Though Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational cannabis – paving the way for other states to do so – it was not a simple transition from prohibition to legalization. It has taken years of tweaking the laws governing legal cannabis to get to where they are now – and even today, they are still making substantial changes that should have been made years ago. A new bill has been introduced in the state House of Representatives that hopes to rectify one major issue – namely, providing tourists and those who don’t own a private residence with a place to legally smoke cannabis.
“Coloradans voted for the freedom to choose cannabis as an alternative. But we have not extended similar liberties to the consumption aspect of cannabis legalization. With this legislation, we are upholding the will of voters while providing a safe and responsible place for people to consume outside of parks and off of the street.” — Senator Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), via Westword
House Bill 19-1230 would legalize cannabis hospitality businesses, which would be broken down into two categories. The first would include businesses like hotels, spas and coffee shops where people could bring their own marijuana and consume it. However, these businesses wouldn’t sell cannabis products themselves. The second category would allow retail consumption sites – otherwise known as cannabis clubs, tasting rooms, etc. – where you could buy certain items and consume them on-site, much like alcohol at a bar.
One of the reasons that cannabis consumption on-site has been such a concern thus far is because many people still prefer to smoke their weed, but Colorado’s Clean Air Act prohibits smoking inside – even in bars. HB 19-1230 would make licensed cannabis hospitality businesses exempt from the Clean Air Act, allowing smoking – as well as vaping and edibles – on the premises for such businesses.
“This bill will help make sure people are consuming responsibly, similar to what you would see at a winery, brewery or distillery,” says Representative Jonathan Singer, a Longmont Democrat who’s been leading the way on several marijuana-related bills. “Local law enforcement won’t have to worry about residents and tourists smoking in parks, because they’ll now have a place to go.”
Similar legislation was passed by both chambers last year and ended up on the desk of former Governor Hickenlooper, who vetoed the bill. Hickenlooper had slowly come around to accepting cannabis legalization, but changes allowing social consumption had been rejected both in theory and in legislation. This year there is hope that the state’s new governor, Jared Polis, will be more prepared to accept this version of the bill.
If passed and signed into law, cannabis hospitality licenses could start being issued as soon as January 2020, finally closing a gap in the law that has been a concern since legalization was first implemented.