Initiative 300: Not-So-Public Consumption in Colorado

By Manny C.
Written by Amanda Coleman


Summer is here! And that means that Denver county’s Initiative 300 for public consumption is ramping up. I300 was a ballot initiative passed by the voters of Denver county so that businesses can apply for a permit to allow cannabis consumption in their shops. This was massive news for the business owners of the county, as well as medical patients and cannabis consumers. Social use opens the doors to not only the current cannabis consumer/business market, but to entire new social aspect for cannabis consumers. Permits are expected to start being issued any moment, but the excitement has given way to apprehension once again as push back begins against the pilot program. Despite the original ballot presented to voters which made this attainable for all businesses and events within certain requirements (zoning, age verification, odor control, advertising, etc), the current bars and venues in Denver county have been denied out right in participating. This conflict has its roots deep in fears poly-consumption. Poly-consuming is the use of two or more substances, in this particular case cannabis and alcohol.

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After I300 was passed by the voters, revisions began to exclude any business or event that simultaneously holds a liquor license. This means that concerts, bars, restaurants and events where public consumption happens the most, and does so dangerously in dark alleys, parking garages, and around those who don’t want to consume are put in the crosshairs and left without safe, respectable options to accommodate legal consumers and patients in attendance. While there is less research about the effects of cannabis and alcohol combined, the thought here is that someone who is poly-consuming and has a negative reaction is in more danger by being forced away from a safe, public consumption venue where they would otherwise have access to help. This prohibition is applied to these venues and owners even if consumption is separated (for example a bar downstairs and a rooftop garden for cannabis consumption) or if liquor is not being served during the hours of cannabis consumption (if a restaurant stopped serving alcohol after 9pm and only allowed cannabis consumption for a once weekly event, for example).

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Many other challenges are facing the initiative as well, including excessively restricting regulations centered around visibility, odor control, and zoning (including proximity). While most bars or establishments with adult only activities must be at least five hundred feet away from schools, places where children congregate, and certain treatment facilities, opponents of I300 initially demanded that the distance be increased to one thousand feet exclusively for permit holders, including businesses that are already established and otherwise meet the required conditions.  The campaign director of Yes on 300, Emmett Reistroffer spoke directly to supporters through the campaigns site, stating that “Entrepreneurs will not spend thousands of dollars on clean-air systems, walled patios and security measures, among other potential expenses, when the potential for profit is questionable: ‘For what, to sell a cup of coffee?’”. 

As the time draws near for social use permits to start hitting the streets of Denver County many are anxiously awaiting the results of this pilot programs first year, and we are all holding our breath and waiting to see what happens in this battle to unite consumers and bring a new social aspect to cannabis consumption.

Do you support limited social use for your area?


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About the author: Manny C.

Cannabis Activist, industry blogger, and founding member of Illinois Citizens Responsible Regulation.