This election cycle was crazy; and I’m not even talking about Trump getting elected.
No, no, no; I’m talking about weed. It was a BIG year when it came to legalization. Five states voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21. California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada have jumped on the cannabis bandwagon, making Arizona the only state that failed to pass the recreational legalization vote. In addition to this, the four states considering legalizing medical use, North Dakota, Florida, Montana, and Arkansas, all passed with flying colors.
Yes, it is truly an exciting time for marijuana in America. But let’s not forget about those states that have had recreational marijuana for a while now. We’re still making history and finding time to explore the expansion of our marijuana laws.
Like here in Denver. This election cycle brought with it a new marijuana initiative that, just like always, thrilled many people while terrifying others. But the numbers are in and it looks like Initiative 300 has passed.
That means whether you like it or not, you could see a cannabis cafe pop up in your neighborhood as early as next year. Given that this new law is pretty historic, we thought it might be appropriate to go over exactly what Initiative 300 entails and what it means for Coloradans and tourists alike.
What is Initiative 300 Anyway?
Initiative 300 appeared on the ballot for all those living in Denver County. It will allow just about any business, from bars to yoga studios, to create a place inside their establishment where people can consume marijuana.
Here are a few requirements that need to be met:
- Businesses must obtain support from a single, local neighborhood group, such as a neighborhood association or business improvement council. The group providing its support will be able to lay out conditions that the businesses must follow in order to remain in compliance with the law.
- Patrons must bring their own marijuana.
- The designated consumption area cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school.
- Indoor consumption must comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, meaning any marijuana consumed indoors must be vaped or eaten.
- If the business wants to provide a place for people to smoke marijuana, it must be outside, out of public view, and located away from where children congregate.
Initiative 300 will be a four-year pilot program that expires on December 31st, 2020, or sooner if the City of Denver passes additional comprehensive regulations governing cannabis consumption.
Now that the measure has passed, Denver will need to establish a task force. This task force will work with several other government entities to flesh out the initiative’s details, create the permit program, and begin issuing licenses. “The Office of Marijuana Policy will work with appropriate city departments to lead rulemaking for the city,” said Dan Rowland, city spokesman.
While the task force will handle a lot of the dirty work, it will be up to the City Council to review the program in four years and decide whether it should be continued or not. It’s worth noting however that, if things don’t go well, the council could amend or repeal Initiative 300 as long as they get a two-thirds supermajority and six months have passed. “Per charter, the City Council has the authority to impose additional restrictions or make other substantive changes to the ordinance starting in May,” Rowland added.
So What’s the Big Deal with Having a Place to Legally Consume Cannabis?
A lot of people reading this are probably wondering why we even came up with Initiative 300. Despite cannabis being medically and recreationally legal here in Denver, what most people don’t know is that there is currently almost nowhere you can actually consume it legally. Although consumption is legal within your own private residence, less than half of Denver’s population actually owns their homes. This means that the majority of residents rent, and the vast majority of landlords do not allow cannabis consumption. Other people just want a place away from their home where they can go and enjoy a joint and a drink with their friends, just as cigarette smokers can do on the patio of a bar.
And then you have to consider the people who don’t live here. We had 77.7 million people visit our state last year. Some came for the weed and some didn’t, but those who did probably had a hard time finding a place to consume it, seeing as how it’s not allowed in public areas, parks, or in most hotels.
Those tourists spent $19.1 billion dollars while in Colorado and generated $1.13 billion in state and local taxes. And who knows? You could argue that those figures might have been a just little bit higher if visitors had a place they could legally consume cannabis.
So is the passing of Initiative 300 a big deal? Absolutely! It lets Denver residents and visitors set a precedent for the rest of the nation for responsible, neighborhood-supported, and environmentally-friendly cannabis consumption. This has huge implications across the nation.
A Matter of Opinion
There are people, not surprisingly, that think Initiative 300 passing will be nothing less than an absolute travesty. Rachel O’Bryan is campaign manager for Protect Denver’s Atmosphere, a group which has staunchly opposed Initiative 300 at every turn despite 300 being in accordance with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act and endorsed by the Democratic Party of Denver. She thinks that multiple businesses near residential and tourist areas will apply for licenses and negatively affect their neighbors. “Our belief is that this will not fix the problem in the city with open and public marijuana smoking. This will only spread it throughout the city because the businesses are anywhere. The rooftops could be in any neighborhood,” she stated in an interview.
Not only does this argument sound reminiscent of the anti-cannabis PSA in Massachusetts, it is easily broken down by the facts. This Initiative does not allow for public consumption; all cannabis consumption permitted by Initiative 300 will take place in private, designated areas that have been approved by the surrounding neighborhood. Also, it’s likely that this will actually greatly reduce the amount of public consumption in the city because people will finally have a legal area to consume.
Fortunately, there are people who are able to look at Initiative 300 more critically while applying common sense like Mike Eymer, who supported the ordinance with over $7,500 in donations. Eymer is the founder and CEO of Colorado Cannabis Tours, a company that takes customers on weed tours in private busses and limos.
Eymer thinks that Initiative 300 is another opportunity for Colorado to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with the ever growing competition around the country. “Denver would be sending the message that they want to continue to flourish. It would be arrogant to say that cannabis tourism has not benefited the economy as a whole,” Emyer argued. “These are very reasonable laws we’re talking about passing. We’re not talking about people smoking on the street,” he added passionately.
When it comes down to it, anything to do with marijuana is really a matter of opinion. There have long been people for and against cannabis use, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Anyone who’s ever used marijuana can tell you it’s harmless and anyone in their right mind can tell you it has massive potential to boost the American economy.
But for it to do that, we need to continue to move forward. We need to continue to push the boundaries and experiment with marijuana legislation. We need to adopt the mindset, not of being afraid to fail, but being afraid not to try. So in the name of progress, here’s to you Initiative 300. Cheers!
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to the “Yes on 300” team who worked tirelessly and selflessly to get this initiative passed. It has been a pleasure watching this unfold, and an honor to be a supporter!