Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jun 2016
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press


DENVER (AP) - Legal marijuana is giving Colorado a stinky conundrum. 
Visitors can buy the drug, but they can't use it in public. Or in a 
rental car. Or in most hotel rooms.

The result is something marijuana advocates and opponents feared - 
people toking up on sidewalks, in city parks and in alleys behind 
bars and restaurants - despite laws against doing so. And they're 
getting dinged with public marijuana consumption tickets.

 From the capital city of Denver to mountain resorts like Aspen and 
Breckenridge, police wrote nearly 800 citations for the new crime of 
public consumption in 2014, the first year recreational sales began.

Some legalization advocates believe they have a solution - pot clubs. 
Denver voters may consider a ballot measure this fall to make the 
city the most populous place in the nation to expressly allow pot clubs.

"People need a place to go," said Teresa Wright of the Denver suburb 
of Lafayette. Ms. Wright was volunteering in Denver recently to 
gather signatures to ask voters this fall about allowing private pot 
clubs in the city.

"You can go out anywhere and see people using alcohol. To socialize, 
to relax. But not marijuana," she said. "We deserve to have a place. 
It's a legal activity."

But marijuana clubs have proven a harder sell here than legalizing 
the drug in the first place.

The amendment that legalized marijuana doesn't give people the right 
to use it "openly or publicly," a nod to critics who said 
legalization would lead to an explosion of Amsterdam-style clubs. But 
Colorado's Constitution doesn't ban public use, either, leading to a 
confusing patchwork of local policies on weed clubs.

Denver and Colorado Springs have existing pot clubs, but the clubs 
operate somewhat underground with occasional police busts.

The small northern Colorado town of Nederland regulates a club that 
advertises, "out of state, out of country, and of course locals are 
welcome." In southern Colorado, Pueblo County allows clubs but has none.

Things get even more complicated in the Denver suburb of Englewood, 
where city council members apparently were taken by surprise that the 
city had licensed a pot club. They then voted 7-0 this month to allow 
no more clubs.

No other states with legal recreational pot have licensed clubs, 
either. Alaska's Marijuana Control Board voted last year to repeal an 
explicit ban on social marijuana clubs, but the state hasn't yet 
finished work on the potential to allow for people to use pot at 
certain stores that sell marijuana.

Concerns about pot clubs mirror worries about legalizing the drug. 
Law enforcement officials have said the clubs could lead to more 
impaired driving, though there's no evidence that existing 
underground clubs have been linked to traffic accidents or crime.

"There's no good regulatory model for what these clubs should look 
like," said Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer.

The Democrat planned to propose some sort of pot club bill during the 
recent legislative session, but gave up after law enforcement, the 
pot industry, state regulators and even bars and restaurants couldn't 
agree on how it should work.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom