Earlier in the legislative session we had hopes that Colorado might be ready to take the next step in normalizing cannabis by allowing people to consume it in a social setting when a bill introduced to the Senate would have allowed cannabis clubs to operate legally statewide. At this point, whichever state moves on this quick enough will be the first among legal cannabis states to allow cannabis clubs. But now it appears that Colorado, like Alaska before them, are getting cold feet with the idea and have decided that now just isn’t the right time to be making such a bold move, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding the Trump Administration’s regarding the industry.
“Given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be trying to carve off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana,” Hickenlooper told The Denver Post last month.
The bill that was passed in the Senate has now seen some major changes – completely removing any trace of legalizing cannabis clubs and instead making minor revisions to other existing marijuana laws. And the bill is still expected to see more changes before it is voted on by the full senate. Unfortunately this means that, for now, the issues surrounding where people who do not own a private residence (tourists, anyone in federal housing or a rental that doesn’t allow cannabis) are supposed to consume their legal bud – with the exception of Denver, who are well on their way to implementing a voter-initiated law to allow on-site cannabis consumption in some businesses.
While Colorado has already shut down their chances at statewide cannabis clubs this year, Nevada – who hopes to have recreational sales going by this summer – is seriously opening up the discussion as lawmakers prepare to consider a plethora of cannabis-related bills. Senate Bill 236 would allow marijuana lounges, which would be an entirely separate business license and would allow tourists and locals alike to have a safe and legal place to consume their bud, without being out in the open.
“It has to happen, there’s no way around it,” said Brannon Zimbelman, who runs an online cannabis travel agency called “The Travel Joint” which is based in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, there is concern in Nevada as well – though mostly it is being cited by law enforcement who fear that lounges could invite a place for crime, using hookah lounges as a comparison. However, the fact of the matter is people need a place to go and smoke or vape their cannabis if they won’t be able to do so in apartments or hotel rooms. Hopefully lawmakers will see that it is something that will have to be addressed – and the sooner they do so the better off communities will be in the long run.
It’s a confusing time with the unknown variables that are the federal government, Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice – but this is certainly an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. If all goes well for Denver’s pilot program then perhaps their model is something that can be considered elsewhere – or at least provide encouragement that allowing cannabis clubs can be done safely and responsibly.