What’s the Deal with Initiative 300?

When Denver’s Initiative 300 passed in November, a lot of people assumed that we’d soon be allowed to smoke or vape cannabis in bars. That, however, won’t be the case, though final rules and regulations have yet to be adopted.

The city’s website says:

“In November 2016 Denver voters approved Initiative 300, granting businesses the ability to apply for a permit to allow for adult marijuana consumption in designated areas.
Applications are now available at the Denver Excise & Licenses office; however, applications will not be accepted and permits will not be issued until final rules and regulations are adopted. Once rules are adopted, the department will develop the application process. Businesses may not begin operating a designated social consumption area until after they obtain a valid permit to do so from Excise & Licenses.”

The city held a public hearing last week to discuss the proposed regulations and to hear from citizens and businesses as to their views on the matter. According to a Denver Post article, the main worries of concerned citizens were “dual consumption” of cannabis and alcohol, visibility of people using cannabis (especially to children), and cannabis odors. One West Washington Park resident complained of the “skunk smell” emanating from a grow operation near where she lives. “Don’t let Denver become more of a skunk city,” she implored.

Among many other regulations, the proposed rules would prevent any business that serves alcohol from being granted a permit for public consumption. There are also stringent rules regarding compliance with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, background checks for on-site employees, a documented security plan, evidence of community support, and a requirement for all cannabis consumers to sign a waiver before public use.

Emmet Reistroffer, the campaign director for Initiative 300, said that the rules are so restrictive that “99 percent” of business owners who were planning to apply for the license are “no longer interested.” He added, “when I read the rules today, we can’t even get off the ground.” The final rules should be adopted this month, and permits may be granted as early as July.

Luckily, those of us who live in Denver can sidestep the legal wrangling and enjoy cannabis privately at home. We can even enjoy a nice glass of wine while we do it, if we’re so inclined.