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Foes of Denver Marijuana Lounges Roll Out Opposition Strategy

Chris Roberts

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No sooner had Denver become the first city in the country to allow adult-use marijuana consumption at bars, cafes and restaurants than foes began concocting ways to undermine it.

Fifty-four percent of Denver voters supported Initiative 300 on Election Day last week. Businesses can now pursue a special license to allow on-site cannabis consumption, subject to some strict rules as well as buy-in from the local merchants’ association.

Whichever business is the first to win a permit would become the first public place in America where cannabis use is strictly allowed that is not also a marijuana dispensary. Most legalization measures across the country include outright bans on public consumption, with violators subject to a fine. To date, the only dispensaries that have on-site consumption permits are in San Francisco.

In Denver, smoking will only be allowed on an outdoors patio or rooftop, with the only allowable indoors cannabis consumption via vaporizers. There’s no consumption allowed at all between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., when bars are closed—meaning, except for cigarette smokers’ ability to smoke outside, cannabis users now enjoy some of the same rights as tobacco users.

Sounds reasonable enough, giving cannabis consumers a place to congregate aside from their apartments, party buses and special events, or huddling furtively on street corners or in parks.

Right on cue, just a day after Initiative 300 won over voters, its opponents outlined a list of grievances that are also a strategy to defeat it in the streets.

Rachel O’Bryan was campaign manager for “Protect Denver’s Atmosphere,” Initiative 300’s main opposition. In an interview with Westword, Denver’s storied alt-weekly, she outlined problems with the measure that will surely pop up later—including “venting the [outside] air for odor,” and figuring out how to remove the vapor from vaporizers, which “settles on surfaces.”

Here’s a partial quote from her interview:

[W]hen you’re outside, how do you vent the air for odor? I don’t know how they’ll be able to control for that. And indoors, we’re only beginning to understand that vapors, while different from smoke, may have health concerns as well. We’re learning that vapor settles on surfaces, so you have pollutant issues on surfaces, and we believe there may be other risks involved…”

She has a point—to a degree. As anyone who has lived next to a dairy farm or has gotten stuck in traffic behind a diesel-powered truck knows, it’s awfully hard to vent the atmosphere—as in the great outdoors, all of it—for odor and pollutants. If any non-evil Hank Scorpio-type figures out how, please let us know so we can start with venting the air near our coal-fired power plants.

As for vapor settling on surfaces… that’s probably also scientifically accurate. Cannabis vaporizers heat flower or oil just hot enough to vaporize—hence the word—the active cannabinoids. Like the clouds of bubblegum-flavored vapor puffing from the mouth of the tobacco-oil vaper in your life, that vapor has to go somewhere—but we have never heard of residual anything sticking to the walls, carpet or curtains near a Volcano vape.

O’Bryan also voiced concern over bartenders being able to determine whether a patron consuming both cannabis and alcohol is too far gone for his or her own good, as well as lounge owners figuring out if a weed consumer eating edibles is too stoned.

Reason picked apart these arguments in a blog post on Thursday, and suffice to say, we have no idea what she’s talking about either. But that doesn’t matter. All O’Bryan needs is a few merchants convinced that these arguments hold water. 

If enough neighbors of a would-be marijuana-smoking zone buy in, the would-be lounge act would be canceled before it can be booked.

O’Bryan says she’s also planning to pressure the Denver City Council to require businesses to post signs advising that marijuana is consumed on-site to steer leery would-be patrons away. Considering that medical and recreational marijuana sales in Colorado just wrapped up a third-straight month of record business, that is going to require a lot of signs.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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