about impaired driving and the health effects of secondhand vaping, respectively. However, it's received support from the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, and although the MED is officially neutral on the bill, executive director Jim Burack said the agency viewed its "incremental approach" as more responsible to the public than the social cannabis lounges proposed in a bill from Senator Vicki Marble that would have set up a licensing system for cannabis consumption clubs. That proposal was voted down in committee last week.
With Marble's cannabis-club bill out of the mix, HB 1258 is the only bill alive in the Colorado General Assembly that addresses social consumption...for now.