Studio A64 volunteer worker Janine Choung smokes a joint with a customer, left, at the Colorado Springs members-only cannabis social club in August 2014. (Andy Cross, Denver Post file)

Private pot clubs sought in Denver group’s initiative

Denver pro-marijuana activists who hope to persuade city voters to legalize private pot clubs took the first step Monday by filing notice with the City Council.

But a council attorney says that to kick off a required review process, Denver NORML still must file a draft of its actual proposed ordinance language, rather than the single-page summary it provided that outlines the intended scope.

Ahead of the November election, the activist group has indicated it will pursue a narrow scope. Its proposed ballot measure would allow for the opening of private, bring-your-own-cannabis clubs that could not serve alcohol or food and would allow entry to people 21 or older, as some smaller towns in Colorado have allowed.

The initiative also would allow organizers of special events to seek a permit that allows consumption of marijuana on site.

That scope is more limited than the intent of a yanked initiative sought last year by other activists. Their proposal was to allow consumption of cannabis at bars and other businesses that opted in. But the group pulled the initiative just before qualifying for the ballot after city officials as well as hotel and restaurant industry groups agreed to discuss potential compromises.

Those talks have yet to yield a public proposal.

Since then, the recently formed affiliate of NORML, which stands for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has picked up the ball in an attempt to take the issue to voters soon.

“Denver residents and visitors alike need places other than private homes to legally and responsibly enjoy legal marijuana with other adults,” Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML, said in a news release Monday. “… What can’t continue is the current situation that leaves so many people frustrated, angry and tempted to violate the law so they can enjoy a legal product.”

David Broadwell, an assistant city attorney, said he would start reviewing the proposal once he receives ordinance language. That includes asking legal questions and making suggestions before organizers finalize the proposal, file it with the Denver Elections Division and begin collecting nearly 5,000 petition signatures.

“We’re waiting to see the text, but it does appear to be narrower than the proposal we reviewed last summer,” Broadwell said.

At the state Capitol, state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, is preparing a bill that would tackle the issue statewide from a different angle. It would allow recreational stores to create a separate tasting room of sorts where customers could consume products purchased on site.

Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, or @JonMurray

Summary released by the Committee for the Denver Responsible Use Initiative

The Denver Responsible Use Initiative will legalize venues known as “Private Marijuana Social Clubs,” and establish a permitting process for special events where marijuana may be lawfully consumed by adults 21 years and older.

The City shall establish regulations and licensure to safely and responsibly govern Private Marijuana Social Clubs, which shall not distribute marijuana, and shall not be a licensed alcohol premises or retail food establishment. (Den. Ord. Ch. 23, Art. III)

Private Marijuana Social Clubs shall follow certain distance requirements, in that they shall be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, drug rehab centers, and daycare facilities.

Fees for licensing Private Marijuana Social Clubs shall not exceed similar fees for Denver businesses that are not licensed alcohol premises or licensed retail food establishments. There shall not be an arbitrary limit on the number of Private Marijuana Social Clubs per council district.

This initiative shall also establish a permitting process for a “Special Event — Marijuana Permitted” where legal products including marijuana may be lawfully consumed by adults 21 and older. The regulations governing these permits shall be no more restrictive than current ordinances which allow for the issuance of special event permits, and permit fees and other legal requirements shall be similar to those for other special events.

This initiative shall not allow for the open and public consumption of marijuana at Private Marijuana Social Clubs or at Special Events — Marijuana Permitted in places which are viewable from public sidewalks, streets, alleys, or parks.

The City shall have no more than 126 days (18 weeks) after passage of this initiative to enact regulations and licensure for Marijuana Social Clubs, and to enact a permitting process for a Special Event Permit-Marijuana Permitted.

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