Denver's Social Consumption Committee Meeting for Last Time Today

Sensi Night 2017, the kind of activity that could fall under a designated consumption area permit.
Sensi Night 2017, the kind of activity that could fall under a designated consumption area permit. Brandon Marshall
Denver's Social Consumption Advisory Committee will hold its final meeting this morning. The previous meetings have all focused on different areas related to the passage of Initiative 300 last November, including the sticky issue of the locations where marijuana can be consumed legally under the ordinance. At today's meeting, committee members — who represent a variety of constituencies, including city government, businesses and both proponents and opponents of I-300 — will review the proposed rules and regulations and discuss any recommended changes. The results will move on to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, which will issue any social-consumption permits.

The committee has come up with two kinds of licensing permits: a special event permit and a designated consumption area permit (DCA). Anyone can apply for the former, but can only receive permits for up to ten days per calendar year. If an event has a social-consumption event permit, it cannot get a liquor permit: Colorado liquor rules prohibit marijuana consumption on a liquor-licensed premise, and the city's I-300 regulations stipulate that a special social-consumption event permit cannot be within 1,000 feet of a special event that has a liquor license.

Special event permits also will not be issued for spaces that are public property, and any outdoor social-consumption event must be at least 500 feet from any residential district. That last stipulation holds for DCA permit-holders, too. And no licensee can be within 1,000 feet of a school, child-care center, or drug or alcohol rehabilitation center.

DCA permits are designed for businesses that want to make social consumption a regular part of their operations. They, too, are prohibited from having a liquor license. Other requirements: These areas must not be accessible to the general public, and are restricted to adults aged 21 and older. The applicant must submit a security plan for preventing criminal activity on the premises, and patrons will be required to sign a waiver upon entering. The venue is required to have door-security personnel during all hours of operation to verify that anyone entering the space is 21 or older.

The applicant must also supply detailed evidence outlining how the DCA will comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. If a venue allows indoor vaping, the applicant must submit ventilation plans. Businesses must also submit a waste plan that explains how employees will dispose of any cannabis-related products. And dabbing is not allowed. The venue holding the permit is not allowed to cultivate, manufacture, store or sell marijuana or marijuana products on the premises.

Upon receiving an application and ten signatures from interested parties, the city will schedule a public hearing so that the community can provide input. If a location does not meet the necessary qualifications, it may be denied a permit. The amount of community support — or lack thereof — will also be taken into account.

Once an applicant receives a permit, the city requires staff training for each DCA on how to prevent over-intoxication, underage access, driving under the influence and illegal distribution. Staffers are not allowed to consume marijuana.

Both types of permits are non-transferrable. The city will issue them to an entity, organization or person; the permits are not valid for any other location or any other person. Inspections may be required, and the venues must be open to all city agencies at all times. If an inspection officer comes by and is denied entry, the permittees may find themselves in violation of their license.

While it's illegal to advertise marijuana consumption in public places, each venue will be required to have a standard sign to let people know it's a consumption venue.

And finally, each patron will be allowed to possess one ounce of cannabis, regardless of whether the marijuana is for medical or recreational use. Current law allows medical patients to carry more than one ounce, but the social consumption committee decided to simplify the rules for social use to a "useable" amount. This will also minimize the possibility that people will come to venues with intent to distribute.

All of this and more will be reviewed at the committee meeting today, Thursday, April 6. It begins at 9 a.m. in room 4.G.2 of the Webb Municipal Office Building, 201 West Colfax Avenue. Find out more on the social consumption page of Denver's website.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.