Springs' cannabis clubs in jeopardy, Pueblo considers hosting world's biggest weed party 


click to enlarge Jered McCusker testifies to council. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Jered McCusker testifies to council.

Clubs in jeopardy

About 20 people marched from Studio A64 on Colorado Avenue to City Hall on the evening of Feb. 23 to protest City Council's proposed ban on cannabis clubs. Far more — about 150 — packed the chamber for an extended public comment hearing.

Heather Witting, who has a background in medical marijuana and now works for a local club, elicited cheers when she calmly described the current situation in the Springs like the end of Prohibition. "These clubs are inevitable," she said. "I don't understand what you're afraid of."

Jered McCusker, co-owner of the One Love Club that is temporarily closed due to fire code violations, told councilors he'll sue if he can't re-open.

Industry lobbyist Jason Warf expressed incredulity that neither he nor any other industry representative was included in the process of developing regulations. "Never in my life have I seen the government try to regulate an industry without input from that industry," he told councilors after having been barred from speaking at the group's work session Monday — during the session, Councilor Bill Murray asked Warf a question, but he was not permitted to respond. "That's just not the way the world works."

Amid the barrage of support for the clubs, two spoke out against them. Doug Brown worried they create a nuisance in neighborhoods, especially with other clubs and bars nearby. Paul Seeling hoped councilors would choose "virtue over vice" and warned about catering to the "undercurrent of society."

Councilman Knight brought the proposal to City Council after working with several departments — including Planning, Public Safety and the Mayor's Office — to put together three options for regulating so-called "marijuana consumption clubs."

Option 1 would relegate clubs to parcels zoned for industrial use, at least 1,000 feet from a school or drug treatment facility; subject them to new licensure; and require a ventilation and filtration system.

Option 2 would do the same as the first, though making the clubs a conditional rather than a permitted use.

Under either of the first two options, a "marijuana consumption club" would be defined for licensing purposes as "[a]n establishment, organization, association, club, teapad [slang for hash bar], or other similar entity or place where a purpose is to allow the consumption of marijuana, medical marijuana or marijuana product on the premises."

The draft licensing ordinances would also prohibit the transfer or sale of marijuana; cultivation, manufacturing of marijuana products or storage of marijuana; operation between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.; and club access by any person under the age of 21.

On Feb. 18, the City Planning Commission chose Option 3: No new cannabis clubs, and existing clubs must shut down by March 2021.

With the public hearing done, the next time you can plug in is at City Council's first reading in two weeks. The final vote is set for March 22.

Cup incoming

Since Adams County commissioners denied permits to organizers last week, the Colorado Cannabis Cup has been on the hunt for a new home. Organizers may have found it in Pueblo County.

The Cannabis Cup is a celebration of all things weed, put on by High Times magazine and held only in states that have legalized medical and recreational sales. The event features competitions, instructional seminars, expositions, celebrity appearances, concerts and product showcases — giving the growing cannabis community a place to gather, network and fight for political legitimacy of the plant. This year's Colorado Cup is scheduled for 4/20 weekend.

Though Denver Mart has hosted the Cup for the past two years, this year event organizers were denied a permit. Adams County commissioners heard testimony from law enforcement officials who raised concerns about crowd control, public consumption and other health risks. The County's decision also came a day after legislation to create a marijuana-specific special event permit got tabled at the statehouse.

So High Times has set its sights on Pueblo County, where marijuana is quickly becoming both a cash crop and a boon to tourism. Pueblo County Department of Planning and Development is currently reviewing a special use permit application submitted by the magazine and local property owners Tom and Anna-Marie Giodone, who run an entertainment venue in Vineland called "The Yard" (best known for hosting country music festival Bands in the Backyard every summer.)

The event is expected to draw 17,000 people a day to the Pueblo area, according to KOAA-TV, which also reported that last year the Cup brought an estimated $40 million impact to Denver.

Sound like a fun time? Tickets go on sale this week. Under 21? Don't bother.

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