Denver Votes To Allow Social Marijuana Use

By Kelly Burch 04/18/19

Proponents of the measure say that it will cut down on public marijuana use and exposure to kids.

Two people in Denver sharing a marijuana joint

The city of Denver, which was a leader in the recreational marijuana legalization movement, is moving forward with plans to make it easier for people to open businesses that allow social consumption of marijuana. 

Councilmember Kendra Black introduced a measure that would relax the rules dictating how far businesses that allow marijuana consumption must be from recreational centers, childcare facilities and other protected establishments. The city council passed the measure by a 9-2 vote on Monday (April 15). The measure will open an additional 2.2 square miles of space for cannabis businesses, the city said. 

“There are many people who we have heard from who want to open a business but cannot find a location,” Black told The Denver Post. Although the city passed a law in 2016 allowing social marijuana businesses, like cannabis cafes, there are only two in town, largely because of the strict regulations. 

The law currently requires businesses to be 1,000 feet from schools, a stipulation that will remain. However, the city council measure will allow social-use businesses to operate closer to other community and child-focused facilities as long as they are more than 500 feet away. 

Proponents of the measure said that it will cut down on public marijuana use, which is illegal, and reduce the frequency of cannabis being used in front of kids. 

Stacy Lynn, who advocates for access to medical cannabis for kids, said that the measure is important for protecting young people. “If they have nowhere to consume, they will do it in front of our children,” she said. “How do you get it off the street? You put it in a closed, secure building.”

However, opponents said that the city shouldn’t be strengthening the cannabis industry. 

Luke Niforatos, who leads a group opposed to the commercialization of cannabis, said, “I don’t think it’s the job of any member of an elected government to make it easier for a drug industry to make more money, to make it easier for people to use drugs.” 

Others, including Councilwoman Robin Kniech, said that the city has spent far too much time tinkering with cannabis regulations. 

She said, “There is no evidence whatsoever that kids are at risk from an activity happening in a building they cannot see at 1,000 feet, 500 feet or next door. We have so many huge challenges facing out city, and the time we have spent on this… frankly offends me.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.