Denver, CO

Pot shops can now deliver weed, host smoke sessions

David Heitz

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Smoking marijuana in Denver just got even more convenient.

Now you can have weed legally delivered to your home. You also may consume marijuana on-site at businesses that apply to become “marijuana hospitality establishments.”

The changes to local cannabis laws approved for the final time Monday by the Denver City Council are the most sweeping since marijuana was legalized in 2014.

Ironically, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock likely will sign the legislation today, 4/20, also known as the marijuana holiday. City officials say that wasn’t deliberate.

First dibs for delivery jobs or for ownership of a marijuana hospitality establishment will go to people with marijuana convictions. It’s part of a state “social equity” program that aims to right wrongs for people convicted of marijuana offenses that today would be legal.

Woman speaks against smoke establishments

Char Day spoke during Monday’s public comment period against the hospitality establishments. She said the legislation jeopardizes public health by relaxing a ban on all types of smoking. She claimed pollutants put off by marijuana are more than triple that of a Marlboro cigarette.

Day also said the law would put a whole new class of workers in harm’s way (exposure to second-hand smoke) for a paycheck.

People who live in community opportunity zones and have done so for at least 15 years, or are low-income, also are considered social equity eligible. All applicants are required to provide “social impact plans” which outline how the business will work with neighbors to resolve any concerns. The plans also are supposed to outline their hiring practices.

Resident complains about social impact requirements

During public comment time, a man by the first name of Colby spoke out about the social impact plans. He said it should be illegal to require a small business to disclose the races and sexes of their employees. He likened the social impact plans to the affirmative action policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

David Hagan spoke after Colby, whose last name I could not make out during the council meeting. Hagan called Colby’s testimony “white supremacy," adding, “Denver is a very diverse city. It is not that hard to hire a woman or a person of color.”

SMART Colorado has been against efforts to expand marijuana legalization in Denver. Rachel O’Bryan is the co-founder. She authored a paper called “Colorado Kids are Canaries in the Coal Mine of Marijuana Legalization.”

The organization wants THC limits on cannabis products in Colorado. They point to numerous studies that say concentrated forms of marijuana may cause mental health problems.

Group says marijuana to accessible to children already

The group generally has been against anything that makes pot-smoking more accessible. “Cumbersome and hard-to-hide bongs have given way to slim vaping devices that resemble a computer USB flash drive, and even an asthma inhaler,” O’Bryan writes in her paper. “The newest products sold as recreational marijuana utilize medical-like delivery methods including eye drops, nasal sprays, inhalers and vaginal/rectal suppositories.

“Parents and educators find it difficult to spot today's pot. They may not know to look beyond the telltale leaf, smell, bongs and pipes that once were a dead giveaway.”

More than a third of the state’s marijuana sales occur in the County of Denver. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, “high school students say marijuana tops the list for substances ‘sort of easy’ or ‘very easy’ to get,” according to O’Bryan’s paper. “They say marijuana is easier to get than alcohol, cigarettes or pharmaceuticals.”

Smart Colorado “is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized,” the paper explains.

New laws come with new requirements

The hospitality businesses and delivery rules were established with two separate bills approved Monday. A third bill approved by the council appropriated $350,000 for the online licensing process.

The bills bring Denver’s marijuana regulations in line with the state’s, which are more relaxed.

The regulations do come with new requirements some say are long overdue. For example, dispensaries will be required to have safes where they can store the cannabis at night. This would cut down on burglaries at cannabis establishments, which occur more often than police would like.

The marijuana hospitality establishments will only be allowed in certain parts of town. Neighborhoods already flooded with marijuana establishments would be off-limits to entrepreneurs. Cannabis businesses may not be located within a thousand feet of a school, another marijuana business, or a drug or alcohol treatment facility.

The delivery drivers would be saddled with some regulations. They must have a camera fixed on a locked storage compartment inside the car for the cannabis. The laws specifies that they will not be allowed to deliver to addiction treatment centers.

The marijuana hospitality establishments, of which there is only one such business currently in the city, could only operate and sell marijuana from 8 a.m. until midnight. Consumption of alcohol and tobacco smoking would not be allowed at the businesses. Some businesses likely will be “BYOC,” or Bring Your Own Cannabis.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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