Denver Voters Approve Pot Use In Bars And Restaurants, State Officials Intervene

By McCarton Ackerman 11/21/16

While pot may be legal on the state level, finding a public setting to enjoy it socially remains an issue for Colorado pot smokers.

Denver Voters Approve Pot Use In Bars And Restaurants, State Officials Intervene

Denver is taking its mile-high moniker to literal levels, after voters made the city the first in the country to allow marijuana use in bars and restaurants.

But before pot smokers get too excited, Fortune reported that there are numerous restrictions on the new measure, called Initiative 300, which Coloradans approved on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Marijuana use won’t be allowed indoors and patrons will need to bring their own stash, a reflection on state law that bans the sale of both marijuana and food or drink at a single location. Establishments will also need to demonstrate established neighborhood support before moving forward in obtaining a permit to allow marijuana use.

According to the Denver Post, last week Colorado state licensing officials announced a rule that will prevent some restaurants and bars from obtaining a social marijuana use permit: if the bar or restaurant location sells liquor, then marijuana cannot be consumed on the premises. 

This drastically cuts down the amount of businesses which would be eligible for social marijuana use permits. The new regulation was created by the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue. 

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “This doesn’t completely hinder the entire law. Remember that this whole thing kind of got started with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra fundraiser that was held in an art gallery.” The "Classically Cannabis" musical fundraiser caused waves for illegally allowing public consumption of marijuana back in 2014. 

Non-service establishments, such as art galleries or yoga studios, will be permitted to set up pot-smoking areas and also hold events that simultaneously serve alcohol, food and weed, according to Fortune.

“It’s the sensible thing to do,” said Emmett Reistroffer, a Denver marijuana consultant and campaign manager for Initiative 300. “This is about personal responsibility and respecting adults who want to have a place to enjoy cannabis.”

The city will begin accepting permit applications in late January. The new policy is also only effective until 2020, at which time voters and city officials will decide whether to make the policy permanent.

Any establishment that allows marijuana consumption on-site will also be required to specifically train their staff in marijuana use. They will also need to submit an operations plan with detailed procedures and strategies for addressing potential marijuana over-intoxication, as well as how they would prevent marijuana use by underage patrons.

The training is particularly important because ER visits involving out-of-state visitors and marijuana have drastically increased since pot was legalized in the state.

Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency room toxicologist at the University of Colorado Denver, wrote in a letter last February to the New England Journal of Medicine that “the rate of ED visits possibly related to cannabis use among out-of-state residents doubled from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014, which was the first year of retail marijuana sales.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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