Denver may become the first populous city in America to allow for the creation of cannabis clubs, in an effort to solve the burgeoning problem of city residents illicitly using the substance in public places.
What’s driving the need for cannabis clubs?
Colorado legalized the recreational use of cannabis in 2014. The measure that passed via ballot initiative permitted the creation of growers and retailers of recreational cannabis. While it did not expressly forbid the open and public use of cannabis, it also did not explicitly allow for it.
The state’s cities and towns have thus adopted a constellation of different regulations regarding the public consumption of cannabis. This has led to many areas in which public consumption rules are strictly enforced. In 2014 alone, police issued nearly 800 citations across the state for the public consumption of cannabis.
Cannabis activists are now gathering signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot that would allow residents of Denver to create clubs in which cannabis users could go for the express purpose of imbibing the substance.
Such towns as Denver and Colorado Springs do currently have operating cannabis clubs, albeit ones that operate somewhat underground and are occasionally busted by the police. Other locations in the state — such as the town of Nederland, and Pueblo County — allow for the existence of cannabis clubs, though their presence is minimal.
Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer proposed a bill regulating cannabis clubs in a recent legislative session, but abandoned the proposal after interest groups — including law enforcement, state regulators, and the cannabis industry — could not agree on a compromise. According to Singer, the lack of precedent for the creation of the clubs is a major hurdle for such legislation.
There’s no good regulatory model for what these clubs should look like.
Activists backing the ballot measure have until mid-August to collect the roughly 5,000 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot.
According to Denver-area activist Teresa Wright, the initiative is essential for those looking to imbibe the substance, as well as for those who are not.
For me what it comes down to is personal freedom… We don’t want to hurt anybody. People just don’t want to smell it, like cigarette smoke. So it makes sense to give people a place to enjoy cannabis with other adults.
Denver NORML Executive Director Jordan Person believes that the measure would make the substance all but unnoticeable to those who do not wish to see it.
You don’t want it in your face? Great. Let’s get it off the street… We’re not going to put more people on the road high. They’re already there, probably driving while they use it. So this is better than that.
The measure has its share of detractors: Some who oppose it say that it would encourage increased cannabis use by underage users while some law enforcement officials say that it could lead to greater instances of impaired driving.
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