Marijuana “Tasting Rooms” Proposal Vetoed By Colorado Governor

By Paul Fuhr 06/08/18

Critics contend that Hickenlooper’s veto will backfire, driving the rise of more unregulated, indoor clubs.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper Photo via YouTube

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill on Monday that would have allowed marijuana sellers to establish “tasting rooms” for their product. And while some observed that it wasn’t the first time Gov. Hickenlooper has shot down similar bills, the veto took the wind out of many Colorado pot retailers’ sails.

Many sellers had hoped their state would allow people to use marijuana in a regulated, public space. In a statement explaining his veto, the governor cited concerns about impaired drivers and other public health issues.

“We may agree with the proponents’ goals to protect the public and children; however, we strongly disagree that this bill is the correct path to achieve those goals,” Hickenlooper wrote.

He was also concerned that passing the bill might prompt a federal crackdown on Colorado’s pot industry.

The governor did, however, acknowledge that the most recent version of the bill was a far cry from previous versions. In fact, the bill “dramatically scaled back some advocates’ ambitions for stand-alone businesses reminiscent of a neighborhood bar or an upscale club,” The Washington Post reported.

Interestingly, the bill that Hickenlooper vetoed didn’t allow marijuana to be smoked in the establishments themselves and also left it up to local municipalities to make decisions around “tasting rooms.”

Proponents of the bill believed it could “resolve a stubborn conflict in Colorado and other states with legal marijuana,” given that while pot possession in Colorado is legal, public use (including in streets and parks) could lead to a police citation. By and large, most states have delayed developing statewide systems for public consumption.

Alaska, the Post added, is one notable exception: regulators there will begin discussions later this month about letting people smoke pot inside stores.

Denver regulators were forced by a voter-backed initiative into allowing sites, otherwise known as “social consumption facilities,” where customers bring their own weed.

Still, state and local regulators assert a tight grip on the business models that govern those facilities. In fact, as the Post notes, “permitted locations have limited interest”—perhaps an understatement, given that Denver officials have issued one permit for a pot club, not to mention only receiving two applications overall since last summer.

Meanwhile, others continue to watch Denver’s system closely: Las Vegas-area officials, for example, have been playing a wait-and-see game with their own licensure. If Denver’s system works, Las Vegas may follow suit.

Until then, San Francisco is the only city in the U.S. that allows lounges where people can legally smoke marijuana products.

In the meantime, critics contend that Hickenlooper’s veto will backfire, driving the rise of more unregulated, indoor clubs. Despite the setback, though, many proponents of the bill remain resolute.

“In its wisdom, the Colorado Legislature sought to close a significant gap in regulation,” said Chris Woods, the owner of an Aurora-based marijuana retailer. “It’s unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators. This fight is not over.” 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.