Denver's social cannabis task force meets to discuss possible changes to ordinance

Committee considering changes to distance rules
Posted at 7:17 AM, Jul 12, 2018

DENVER — Denver's Social Consumption Area Task Force met Thursday to discuss how the voter-approved initiative is working so far, and any changes that should be recommended to Denver city councilors.

In 2016, voters approved initiative 300, which called for the creation of a task force to study the impact of social marijuana clubs. These are businesses that have been licensed to allow customers to bring their own cannabis to consume in designated areas.

Councilwoman Kendra Black, who chairs the task force, says one of the issues they needed to discuss is the distance requirement. It was designed to keep social pot clubs away from schools and residential neighborhoods. But Black says it may be too restrictive and is preventing businesses from operating.

"When we look at the maps it seems like those distance requirements prevent them from going in where there are organizations that would actually like them there. The Bluebird Business Improvement District for example is very supportive and would like to see some on Colfax but because of the distance requirements there aren’t very many places," Black said.

One idea that emerged from Thursday's meeting was keeping the existing 1,000-foot setback but allowing clubs to still apply for a license if they get support from other community members within the 1,000-foot zone.

Currently there is only one social marijuana club operating in Denver, theCoffee Joint, at 1130 Yuma Court. Black says this is an industrial area that's difficult to access.

"The person who owns it has told us she’s not overwhelmed with patrons," says Black.

The task force also discussed cannabis bus tours. In June, Denver police cited 31 marijuana tour bus passengers for public consumption of marijuana, which is illegal.

A Denver police officer said at the meeting that a live report on CNN’s New Year’s Eve special led to the crackdown.

"So the industry began and honestly we didn't pay a whole hell of a lot, heck of a lot of attention to it until New Year’s Eve of this year," explained Commander James Henning with the Denver Police Department.

Black says the growing marijuana tourism industry highlights the need to provide more social consumption spaces.

"We need to have a place where people can socially consume marijuana, a lot of tourists come here and there’s no place for them to go. So we want to solve that problem but at the same time protect our kids and our neighborhoods."

There will be two more meetings, in August and September, before the task force prepares a report for the full city council.