Will smoking pot at a bar soon be legal in Denver?

Lighting up a doobie on a bar’s enclosed patio? Enjoying a pot brownie at an art opening? It’s against the law now, but supporters of a Denver ballot measure to allow for “limited social use” are hoping Denver voters will approve it, come November.

The Campaign for Limited Social Use turned in more than 10,000 signatures Monday to the Denver Elections Division in support of just that.

Amendment 64, as well as a 2013 Denver ordinance, does not allow public consumption of marijuana. However, according to an opinion issued today by the Denver city attorney, neither law defines what public consumption is.

The ballot initiative asks Denver voters to allow consumption of marijuana under several guidelines. The first is that any business that is restricted to adults 21 and over and that has a license to sell alcohol for onsite consumption could decide whether to allow marijuana on the premises. Next, to keep the initiative in accordance with the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, smoking marijuana could take place only in existing designated smoking areas that are not viewable to the public. Marijuana edibles could be used indoors.

The businesses would not be allowed to sell marijuana. Any consumer that wanted to use it would have to bring it in.

Mason Tvert, who leads the campaign, told reporters Monday that out-of-state visitors to Colorado who buy marijuana are limited in where they can use it. Tvert said passing the initiative would take marijuana use out of back alleys and other places.

But the city of Denver believes the initiative would conflict with state law and hopes the General Assembly will take up the issue next year, should voters approve the ballot measure in November.

The city attorney’s opinion states the ordinance in Denver would create “a serious conflict with state law, and may prompt the General Assembly to address the subject of public consumption of marijuana on a statewide basis as early as the 2016 session.”

Bars and clubs designated as public places in both city and state law could allow smoking of marijuana in an outdoor area restricted for that use, but pot smoke could still be visible from surrounding buildings, the city opinion explains.

Tvert disagrees, claiming Denver’s ordinance is overly broad and in conflict with Amendment 64. “Property owners maintain the right to regulate marijuana consumption on their property,” he said Monday. And rather than go through a lengthy and costly lawsuit, they chose to approach the voters to change the city ordinance as it applies to public consumption.

“The initiative balances the interests of cannabis consumers with the rights of business owners to determine what kind of conduct may occur on their premises,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Sexy Pizza, Sexpot Comedy, and Denver Relief. “It will be up to each individual business owner to decide whether cannabis use will be allowed or prohibited. This is a very sensible approach, and it’s one that should be embraced by city officials and voters.”

Photo credit: Cannabis Culture, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. When we let people smoke marijuana at bars we’ll effectively give them the right to choose between consuming alcohol or consuming marijuana. And since alcohol is significantly more harmful and more addictive than marijuana, this will reduce the amount of alcohol that’s consumed and reduce the amount of alcohol-induced harm in society.

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