Ban pot clubs :: Denver

Ban pot clubs :: Denver

Could Amendment 64 open the door to a parade of pot clubs in Colorado? Not if the will of Colorado voters is respected.

The legalization of recreational-marijuana in Colorado brought with it a whole host of policy questions. But one issue that doesn’t merit ongoing discussions is whether pot clubs are legal. Plain and simple: They’re not.

Amendment 64 enumerates four types of marijuana businesses, but a license for onsite consumption is not one of them. So it’s disturbing to see marijuana industry advocates stretch the language of Amendment 64 to try to open loopholes to subvert the will of Colorado voters in pursuit of new profit opportunities.
Amendment 64 specifically prohibits consumption of marijuana that “is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.” Creating “clubs” that are really just public establishments with cover charges is disingenuous, to say the least. Clearly this is not what the amendment specified, or what the voters thought they were supporting.

Amendment 64 allows for recreational pot shops to open, if allowed by local governments — but again, it does not allow for onsite consumption of marijuana. Several businesses that have tested this area since the law’s passage have already been stymied. Just last week, Denver police shut the doors on another pot club, this time operating out of an art gallery.

Public consumption of marijuana introduces myriad public health and safety issues, which are just too unwieldy and unpredictable to manage. To smoke pot in the privacy of your own home is one thing, but to encourage people to drive to a marijuana club, get high, and then get back out on our roads is quite another.

Unfortunately, there are some who see Amendment 64 as an opportunity to privatize the profits while socializing the costs. So we must ask ourselves: Do we really want pot clubs to be as common as coffee shops? (Medical-marijuana dispensaries already outnumber Starbucks in Denver.) If we let that happen, we will have co-opted the safety and health of Coloradans in the name of the marijuana industry and big business interests.

Fortunately, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has his priorities straight. In a recent Denver City Council meeting, he said Amendment 64 doesn’t allow pot clubs, and he will not support them. He went on to say his administration will not support public consumption of marijuana in the city’s streets, parks or “or anywhere else our population might be unwittingly exposed.”

Mayor Hancock said his primary concern is to keep the city’s “citizens safe and healthy and to protect our neighborhoods.”

“As a parent,” Hancock said, “I worry about how the increased presence of marijuana will affect our children and grandchildren.” He’s showing the kind of leadership that should serve as an example for other state and local officials.

The Colorado General Assembly is now deciding how to regulate the new recreational-marijuana market, and we should remind them that the public’s interests must come before those of the pot industry’s. We already have enough to figure out when it comes to recreational-marijuana oversight without worrying about the opportunistic businesses that want to flout the law by opening pot clubs.
Colorado’s safe and healthy communities help make our state a great place to live, work and raise a family. Littering Colorado with pot bars and mass commercialization of marijuana is not the way to maintain this positive reputation. We want to be known for our beautiful mountains and great skiing, not pot club culture.

Amendment 64 is now a reality in Colorado, and our top priority should be to implement it in the safest and most responsible way possible. That does not include pot clubs.

Gina Carbone is one of the founding members of Smart Colorado (SmartColorado.org). This column appeared in The Denver Post on April 21, 2013.

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