Ten Takeaways From the Second meeting of Denver's Social Consumption Advisory Council | Westword

Ten Takeaways From Denver's Second Social Consumption Advisory Council Meeting

At the second meeting of Denver's social consumption advisory council, on February 8, members addressed multiple issues, including a few carried over from last month and others that will come up again at the next meeting. Here's a rundown of the top ten topics.
Kate McKee Simmons

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At the second meeting of Denver's social consumption advisory council, members addressed multiple issues, including a few carried over from last month. Here's a rundown of the top ten topics at the February 8 gathering:

1. I-300 is a mechanism of control, not losing control

Dan Landes, owner of City, O' City and a business representative on the committee, reminded everyone of something that hadn't been addressed directly at the previous meeting: People are already gathering in view of children to smoke, and I-300 allows people who wish to smoke to do so in an isolated location. This lessens exposure to kids and the general public.

I-300 is "a mechanism of control, not losing control," he said. "People are finding places to smoke marijuana outside of a controlled environment.... the idea of having a controlled environment lessens the chance of exposure" to people who want to avoid it.

2. Keeping marijuana away from children is still one of the most important considerations

This meeting began with discussion of a topic that had been heavily debated at the last one: How to ensure that the public consumption of marijuana stays out of view of children.

At the last meeting, the committee agreed to use language from an Oregon sex-offender law that specifies offenders must stay away from areas "where children congregate."

Now members talked about venues like dance studios, which may have children's events at specific times of the day or children's events one night a week. Members agreed that prohibiting those venues from obtaining a social-consumption permit will not work. "When we drafted the language, we obviously wanted Initiative 300 to ensure that children are protected, first and foremost," said Emmett Reistroffer, campaign manager of I-300.

The issue was not resolved at this meeting; some committee members think the language needs to be clear for the registered neighborhood organizations that will be considering social-use applications in their areas, so that the burden of defining "where children congregate" will not be left to them.

For example, churches and hospitals — which did not come up at the last meeting — are places where children congregate. Some churches and hospitals also serve as drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and at the last meeting, members agreed they did not want social use near such programs.

Committee members agreed that you "don't want a pot club across the street from a church," as Reistroffer put it. But at the same time, they expressed concern about adding too many location restrictions.

3. Rules for locations cannot be too restrictive

One of the major points of discussion at both meetings was the problem with putting too many restrictions on locations. More venues were added to the list of areas that could pose problems, but the only restrictions that the committee has officially endorsed are that consumption venues must be 1,000 feet from schools and rehabilitation centers, and should ideally avoid areas where children congregate.

4. Considerations for medical patients

The committee decided at the January meeting that an ounce of marijuana was more than enough for a single person to carry. But Ashley Kilroy, the director of Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses, revived the discussion at this meeting, wondering if one ounce was enough for medical patients.

Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainers, said that medical patients should be allowed to carry the amount of medicine they require, noting that it's already illegal for medical patients to share their medicine with others.

Jordon Person, Denver NORML's representative and a medical patient herself, agreed. Using herself as an example, she explained that if she takes a trip, she's going to take as much medicine as she thinks she'll need; the medicine is expensive enough that she doesn't want to leave it in a hotel room or car, so she keeps it with her.

Would two ounces be an acceptable amount?

"What's the problem we're trying to fix?" asked Denver City Council rep Mary Beth Susman. "One ounce is a lot. Two ounces is more."

At one point, you have to trust the consumer, Reistroffer said: "That one ounce should last most consumers the amount of time they'd be at a venue."

This issue was not resolved, either. And during the Q&A that followed the formal meeting, another representative from Denver NORML said that while one ounce is enough, he wished the committee would clarify the difference between ounces of flower versus concentrates.

5. Current crime stats won't help

At the January meeting, Denver Police Department Deputy Chief David Quinones was asked to bring any crime stats that might be relevant; at this meeting, he said the current statistics on marijuana use won't help the committee. Current crime data is like a footprint, he explained: Just because a crime happened in a certain area does not necessarily mean it's tied to a specific location.

