Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jul 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Jon Murray


Dueling Petitions Would Allow for Social Use of Pot

Denver voters could have their pick in November between two 
initiatives aimed at allowing social use of marijuana in different places.

One group has been gathering signatures for an initiative that would 
allow private marijuana consumption clubs. The other has a more 
expansive aim: to allow nearly any business, including a bar, to 
offer a set-off, 21-and-over public "consumption area," so long as 
the owner obtains a neighborhood group's support first.

For its private clubs initiative, the Denver chapter of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has a two-month 
head start on its ballot petition. The other group of activists - 
including some who pulled a social-use initiative last year - 
initiated the process Tuesday by meeting with an assistant city 
attorney and the City Council's director for input on its proposed language.

That group, which includes the Marijuana Policy Project, law firm 
Vicente Sederberg and business owners, says it has tweaked its 
approach as a result of meetings with city officials, following its 
withdrawal of last year's initiative, as well as consideration of 
recent neighborhood push-back against the marijuana industry.

The consumption areas would be allowed for four years, unless the 
council tweaks the approach or makes it permanent by the end of 2020. 
The proposal is titled "The Neighborhood Approved Cannabis 
Consumption Pilot Program."

Primary sponsor Kayvan Khalatbari, a marijuana business owner and 
consultant, says the group is aiming to persuade Denver NORML to drop 
its private clubs initiative. That is in part because he sees private 
clubs as further segregating marijuana use rather than integrating it 
into society.

Jordan Person, the NORML chapter's executive director, says that 
won't happen. The group's all-volunteer petitioning force is about 
halfway toward its signature goal, she said.

"We have no reason to withdraw when we've made it so far," Person 
said. "That would be ridiculous."

To get on the ballot, it takes nearly 4,800 verified signatures from 
registered Denver voters.

Person sees private clubs as the approach that voters are more likely 
to support. She said the public-use aim of the competing group could 
run afoul of Colorado's Amendment 64, which legalized recreational 
marijuana sales and possession, and state law.

Khalatbari's group disagreed on that point Tuesday when challenged by 
assistant city attorney David Broadwell.

Afterward, he said that his group's proposal took into consideration 
neighborhood advocates' cries for more input on the direction of the 
marijuana industry and for less concentration of businesses serving 
marijuana customers. By allowing small consumption areas at more 
businesses instead of at a few dedicated private clubs, he said, the 
city would be respecting that wish.

"I just think it's more considerate of all the things we've learned 
in the cannabis industry here in the last six months or a year, with 
all the stakeholders and their input," Khalatbari said.

Its proposal says the required support for a consumption area permit 
could come from a local neighborhood group or business improvement 
district. Those would have the power to set conditions on how the 
area is operated by requesting a good-neighbor agreement.

Businesses would obtain permits annually for consumption areas or on 
a temporary basis.

Similar to NORML's proposed private clubs initiative, customers would 
need to bring their own marijuana products. Smoking wouldn't be 
allowed indoors, but vaping probably would be.

State law bars anyone holding a marijuana business license from 
allowing consumption on site, so the industry itself couldn't take advantage.

During Tuesday's meeting with the council staff, Khalatbari and 
attorneys Christian Sederberg and Josh Kappel faced questions on 
several fronts. Those included the potential that one recognized 
neighborhood group or business district could overrule another in 
areas with more than one group, and the unprecedented delegation of 
influence on a licensing decision to outside groups.

Backers of the competing ballot proposals disagree on what would 
happen if voters were to approve both. Person says each could take 
effect, while Khalatbari's group says only the one that receives more 
votes would take effect.

Khalatbari's group, which hopes to obtain certification from the 
Denver Elections Division in coming days, says it intends to begin 
collecting signatures as soon as this weekend.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom