Many in the marijuana law reform community, if not most, would like to see the day when cannabis is treated at least as leniently as alcohol. We hear it all the time: “legalize and regulate like alcohol.”
And while many see that as including home growing (home brewing) and retail shops (liquor stores, grocery stores and other assorted places you can buy alcohol), there is one aspect missing: in the vast majority of towns in the United States, if you are 21 years of age or older, you’ll be able to find a place where you can go buy alcohol and consume it on the premises – a bar.
A recently passed adult marijuana use legalization measure in Maine contains a provision for the establishment of what are becoming known as “marijuana social clubs.” In other words, bars for marijuana users. And while smoked marijuana will never be treated exactly the same as alcohol – most buildings open to the public have some sort of ban on indoor smoking – these social clubs would cover things like vaporizing and edible consumption.
But before Maine gets their social clubs up and running, we will likely see how these establishments work in practice in Denver, CO. Voters there recently passed Initiative 300, which legalizes marijuana social clubs where adults can consume cannabis. Despite looking like a close call very late in the ballot counting, I-300 ended up passing with roughly 53% of the citywide vote.
As can be imagined, Denver’s new law comes with many restrictions. Outdoor smoking areas may be set up eventually, but to even allow cannabis consumption indoors, restaurants, bars and other businesses would have to get the approval of local neighborhood associations. There will also be no marijuana sold on these premises since a Colorado state law bans the sale of cannabis in the same place that food and drinks are sold; this means customers would have to bring their own.
Businesses, including places like art galleries and yoga studios, will soon be able to apply for permits from the city to allow for social marijuana use in their establishments. There is no word on how long the whole process might take, but it is likely to be at least a few months before social marijuana use is actually happening in Denver.
The new law will lapse in 2020 unless the city or voters decide to keep it going. Until then, many eyes will be on this experiment in Denver.