Stop by The Front Tea and Arts weekday mornings and you'll find a typical small-town Colorado coffee shop, showcasing a wide range of teas and coffees plus the work of local artists. But lately on certain evenings, the smell of roasted beans switches over to the smell from vaporized bowls of Colorado ganja.
Formerly (as in last week) dubbed The Hive, the coffee shop is really just a gathering spot for cannabis users 21 and up to get together and swap herb and stories. No marijuana is actually bought or sold; that would be illegal. It operates as a bring-your-own-buds spot, although sharing is not only accepted but encouraged. The co-op meets every night except for Thursdays. Most of the time, the evenings involve casual hanging out -- but The Front also holds events like poetry and game nights.
The Front is one of several pot-friendly venues popping up around the state, including attorney Rob Corry's Club 64, as well as Studio 64/Club 710 in the Springs. (The latter's name stems from hash oil smokers -- "oil" upside down and backwards). Rob Tillery, whose Blazing Events production company puts on the Club 710 parties, says they've seen a huge turnout over the last two Sundays they've operated.
"We had patients come out who said they never drink and never hang out in a social atmosphere like this," he said. "They told me that they don't drink and that they aren't throwing huge house parties anymore, so things like [Club 710] are a nice way to get out and socialize and be with like-minded individuals."
Tillery says they are operating completely legally under Amendment 64; he's simply providing the private space for people to gather and smoke cannabis and hash. Membership will run you $20 but assures you a spot in the club, which Tillery says hit capacity last Sunday.
Front owner Veronica Carpio also she says she's seen a steady flow of people showing up to her small event, creating what she hopes to be a cannabis cultural center for Boulder county. She notes that she is in complete compliance with Amendment 64, which is a good thing for Carpio.
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As Westword reported in November of 2011, Carpio was formerly the owner of 420 Highways in Lafayette, which she shut down in July 2011. In the months following, Carpio was arrested for setting up a ten-pound cannabis deal worth $30,000 with an undercover cop. Carpio denied that the buds were hers, but admitted to selling off surplus from her dispensary after it closed -- though never to anyone from out of state.
As part of a plea deal with the state, Carpio copped to felony marijuana possession and was given a year of probation and two days' worth of community service. In return, the state dropped the distribution charges against her. She says the new coffee shop in no way violates her probation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Carpio's status with the state and reasons for closing down her shop. They have since been corrected.