Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jun 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


A recent survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health and 
Environment found that 13.6 percent of Coloradans admitted to using 
marijuana in the last month, about twice the 7.4 percent of Americans 
who acknowledge using cannabis on national surveys.

As anyone who reads this column knows, I'm not a big fan of surveys. 
Yes, they do provide some kind of snapshot, but since cannabis is 
illegal for most Americans, just how honest do you think they are 
going to be on a survey? Since it's now legal in Colorado, more 
people are probably willing to admit that they use cannabis than 
might have a few years ago. So let's take all these data with a grain of hemp.

Still, that means there are more than 728,000 Coloradans, including 
more than half a million Denverites, not counting tourists, who use 
cannabis and a law that doesn't provide many places where those folks 
can legally consume a legal product in the presence of other people. 
Though the amendment was written and intended to treat marijuana like 
alcohol, there is no real provision for public consumption.

This was at least in part a sop to the prohibitionists to help pass 
64. But as a result, there are few places outside your own home where 
you can consume cannabis legally. Club Ned in Nederland allows you to 
buy a day pass to consume your own cannabis on the premises. A 
growing number of hotels and hostels around the state allow marijuana 
usage, but some chains actively discourage it. All of which means 
that while you can purchase marijuana just as you can alcohol, there 
aren't as many opportunities to use it.

What about a parent who wants to relax after work but doesn't want it 
in his home because of her children? Or someone who just wants a 
respite with his vaporizer and the chance to chat with another human? 
Or tourists who come to Colorado in part because of legalization and 
find themselves resigned to hiding in alleyways? It makes it appear 
that marijuana, which is still prohibited federally, is legal here - 
but just barely.

Though most municipalities are somewhat tolerant, in the first three 
quarters of 2014, Denver police issued 668 public consumption 
citations, a 470 percent increase from 117 in 2013. The few private 
clubs in the city seem in eternal conflict with the police and city 
officials. Arresting citizens for consumption of a legal product is a 
wasteful use of our legal system, especially since freeing up the 
courts was part of 64's intent.

According to the survey, 18.5 percent, or more than half a million 
people in Denver use marijuana. Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy 
Project and attorney Brian Vicente, two of the main authors of 
Amendment 64, are readying "The Limited Social Marijuana Consumption 
Initiative" for the fall ballot there.

Tvert and Vicente met last week with state officials, and at press 
time, the initiative wasn't quite finished, but Tvert calls it a 
narrow exemption to Denver's current ban. "Ultimately, it will allow 
the limited social use of marijuana by adults in private 
establishments that decide to allow it," he says. "The Clean Indoor 
Air Act will apply, so smoking would only be allowed in outside areas 
where smoking is allowed and which are not view able to the public."

Tvert said that people would be allowed to consume non-smokable forms 
of marijuana (including vaporizers and edibles) inside businesses 
accessible to people 21 and older. If the business is open to those 
under 21, consumption can only take place in areas only accessible to 
people 21 and older and which are not viewable to those under 21 or the public.

It is similar to the approach the city of Pueblo has taken. "Theirs 
allows for cannabis-specific clubs and requires that people be 
members, among other things," Tvert explained. "The Denver measure 
would allow for that type of club, but it is not limited to it 
because we did not want to take a 'separate but equal' approach. 
Thus, it allows for the consumption of marijuana in 
non-cannabis-specific businesses - bars, venues, galleries, etc."

It's an intriguing proposal, and we'll all be watching this one 
carefully as the election nears, especially since the survey says 
that 18.9 percent, or 58,000 Boulder County residents identify as 
cannabis users, all with the same problem.

"It's about high time we have an open and public conversation about 
what open and public means," said Rep. Jonathan Singer when asked 
about the initiative. "And that means making sure we have safe, 
successful places for people to consume marijuana so they're not 
breaking the law and consuming safely."

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom