Denver NORML Vows to Legalize Social Pot Use

The question of whether to allow on-site pot consumption throughout the city of Denver has been the subject of controversial debate for the past year. So far, activists and local officials have not yet been able to find a common ground to put in front of voters. It is this indefinite stalling at the negotiation table that has promoted a newly organized chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to jump into the mix in an attempt to put the issue of social pot consumption—and possibly even cannabis cafes—on the ballot in 2016.

In the summer of last year, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the organization credited with the success of Colorado's Amendment 64, announced that they were putting together an initiative aimed at allowing pot to be smoked in designated areas of establishments where alcohol is served. It was called the “Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative,” and its intended purpose was to give bars and restaurants the freedom to designate a portion of their physical dwelling to those who wanted to partake in recreational marijuana. 

Unfortunately, while the initiative gained enough voter signatures to put the measure on the ballot in last November’s election, the MPP revealed in September that they were withdrawing the proposal in an effort to work with city officials and restaurant and lodging associations to craft a proposal that would be palatable for everyone involved. Their goal was to begin meeting with local lawmakers and those members of the business community concerned with the potential impact of social consumption in order to draft a more cautious measure to put in front of the voters later this year.

However, Denver’s brand-spanking new NORML chapter, headed up by executive director Jordan Person, worries that the search for middle ground on this issue will lead to nowhere, which is the reason the organization plans to make a leap over the bureaucratic jam-up to launch their own initiative.

“It is our goal to pick up where they left off,” Person said in a statement. “The primary difference is we are a consumer based organization so we are coming from the perspective of the consumer and not as industry business owners. We greatly appreciate the previous attempt to bring this issue to Denver voters, and we also understand the great need to work with a broad based coalition to get an initiative passed to allow social use.”

It is still too early to tell just how deep Denver NORML plans to go with a proposal to take legalization up a notch in Colorado’s largest city. The group’s website indicates that they have not yet begun drafting their initiative “to correct this gap” in the law, which was intended to regulated marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. There is speculation their proposal will mimic the philosophies of NORML founder Keith Stroup, who believes social pot use should come with the establishment of marijuana lounges.

Earlier this month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the Denver Post that he was now open to the concept of establishing cannabis cafes in an effort to control the issues associated with public consumption. Although he admits to not quite being ready to endorse a plan of this magnitude, he said it would be unfair to impose stricter smoking bans without offering recreational tokers a reasonable alternative.

"When you start looking at what the users are doing, whether they are visitors, walking up and down the mall and smoking in our parks, you recognize if someone doesn't have a residence here that they have got to have an outlet,” Hancock said. 

Denver NORML says that while they “want action to take place,” they are willing to work with the City of Denver to come up with the best possible solution. There is even a possibility the group will eventually team up with the Marijuana Policy Project to put forth a single initiative if the ongoing negotiations with city officials fail to produce satisfactory results. 

Mike Adams is a contributing writer for HIGH TIMES. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on

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