The Mutiny Information Café in the Baker neighborhood of Denver has got something for everyone. It’s part bookstore and part record shop. They serve coffee and tea and cookies. It’s an office for many, a concert and comedy venue for others. It’s a hub for Denver’s creative community and a rather funky little spot in a time when little funky spots are tough to come by. But you can’t smoke pot there—or vape or dab—and that’s a shame.
The romanticized version of a “coffee shop” where joints and hash can be freely bought and consumed while enjoying other amenities is not likely to be found in Denver anytime soon. The Amsterdam model won’t come to fruition without major jockeying at the State Capitol and a willingness to embrace cannabis tourism as part of the new Colorado economy. That’s not happening right now.
For any real change to occur it will take front line maneuvers and activism. Viral videos and Facebook crusades aren’t going to move the needle on the subject of personal freedom or get the government to stand down from their soapbox. No good movement ever got started without baby steps and growing pains.
It just so happens that the same movers and shakers behind Amendment 64 have been moving and shaking with a new agenda for some time now. The Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program (NSCCPP) began not quite in earnest last year as a withdrawn ballot measure to allow for social use of cannabis similar to that of alcohol. NSCCPP addresses a critical component that was missing from the framework of last years’ Campaign for Limited Social Cannabis Use. Previously, the neighborhoods and communities in which these new types of permits would operate did not have a say in the matter.
Evidence of community support by eligible neighborhood organizations is required as part of NSCCPP’s qualification for licensure. The provision allows for registered neighborhood organizations, business improvement districts and other approved associations to protect the safety and health of their communities while respecting the cannabis consumer’s rights and interests. Documented community support may include additional requirements or restrictions on the businesses looking for this type of permit.
To be placed onto the November 8th ballot this year—4,726 signatures were required to validate an initiative. NSCCPP recently turned in over 11,000 names helping to dispel the lazy stoner myth still being paraded around by D.A.R.E officers and passed off as truth by opposition groups. On September 1, 2016 the initiative made the ballot as Initiative 300 and will be soon be voted on by Denver residents. The day when cannabis use is regarded with a similar nonchalance as alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals is approaching at a tortoises’ pace but at least Denver is at the heart of the discussion.
Emmett Reistroffer and Kayvan Khalatbari collecting signatures.
By establishing regulations and in requiring businesses to engage their community and address concerns by speaking with stakeholders, these areas should be able to open without issue. Ultimately Denver’s Director of Excise and License will make the final determination after receiving a community-supported application.
“We want neighborhoods to feel empowered and be part of the planning process for these permits. We want to address the needs and desires of cannabis consumers by providing safe locations for social use, but we also want to balance their needs with the needs and desires of the community as a whole. We expect the best outcomes possible by encouraging collaboration between neighbors and businesses, addressing concerns before consumption areas are approved, and hopefully preventing backlash or problems that could occur later.”
Explained Emmett Reistroffer, the campaign’s Director.
The Colorado Clean Indoor Air act makes it tricky to smoke flower inside any business and new permit holders will still need to comply. Thoughts of ripping a bong while ordering a shot at the bar should be left at home. Cannabis consumption is also prohibited in any licensed dispensary or retail shop by state law. Areas of consumption cannot be visible to the public and will only be open to those 21 and over. No business types or licensees will be excluded from applying for a permit to allow cannabis consumption in designated areas.
Cannabis users by and large are respectful of where they enjoy their herb. They’ve been relegated to the alleys and parking lots for too long. Upon returning from a puff it’s undignified to be looked at with reproach by Martini Mike and his Xanax Queen but that’s who this world is built for. NSCCPP aims to change that.
“Cannabis consumers largely remain stigmatized and forced underground. Cannabis is over-taxed, our stores are forced to close at unreasonably early hours AND we lack any safe places to go to consume safely and socially,”
“We need permitted consumption areas where adults can socialize and enjoy cannabis at the same time. Tourists lack access to consumption areas but our own local residents do as well. Many Denver residents live in public housing or have landlords who prohibit consumption on their property, giving them little to no option to use cannabis if they would like.”
Support for NSCCPP is coming not just from inside the cannabis industry. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, music rooms and comedy clubs are all in agreement that cannabis consumption has a place in their establishments. Just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it will become a reality. The voters will still need to support this issue on Election Day.
Mail in voting begins on October 24th so any address changes need to be made by then for those who prefer to avoid the crowds at the polls.
“We have so much more to change and I hope this leads to more campaigns in the future. I would eventually like to see cannabis regulated like alcohol and sold through the typical pub model, where it can be sold AND consumed at the same location. We need to change state law and we need to be prepared to fight back when opponents try to push back our progress. Regardless if the NSCCPP passes in November, we are going to have to be prepared to talk to state lawmakers about this issue.”
The next scheduled fundraising event for the Yes on 300 campaign is Thursday September 22. Check the Yes on 300: Denver Social Cannabis Use Facebook page for more details.