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Activists who legalized pot via Amendment 64 are now pushing for a liberal consumption initiative in Denver that would allow indoor vaping and outdoor smoking at amenable bars, spaces
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The same activists who in 2012 successfully legalized the cultivation, sale and use of recreational marijuana in Colorado have started their next big initiative: the push to allow pot consumption in places now off-limits.
Activists want a measure on Denver’s November ballot that asks voters to OK allowing marijuana consumption in commercial establishments — including bars and clubs — that meet certain guidelines.
They hope to get the question approved by the clerk and recorder’s office and gather more than 4,700 signatures before summer’s end.
In order to get the proposal on the November 2015 ballot, Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said the petition would have to be “signed, sealed and delivered” by Sept. 3.
“We’re confident that voters will agree that adults should be able to use marijuana socially in private venues when around other adults,” backer Mason Tvert said prior to a meeting about the measure late Wednesday afternoon with a Denver assistant city attorney and others.
A ban on consumption in public has inspired public-versus-private debates that have led to the raids and closures of several cannabis clubs.
“Denver has been overly restrictive,” said fellow activist Brian Vicente. “We believe that’s unconstituional.”
Most noteworthy about the proposal by Tvert and Vicente is that it’s significantly more liberal and wide-reaching than previous ideas involving cannabis-only clubs floated by state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and others.
“We’re proposing a narrow exemption to Denver’s current ban on social cannabis use by adults,” said Tvert, the Denver-based communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It would simply allow adults 21 and older to consume marijuana in designated areas and venues where only adults are allowed. This is allowing adults to have the option to use marijuana in certain venues that choose to allow it.”
Instead of limiting marijuana use to cannabis clubs that would operate separately from bars serving alcohol — a model already in place in cities such as Toronto — this proposal would allow existing bars, clubs and venues to dedicate 21-and-older spaces to indoor vaporizing and outdoor, out-of-public-sight smoking, Tvert said.
The areas allotted for smoking would have to conform to the state ban on indoor smoking.
The activists said many of their proposed regulations would operate with the same regulations placed upon the consumption of alcohol, such as allowing underaged patrons in a concert venue that serves liquor under certain regulations.
In a Wednesday meeting with Broadwell, Vicente noted that tourists encounter great difficulties finding locations to consume marijuana once they have legally purchased the substance in the state.
“We want to get people off the streets, out of parks to be able to consume marijuana in a designated space,” Vicente said.

Suggested rules

In the proposal, titled “The Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative,” Tvert and Vicente, an attorney, spell out the suggested rules. Denver marijuana czar Ashley Kilroy said the city doesn’t regularly take a position on proposed ordinances but added that the issue of public consumption “has been on our agenda.”
“They raise the same types of questions we’ve been asking about this: Do the people of Denver want to consume marijuana in a commercial business? What issues would we be solving if we allowed this in some way? I think those questions have been out there, and we’ve been engaged in those conversations,” said Kilroy, Denver’s executive director of marijuana policy.
Vicente said Wednesday that their motivation for the proposal rested largely on the fact that “Denver was being inactive on the issue.”
Kilroy said she attends neighborhood meetings and other forums, where she has “heard comments that range the entire spectrum.”
Another question Kilroy has for the activists: Have they considered the conflicts with state laws?
The questions around state laws are contentious. Some in city government have said Colorado’s pot-legalizing Amendment 64 prohibits the public consumption of marijuana, but Tvert and his colleagues (who wrote the amendment) disagree.

Amendment 64

“As one of the people who conjured up Amendment 64 and was considered one of the two primary sponsors, I can attest to the fact that they’re wrong,” Tvert said. “Amendment 64 intentionally did not prohibit private businesses from allowing adults to responsibly consume marijuana on the premises. I don’t know where they would get that. (Amendment 64) said it would be illegal to consume openly and publicly, but it’s not open or public if it’s in a private business.”
Kilroy wasn’t prepared to comment on that point Wednesday.
“All of that gets into a lot of legal analysis, and I’m not ready to comment,” she said. “But there is that issue: If it is a private, commercial business that is open to the public, is it considered private?”
Kilroy deflected the question to Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell, who also had no comment on the issue of Amendment 64 prohibiting the public consumption of cannabis.
“They think there’s a need to do it, right? All we’re doing is making a technical review of their proposal,” he said.
Broadwell said he does wonder why proponents decided to word their proposal so broadly, rather than just allowing private cannabis clubs.
Tvert said the broad nature of the proposal is intentional.
“It’s really irrational to allow adults to consume this product but prohibit them from using it in private places that would allow it — especially with tourists,” Tvert said. “We allow adults to purchase limited amounts of marijuana, and they should be allowed to have a place where they can consume it legally.”

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