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Colorado Governor Vetoes Marijuana Tasting Room Bill

Colorado’s cannabis industry isn’t buying Gov. Hickenlooper’s “health and safety concerns” argument against allowing consumers to sample a dispensary’s offerings.

Adam Drury

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Colorado Governor Vetoes Marijuana Tasting Room Bill
World Economic Forum/ Wikimedia Commons

There’s no cannabis-specific equivalent to the phrase “close, but no cigar.” But what unfolded in Colorado governor John Hickenlooper’s office on Monday would have been as good a time as any to coin one. Colorado, one of the first states to legalize cannabis for adult use, almost earned another “first” this week. Namely, becoming the first state to allow public cannabis consumption at retail stores. But the marijuana “tasting room” bill, as it came to be known, was vetoed by Gov. Hickenlooper.

Gov. Hickenlooper Nixes Innovative “Tasting Room” Legislation

Colorado’s 2012 adult-use law prohibits the public consumption of cannabis in any form. Innovative Coloradans satisfied their desire for social sessions by setting up cannabis clubs.

These unlicensed establishments gave cannabis users a place outside of the confines of their homes to share knowledge and experiences with different products.

Eventually, cannabis clubs became so popular that Denver voters approved an initiative to set up licensed social-use establishments.

Colorado House Bill 1258, however, took a different approach. Rather than licensing cannabis clubs, the “tasting room” bill would have allowed adults to vape or eat small quantities of cannabis inside weed shops.

The concept will be familiar to anyone who has stopped by a wine tasting when shopping for libations. It’s commonplace.

However, Hickenlooper argued that cannabis tasting rooms would present a clear and present danger to public safety. “We are concerned that marijuana use at consumption establishments could result in additional impaired or intoxicated drivers on our roadways,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter announcing his veto of HB 1258, reports The Denver Post.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s letter also cited workplace concerns for retail staff, positing that exposing employees to a constant cloud of secondhand vape plumes could prove hazardous.

Coloradans Decry Governor’s Veto

The “health and safety concern” argument doesn’t have much truck with Colorado’s cannabis communities, despite the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network backing Hickenlooper’s veto.

The HB 1258 veto was met with a fierce volley of criticism from the cannabis industry. Cannabis retailers maintained the tasting room idea would be a boon to regulators.

“In its wisdom, the Colorado Legislature sought to close a significant gap in regulation,” said Chris Woods, the owner of cannabis retailer Terrapin Care Station, in a statement blasting the veto. “It’s unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators.”

Maybe HB 1258 could have given Colorado a sharper dividing line between licensed and unlicensed public cannabis consumption—fulfilling a consumer demand, while making enforcement easier for the state. However, Gov. Hickenlooper didn’t see things that way. So for now, no marijuana tasting rooms in the Centennial state.

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