This could be the year that state lawmakers finally clear the air over pot clubs. Coloradans voted to "regulate marijuana like alcohol" in 2012, but five years later, the actual regulatory landscape tells a different story. Unlike imbibing alcohol, you can only consume marijuana in a private residence — which makes partaking in our state's specialty vice (and paying taxes on it), trickier for tourists, renters and all those who can't light up at home.
A bill currently under consideration in the state legislature would add a much-needed legal alternative: private consumption clubs. If you follow this column, you know just how much flak such clubs have received from Colorado Springs City Councilors who saw the proliferation of clubs as flouting their 2013 vote to opt out of recreational sales.
Club owners have all but begged for regulation, arguing they provide a valuable service and are willing to play by the rules, if such rules existed. Nevertheless, council voted to ban all new clubs last year. They offered existing clubs a temporary license, but the businesses are still required to close in eight years.
Denver voters expressed desire for social marijuana use in November, passing Initiative 300 which creates a permit for non-marijuana businesses to allow consumption on-site. (The clubs, which can't also hold a liquor license, are required to get neighborhood approval and keep weed out of sight.) As implementation of that local measure begins to take shape, lawmakers at the Capitol are working to create a legal framework for licensing clubs in cities that choose to allow them.
Senate Bill 63, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, would create a marijuana consumption club license that lets its operator sell retail or medical marijuana to patrons 21 or older to consume on-site. Patrons would not be able to bring their own product or take any product home. Clubs would have to either source product from a licensed marijuana business or get a cultivation license to grow their own. Local jurisdictions could decide whether or not to allow the clubs.
The bill has been assigned to the Business, Labor and Technology committee where it's tentatively scheduled to be heard on Feb. 22.