Home Culture Two Social Use Initiatives May Qualify for Denver Ballots

Two Social Use Initiatives May Qualify for Denver Ballots

Flickr @ Mari Wirta

Update 8-22-2016: This update applies to the underlined section concerning the initiative being proposed by the Denver chapter of NORML as well as the initiative proposed by Denver’s Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Committee. I want to thank Judd Golden for bringing the inaccuracies to my attention so I can ensure that our readers get the whole story!

It’s been months since we’ve heard anything out of Denver regarding social use of cannabis – a hot topic in the city since legalization took place. There are many cited reasons on why there needs to be some sort of social use laws put into place – tourists for one, have nowhere to consume their legally bought cannabis and many apartments and HOAs don’t allow cannabis consumption – meaning there are a lot of people with no place to go and enjoy their legal bud. This prompted a group to create a ballot initiative – which they eventually dropped in hopes of coming to an agreement with the city, which never came.

In the meantime, back in January the Denver chapter of the National Organization of Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) decided that these negotiations were taking too long and so they took to the streets with petitions in hand. Their proposed initiative would create private cannabis clubs, which would be located 1,000 feet from any schools, which would allow vaporized or edible cannabis products inside – those wishing to smoke will have to go outside due to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. Unfortunately those patios will have to be out of public view and anywhere children may gather.

Update: Their proposed initiative would create private marijuana social clubs and licensed special events (with marijuana permitted), which would comply with current laws in place with Denver Marijuana Code requirements, including distance from schools, not allowing consumption establishments open to the public and not allowing locations to also have liquor or retail food licenses. However, these private clubs can have any number of business models and can offer prepared food and non-alcoholic beverages. They will be private, but membership fees will be up to individual clubs to set. Clubs would not be able to sell cannabis, it will be bring your own only or share and all locations will be licensed and regulated similarly to other marijuana industry businesses. The private clubs would allow marijuana consumption in all forms on the property. There would also be licensed, invitation-only adult events that would create a private space for indoor smoking and could be utilized for private parties, business events, celebrations and more. 

“Our Responsible Use Initiative is a direct response to the Amendment 64 prohibition on open and public consumption. By providing legal, private, adults-only consumption areas that are not open or visible to the public, we are helping solve an issue that is not going anywhere,” said Person in a News Release by Denver’s NORML.

At the last minute, about a month ago, Denver’s Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Committee, decided that they would start petitioning again. They had promised a come-back if they did not get the support and improvement they were promised by local governments – and that was exactly what happened. Over a thirty day period, the group managed to collect 10,800 signatures – the required number that would need to be validated is only 4,726. In comparison, NORML submitted 8,000 signatures.

The proposed initiative put forth by the Cannabis Consumption Committee would allow existing businesses to apply for a license – after obtaining support from a neighborhood group or business improvement district – which would allow them to operate a cannabis consumption area within their property. This would allow all sorts of businesses to include areas where people are allowed to consume cannabis in a social setting – of course the same rules would apply, keeping to Clean Air laws indoors and keeping consumption out of view of public right-of-way and the view of children.

Update: The license would allow them to have an area where people could consume edibles and use vaporizers inside only.

This initiative creates these laws and licenses under a pilot program that would run through 2020. If by the time 2020 rolls around and the pilot program has not been successful in regulating cannabis, while allowing adults a safe and legal place outside their homes to consume it, then the pilot program could be revoked at that time. However, the way they have it laid out and the amount of support it has been shown by local businesses already, I feel it will likely be a very successful program.

Both have excellent qualities, manage to comply with existing laws, and would benefit those who wish to consume cannabis outside of a private residence. The initiative by NORML is slightly more restrictive, but perhaps easier to regulate – but the other initiative aims to get the entire community involved, which means the community would get a say. In the end, it will truly come down to voter preference and perhaps both will pass – if that is the case there is a chance they would work alongside one another; though it could go to the more popular vote.


  1. This is important. Responsible social use and small cannabis business entrepreneurship like private clubs is a crucial step to developing cannabis culture, establishling good associations and normalcy, and eventually broader acceptance. Prohibitionists don’t want it, because they know that as long as users in legal states must retreat to private, insular spaces to consume – as if it’s still illegal – then users remain divided socially. That means healthy public culture and associations are not formed so easily, which despite recent reforms makes cannabis still susceptible to prohibitionists. It’s not the end of the world if these don’t pass this year, as there will be more movement to this in the coming years. But it will be great if it does pass. I’d love to see something like this in Oregon, particularly Portland, where under Mayor Hales the city council (like the state legislature) is in love with the tax reveune but unenlightened on social use.