Social Marijuana Use Rules Finalized in Denver

The first of July brought us two firsts in the rapidly evolving marijuana industry. First, Nevada recreational marijuana sales began, beating all sales measurements to the degree Nevada’s Governor had to for emergency regulation to solve supply concerns. Second, Colorado’s capital city of Denver has finalized the rules for Ordinance 300, a ballot referendum passed by voters in November 2016 allowing businesses to host marijuana social use clubs.



The news of pot clubs formally being licensed to operate is not just a victory in Denver, where voters backed the measure, but for all visitors, travelers, and residents. Many hotels prohibit smoking of any kind, some lease agreements prohibit marijuana use specifically, and sometimes it is nice to do it outside of the house. Using marijuana can be an individual and social experience, after all, so when Amendment 64 was passed in 2012, legalizing marijuana use for adults 21 and older, the measure failed to offer a place to use their new constitutional right, putting many visiting consumers at a legal disadvantage.

Pot has been in the news recently for many reasons, but Denver’s push into formalized, regulated social marijuana use represents a point in history – a first in the US. Though some states such as Maine and Alaska may have laws allowing the existence of marijuana social clubs, no rules for the licensing of such businesses has yet been implemented, making the inclusion of such language as symbolic, but non-functional.

Indeed, during the regular 2017 legislative session, news of pot again made headlines. A statewide measure was introduced and passed by the Colorado Senate. The bill sought to address the issue of social marijuana use; however, having failed in the House, the measure drew criticism and ultimately failed. This meant the capital city of Denver would be exercising the power of local government within state government – itself operating weed laws outside of federal law – to enact the will of the voters.

The finalized rules, as posted to the City and County of Denver website, were enacted July 1st, 2017 – here is what we can expect next:

Expect Social Marijuana Use by Fall 2017

Ordinance 300, as passed by voters, instructed the city of Denver to create a regulatory system to oversee and permit businesses to allow marijuana use on site. It is a pilot program, meaning it has an expiration date. In this case, 2020 is the year Denver city officials will revisit the program and determine its future. Until 2020, pot clubs and businesses seeking to have social marijuana use areas should see the applications come available for such permits no later than August 31st, 2017.

Businesses Still Need Neighborhood Support

Not just any business can apply. While the news of pot clubs in Denver is surely exciting, per Ordinance 300 any business seeking to allow social marijuana use must win the support of a local neighborhood business association or committee. An “eligible neighborhood organization” is defined as any of the following:

  • A registered neighborhood organization having existed for no less than two (2) years
  • A business improvement district, such as when a business or group of business and personal interests own property in a region of development
  • Any other type of association of residents and owners of property designated as an eligible neighborhood organization by city officials

Evidence of support from a local, neighborhood organization must be submitted with the application. Evidence of support can be submitted in any of the following ways:

  • As a letter of community support (or, at least, as non-opposed)
  • A written document or other communication showing community support or non-opposition
  • A “good neighborhood” agreement
  • Any other form of support from the community deemed sufficient by city officials to demonstrate acceptance or non-opposition.

Indoor Smoking Ban Remains in Effect

Despite the construction of new regulations allowing social marijuana use, Colorado laws regarding indoor smoking still apply. Though the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act law allows for limited licensing of cigar and tobacco smoking lounges where – conceivably – marijuana smoking is equivalent in the eyes of the law as tobacco. This means you can expect more outdoor enclosures or patio spaces than indoor smoking spots.

Alcohol Cannot Be Sold Or Used On Premises

If you were hoping to go out for a steak dinner, have some wine, and step out to smoke your favored strain or product, I regret to inform you Colorado has laws against such experiences. Alcohol cannot be served, sold, bought, transferred, or consumed at any business with a permit to allow social marijuana use. News of pot and alcohol being kept – for the moment – separate has been applauded by supporters and opponents of the program.

As a seeming concession to this regulatory clause, the final rules outline a process for one-time permits – perfect for special events – allowing social marijuana use but only if alcohol sales are not occurring simultaneously.

You Have to Bring Your Own Cannabis!

The final rules also dropped the news pot is not allowed to be sold at a social consumption area, so be sure to bring your own.

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