Update: Initiative 300 Denver Approves Second Business for Public Consumption

A few months ago, on 710Pipes we had an article on a groundbreaking proposition that Denver voters passed into action in late 2016. It was called Initiative 300 and it allowed – for the first time ever in US history – a chance for businesses to apply for temporary licenses that would permit public consumption of cannabis in established venues like bars and restaurants. The electoral victory was celebrated enthusiastically by the populous city’s voters, but legislators weren’t satisfied with the outcome. What followed the election was a new series of red tape and publicity stunts that would practically confine the new experiment to only one successful business. Until now.

Pay (Again) To Play

The passing of Initiative 300 represents a turning tide of opinion on legal cannabis with was lost in paranoia just a decade ago: voters are not resigned to take their pot sitting down anymore. Gone are the days where stoners are content to be left alone in their houses to smoke quietly, afraid of large fines and imprisonment for enjoying a pipe outside while trying to appreciate the scenery Colorado has to offer. This is probably because a large portion of these voters don’t even have the right to smoke at home! That’s right, as silly as it may sound, reefer stores proliferate like Starbucks in Colorado – but unless you own your own property, chances are you’re not actually allowed to smoke, vaporize or even eat your legal cannabis anywhere. This is because renters are often forbidden to have even medicinal cannabis on their property. Anywhere! That’s nuts! It’s sadly reminiscent of the decriminalization some states enforced before legal weed got off the ground.

Initiative 300 was designed with the intention to fix this enormous problem by allowing businesses to purchase temporary licenses from the state permitting onsite consumption of the venerable herb. That means that bars, restaurants, yoga studios and other venues (pretty much any business that doesn’t sell cannabis) can charge patrons at the door to allow them a place to consume their reefer. The law has a number of strict (and inconvenient) guidelines to keep the nonpaying public away from, and off, the grass. These guidelines keep smoked products strictly outside (like tobacco at restaurants requiring a porch) but do allow edibles and vaporizing indoors. Businesses must meet stringent qualifications, too, like approval from their “city-registered neighborhood organization or business improvement district.”

These limitations and accommodations have proven insufficient to quell the fears of city officials; however, regardless of how hard they were to navigate in the first place.

Black Pushes for Red Tape

Kendra Black, is a Denver Councilwoman on the city’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee. The committee met at least six times in 2017 to discuss policy surrounding the newly-passed Initiative 300 and are now pushing for publicity towards requiring some sort of training for anyone interested in pursuing a license for allowing public consumption in their venue. In a recent article with Denverite Magazine she voiced a mild, yet ambiguous stance.

“As a good faith effort to the wider community, I think that (mandatory training) is something we should consider,” Black said.

Black didn’t go into much detail about the training she’s promoting, though, and those shades of gray could mean trouble for potential businesses. Denverite makes some speculations on what few types of training could be useful, but ultimately comes to the same conclusions that I think any seasoned user would: that the effects of cannabis are just too varied between individuals and products alike to try to assert any trainable standard.

Less obvious and not mentioned in the discussion at all is the fact that Initiative 300 is designed to allow temporary permits as well as annual ones. So requiring mandatory training for anyone who’d apply would have the effect of putting the whole game into the hands of bigger businesses with money to spend on that training. It would simultaneously make it much more difficult for smaller businesses to be applicable and make it almost financially impossible for one-night events like those originally carved out by Initiative 300 and passed by the voting public.

In spite of this antagonistic political environment, several entrepreneurs have persevered through years of bureaucratic paperwork and neighborhood council meetings to establish a functional business model around this still-unmet demand. Well, two have. The second was just approved.

The New Saloon?

The Coffee Joint was Denver’s first business to actually set up a functioning permanent establishment that allowed the general public (over 21) to enjoy the comfort of a de-stigmatized environment for the consumption of cannabis. The Coffee Joint opened in March and charges a $5 admission to their friendly haven. The shop is still installing their espresso bar and currently functions as a sort of pipe store, as well as a harbor for the modern, downtown stoner-on-the-go. You are welcome to bring your own dab rigs or vape pens or purchase them there. The venue is all indoors, however, meaning you can roll your joints and blunts there (they even sell the papers) but smoking is strictly prohibited in accordance with the Colorado Clean Air Act.

August marked the approval of a new venue, with a slightly different plan. “Vape and Play” will open it’s doors in November, granted a clean inspection after construction is done. Unlike “The Coffee Joint”, Vape and Play has in mind a complete experience to offer the client including live entertainment from comedians and musicians as well as free reign to a number of accouterments like dab rigs and vape pens.