As for driving under the influence, another issue of concern to the committee, Quinones said that when a person is pulled over for erratic driving, it is police procedure to administer a roadside test for alcohol. If the test comes back negative, then the person is taken to the hospital for a marijuana test. Because there isn't a roadside test for marijuana, the data is incomplete.

6. Questions about impairment

Rachel O'Bryan, who ran the campaign against I-300, said that there should be rules in place to revoke a business's license if patrons leave visibly intoxicated. Marley Bordovsky, the representative from the Denver City Attorney's Office, said that would be impossible to enforce, and Quinones agreed.

Kristi Kelly, from the Marijuana Industry Group, said there are already systems in place to punish impaired driving. After that, the conversation came back to a common problem when considering marijuana issues: lack of data.

"No one should drive impaired," said McNamara of Cannabis Trainers. "But there are no statistics for 'drug driving.'" She added that it's safer to provide rides from social-consumption venues than leave things as they are now.

7. Advertising rules

The committee hadn't discussed advertising before, but members came to some kind of agreement on the subject at this meeting.

In drafting I-300, Reistroffer said, they expected the businesses to work with their neighborhoods on advertising, to ensure that promotional materials do not appeal to children. While style and taste will be important issues to address, he noted that it's also important for participating businesses to let the community know that social use is allowed at their venue, and have a way to communicate that to tourists, too.

Kelly posed a question from the other side: Would neighborhoods want a visible distinction so that parents would know when and where not to take their kids?

From a legal perspective, attorney Bordovsky explained, advertising can be on a business storefront but not on a billboard. She also noted that it is against the law to advertise the consumption of marijuana, so businesses would be walking a fine line when choosing their advertising messages.

Committee members agreed that television and radio ads would have to be slotted in a 21-and-up air time.

8. Application requirements

The first issue the committee tackled in regard to application requirements was also discussed at the last meeting: training employees. After Kilroy noted that employee training is already required in the language of the initiative, the conversation moved quickly to operational requirements.

Committee members generally agreed that a social consumption area must be marked, cannot allow any patrons under the age of 21, and cannot be visible in areas where children congregate. The friction came when they tackled whether video recording should be a requirement.

Landes was opposed.  "It's authoritarian and not how I like to do business," he said.

But Reistroffer said that video recording might be required by insurance providers, and Person said it can be useful.

According to Quinones, video helps police if there are assaults or other issues at a venue, and is good for both patrons and businesses.

Kelly suggested the possibility of requiring video at the venue's entrances and exits. McNamara said that surveillance could be a suggestion, but not a requirement.

As the committee left it — for now — businesses can opt in or out of video surveillance.

9. Disposal of leftover product

Another new issue for the committee: What to do with product patrons leave behind?

"I don't think people are picking through ashtrays to find marijuana," Reistroffer said.

"I agree with Emmett, but we've seen people break the law to access the most inconsequential of items," Kelly responded, adding that there are cost-efficient ways to dispose of leftover product.

Kobi Waldfogel, the committee's event planning representative, said that in his experience, owners or managers will just give the leftover product to their staff to take home and use recreationally in their free time.

Kilroy ended the discussion by saying that it should be handled on a case-by-case basis: Some places will have problems with it, others won't.

10. Odor Control

O'Bryan asked if there's a mechanism in place for when neighbors smell marijuana and complain. Denver City Council rep Kendra Black followed up by asking if businesses should have to have an odor-control plan ready when they apply.

A city representative pointed out that there have been no recent odor complaints for cigarettes.

The subject of odor control falls into the information gap, Kelly said: Businesses can't put together a good plan because there's ambiguity over how to satisfy this requirement.

O'Bryan pointed out that businesses must still present a plan for outdoor smoking, and suggested adding a separate filtration system. But that would be cost-prohibitive, responded restaurateur Landes, who said that requiring a separate filtration system, especially for this one-year trial program, would bar many businesses from trying social use.

And that's something that should be avoided, most members agreed.

The next meeting of the social consumption advisory committee is February 22. Find out more here.
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