This spring, the Colorado Senate approved a measure that would permit cannabis clubs to open around the state. The bill represented is a first in the nation piece of legislation that allows cannabis consumers to bring their own marijuana to an establishment and smoke with other users. The proposal passed with a 25-10 vote on March 9, 2017, before being sent to the State House for consideration.
However, a last-minute reversal, coupled with a veto threat by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, appears to have doomed the idea of Amsterdam-like marijuana clubs in Colorado; at least for now.
Citing potential intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice, Hickenlooper issued a warning to the Legislature that the bill may, in fact, be in violation of federal law.
The clubs would not have been allowed to serve alcoholic beverages or food, as a current state regulation forbids the sale of marijuana and alcohol in the same location. The establishments were to be membership driven, which would allow them to get around the indoor smoking ban still in place statewide.
Sponsors of the bill asserted that the measure is necessary to combat an already underground network of an estimated 30 illegal cannabis clubs that have been operating ever since the state legalized marijuana in 2012. They also claim that something needs to be done to combat the rampant use of cannabis in the public parks, sidewalks, and other open spaces. It seems to have become a real problem.
Even members of the state legislature, while dressed in suit and tie, admit to being panhandled for weed on the grounds of the state capitol. Both political parties agree that Colorado needs to allow for places for residents to smoke marijuana, but that’s where consensus appears to break down.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Dardner (R-Colo. Springs), has been concerned with the impending action of the anti-marijuana Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has indicated that he believes states should not be allowed to legalize marijuana.
There have been disputes over whether establishing cannabis clubs would invite a federal investigation. Many suggest that the establishment of cannabis clubs would be way too much for the Justice Department to overlook. Others contend that it is a way to ensure that legal marijuana does not filter down to children. Apparently, this is a primary concern for the department. The Attorney General seems to be the biggest question mark so far. Officials insist that is why it is important for Colorado to get it right the first time.
Sessions has gone on record saying that he is committed to enforcing federal controlled substance laws. What that means exactly is of course unclear. The correct balance of enforcement priorities is ever-changing based on the circumstances and the resources available at the time.
The new administration has been slow to establish any clear-cut policies on the issue. Trump continues to waffle between full support for marijuana to calling it a serious public nuisance. Those in the Colorado cannabis business are more upbeat than the administration, despite the ambiguity at the federal level.
What many are certain of, however, is that if the Trump Administration and the Justice Department moves to shatter the legal marijuana industry in the U.S., it will result in placing control of the sector back into the hands of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.
Meanwhile, back here in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper suggested that his opposition to the measure stemmed from the fact that it did not go far enough to ban smoking marijuana indoors. However, there is currently a new cannabis club measure in effect in Denver that allows users to consume pot on specially set up patios and other indoor/outdoor spaces. This measure means that cannabis users can vape pot, but not burn it.
Denver officials have been toying with a proposal to allow for a one-year pilot of bring-your-own-cannabis clubs. State legislators, on the other hand, are expected to consider measures to allow either marijuana “tasting rooms,” operated by dispensary owners, or smoke-friendly clubs much like cigar bars.
The notion of cannabis clubs is not a new phenomenon. For as far back as recorded history, people have smoked marijuana in groups. The most famous locations around the globe are Amsterdam and Barcelona. First legalized in the Netherlands in the 1970s, they were widely referred to as coffee shops. The Spanish law is a bit dicier, citizens can still get into trouble for possession and are only allowed to smoke inside because the locations are considered to be private.
Although legalized marijuana has caused a boom to the state economy, and tourism dollars continue to flood the state’s coiffeurs, the bill has been halted for a re-write in order to iron out several wrinkles that might draw the attention of the white house.
So, if you were ready to pack up and head west, as a result, Colorado’s newest marijuana breakthrough, you might want to hold your horses. It appears as though we will still have to sojourn across the pond to enjoy cannabis clubs.
Article By: Alfonzo Porter