Justin Jones, far right, takes a hit amid onlookers (L-R) C.J. Fuchs, Dwayne Red Mendoza and Norm Hartman at the iBake pot club in Englewood in July 2015. iBake is one of a small handful of marijuana smoking lounges in the metro area. (Denver Post file)

Cannabis clubs: This city could set course for Colorado

Englewood liquor licensing authority floats proposed ordinance allowing social pot use at cannabis clubs

ENGLEWOOD — Yet another effort to navigate the state’s prohibition on public consumption of marijuana is shaping up — this time in Englewood.

On Wednesday, the Englewood Liquor and Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority unveiled a draft ordinance that lays down guidelines for — and places limits on — potential “marijuana consumption establishments” in the city.

The measure, still in preliminary form, would set a minimum age of 21 to enter a pot consumption establishment and mandate a strict level of air filtration inside that business to keep a lid on odor complaints.

Emmett Reistroffer, a member of the city’s licensing authority, said there may be additional stipulations to come, including a cap on the number of such businesses in the city and a requirement that staffers working there remain sober.

“The goal is to make sure it is a safe environment and a supervised environment,” Reistroffer said. “It would help make sure that marijuana consumption is not done in parks or on the street.”

The ordinance is scheduled to go before City Council as part of a study session on Nov. 2 and could be up for a final vote by the end of the year or early next year.

Englewood’s move is the latest push by a Colorado community to address one of the most confounding conflicts inherent in the state’s 2012 pot-legalization statute: Marijuana can be legally purchased, but use of the drug in public is not permitted.

Just last month, activists behind a proposed Denver ballot initiative to allow some marijuana use in bars and other businesses pulled the measure. Instead, they decided to work with city officials and the state restaurant and lodging associations on an ordinance that could go before the Denver City Council within the next year.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, who helped spearhead the Denver initiative effort, said Englewood’s measure could become a statewide model depending on how it is drafted.

“This is what we’d like to see — our localities creating rules whereby adults can consume marijuana socially,” Tvert said.

The issue of cannabis clubs is not new to Englewood, which permits medical marijuana sales but not recreational sales. Earlier this year, the city enacted a moratorium on smoking lounges but not before iBake Englewood swung open its doors for business at 3995 S. Broadway.

iBake co-owner Marty Fuchs said there have been no problems with his membership cannabis club since it opened in June. It is one of a handful of cannabis smoking clubs in the state.

“We set a high standard here,” he said. “There’s never been an odor issue since we opened. And this is the place where people can go to relax and not be in the street, not be in the park, not be in their car.”

Fuchs said apartment dwellers, who are prohibited from smoking pot in their buildings, can find a place to do so at iBake. Just three weeks ago, two men from Pakistan visited his business to experience legal pot for the first time. They had nowhere else to consume their purchase legally, Fuchs said.

Members of the licensing authority on Wednesday asked a deputy city attorney about the potential locations of cannabis clubs in Englewood, and whether they should be restricted to noncommercial areas.

They also asked about the vigilance that businesses would use to guard against illegal sales of pot or use of alcohol on site.

Councilman Rick Gillit said he represents a district in the city that is heavily against any kind of marijuana use in Englewood. He’s leery of his city being a test case for social marijuana consumption.

“There are a lot of things to look at,” he said.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com