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Denver social marijuana use ordinance appears headed for victory with new voter result numbers

Posted at 10:46 AM, Nov 15, 2016

DENVER – The group backing Denver’s public-use marijuana initiative declared victory Monday night, and Tuesday’s updated voting returns in the city show votes in favor of the measure appear to have won.

Though votes will not be confirmed and finalized until Nov. 22, updated numbers from Tuesday morning show an extra 10,000 votes in favor of Initiated Ordinance 300 were counted overnight, compared to another 7,500 against the measure.

As of Monday night, proponents of 300 held a 53 percent to 47 percent lead. But by Tuesday morning, that lead had grown to 53.3 percent in favor and 46.7 against.

If approved by voters, the ordinance would allow regular businesses to seek approval by a neighborhood or business association to create marijuana “consumption areas” both inside and outside.

Any indoor consumption area would allow only “vaping” or edible consumption of pot. People would be able to smoke leaf marijuana outside at certain approved businesses as long as those outdoor consumption areas are out of public view.

Read: Full text of Initiated Ordinance 300

Another stipulation of the ordinance is people would have to bring their own supply; businesses would not be able to provide the marijuana unless they are already permitted to do so.

The approval of the measure would be another victory for groups that have argued that though marijuana is legal, the law makes it difficult for many people to use said marijuana legally.

Though some cities in Colorado have designated private clubs where people can use marijuana either at locations or on tour busses, Denver’s ordinance would be the first to set up non-private consumption areas.

Any business wishing to establish a consumption area would have to get approval from a registered neighborhood organization, business improvement district or recognized neighborhood organization as well as a letter of community support or non-opposition to the proposed permit.

There are a slew of rules the business would then have to comply with, including submitted detailed plans for the consumption are or areas, clear signage, an agreement with taxis or ride-sharing services to get people home, training for employees, and strict ventilation and odor control rules, among others.

Public opponents of the ordinance had argued that it could lead to more instances of people driving under the influence or open children up to exposure to marijuana, though proponents of the measure argue all of those concerns are addressed in the ordinance’s language.

“We are truly grateful to the people of Denver for approving this sensible measure to allow social cannabis use in the city. This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings,” said Kayvan S.T. Khalatbari, the lead proponent of I-300, in a statement Monday. “It is also a victory for the city of Denver, its diverse neighborhoods and those who don't consume cannabis, as it will reduce the likelihood that adults will resort to consuming in public.”

More than 15,000 ballots are left to be counted in Denver, though it would take a seemingly-impossible run by “no” votes at this point for I-300 to fail.

Should it pass, the Denver City Council will have to create a task force that will study the impact of the new permits, which would report back to the council in two years.

The ordinance will remain on the books until Dec. 31, 2020, or earlier should the city pass “comprehensive regulations” that “further the intent” of the ordinance, according to its language.

The opposition group conceded it had lost Tuesday, though elections officials said the vote was not finalized.

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