Joints are prepped at the High Times Cannabis Cup at the Denver Mart on April 19, 2015. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Englewood wants more time to think about permits for cannabis clubs

New council will likely vote soon on six-month moratorium on any new social cannabis clubs

ENGLEWOOD — Air quality, employee and customer sobriety, and impact on neighbors all came up as issues that need to be addressed before this city would consider issuing licenses to establishments that allow marijuana consumption.

The Englewood City Council addressed the topic of social cannabis clubs Monday evening in its final meeting before Tuesday’s election, in which several seats are on the ballot. The council decided it needs more time to draft a final ordinance.

The new council will likely vote in the coming weeks on a new six-month moratorium on new pot smoking lounges while it wrestles with questions that have yet to be answered in Colorado’s Wild West marijuana landscape: How do people legally consume pot that was legally purchased, given Amendment 64’s prohibition on public consumption of marijuana?

Englewood’s current moratorium on new smoking lounges is set to expire in January.

Councilman Steven Yates said he worries about how businesses would gauge when someone has had too much to smoke.

“How do you cut someone off?” he asked.

Yates said he visited iBake Englewood, the city’s only cannabis consumption lounge that opened on Broadway in June before the city put in place its moratorium, and came out with too much of a good thing.

“I did walk out of there with a buzz,” Yates said.

He said he wondered what kind of air-filtration system the city would need to require so that the odor and potential effects of marijuana on nonsmokers and employees are mitigated.

Peter Bialick, president of Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution Colorado, or GASP, penned a letter to Englewood Mayor Randy Penn ahead of Monday’s meeting advising the city not to pursue a licensing system for social cannabis clubs.

He said marijuana smoke contains some of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, and it’s not clear how effectively air-filtration technology will remove those hazards.

“We’re not only concerned about the public, but we’re concerned about the people who work in these places,” Bialick said.

Emmett Reistroffer, a member of the Englewood Liquor and Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority, said one idea is to limit the amount of pot a customer could bring into a smoking lounge.

The city, he said, could use its zoning power to encourage smoking lounges to open near light-rail stops and along bus lines to deter customers from driving to and from a lounge.

Councilwoman Jill Wilson backed a moratorium to spare Englewood from being “the first out of the stable and learning the hard way” on the licensing issue.

There are only a handful of smoking lounges in the state besides Englewood’s — one in Nederland, one in Colorado Springs and one in unincorporated Adams County.

Stephanie Carlile, Englewood’s deputy city clerk, said the topic is increasingly getting the attention of other communities — including Denver — as pot users encounter formidable hurdles to legal consumption.

John Aguilar: 303-954-1695, jaguilar@denverpost.com or @abuvthefold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com