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Colorado Officials Won’t Allow Cannabis Consumption in Public Establishments


Along with the successes of cannabis legalization often come some unexpected hurdles and concerns. One such hurdle is the fact that even though the plant is legal in the state of Colorado, legal users are confined to their homes, as public consumption is outlawed. This might sound easy enough, but many Colorado landlords refuse to allow their tenants to smoke cannabis, even for medical use, and the same is true for many hotels and owners of Air BnB accommodations. A recent bill in Colorado would have helped to alleviate this hurdle, but it has recently been stopped in its tracks.

“I realize I’m being overly cautious, but let’s take a step at the time,” Colorado governor John Hickenlooper told The Denver Post. “This is a big experiment. Let’s treat it like one.”

In defense of vetoing the bill, the governor trotted out the same tired argument that along with legal cannabis will come an increase of traffic accidents due to impaired drivers. This argument does not seem to hold much water at all, but it is still used as a reason to continue prohibition of cannabis at varying degrees throughout the U.S.

“We are concerned that marijuana use at consumption establishments could result in additional impaired or intoxicated drivers on our roadways,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter announcing the veto. “This bill also poses public health risks. Allowing vaporization of marijuana in confined spaces poses a significant health risk for employees and patrons of consumption establishments.”

Advocates of the public consumption of cannabis in Colorado make the point that alcohol is consumed in public spaces nationwide, and that cannabis should not be treated any differently. Governor Hickenlooper thinks this is an unfair comparison, because there is currently no simple way to test for cannabis impairment in drivers, such as a Breathalyzer for alcohol.

Whether the governor likes it or not, the people of Colorado seem to want the freedom to ingest cannabis in public. In November 2016, Denver voters approved Initiative 300, granting businesses the ability to apply for a license to allow for adult marijuana consumption in designated areas. The first establishment to be granted a public cannabis consumption license is a coffee shop aptly named The Coffee Joint.

Just as Colorado served as a positive example for recreational cannabis legalization, the Coffee Joint hopes to serve as such for other establishments that seek public consumption licenses. In addition, there are already several unlicensed cannabis clubs in the state, according to The Denver Post.