Surrounded by curious onlookers, Norm Hartman exhales smoke after taking a hit from a bong on Friday, July 10, 2015. Ibake, a potclub, in Englewood, Colorado, hosts marijuana aficionados at an opening event on Friday, July 10, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Social pot use: Englewood council bans new cannabis clubs

The concept of a social space where like-minded marijuana enthusiasts can gather to eat, drink or smoke their weed took a hit Monday after leaders in Englewood voted to ban cannabis clubs.

The 7-0 vote by the Englewood City Council did not address the fate of the city’s only existing cannabis consumption operation on South Broadway — iBake — but made it clear that no other businesses like it will be allowed. The future of iBake may be addressed at the next council meeting in two weeks.

Emmett Reistroffer, a member of the Englewood Liquor and Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority, said he was disappointed by the ban. He was hoping that after iBake opened its doors on South Broadway a year ago, the city would use it as an example of how communities could address the long-standing conflict inherent in Colorado’s Amendment 64 — sales of pot are legal but the right to consume it publicly isn’t.

“It looks like tonight we are going in an extreme direction and taking the easy way out,” he said.

But Mayor Joe Jefferson said he didn’t want “Englewood to be the home for all these businesses going forward.” There were no other comments from council members Monday.

In 2015, Englewood had been on the vanguard of being one of the first communities in Colorado to permit consumption clubs and had considered putting in place a set of regulations to manage the still-nascent industry.

But over the last year, the city directly south of Denver went from considering issuing permits for such businesses to imposing a moratorium to Monday’s decision by the council to implement an outright ban.

The lack of state law on the issue of cannabis consumption clubs probably helped seal the industry’s fate in Englewood, which Reistroffer said didn’t want to be first to the table on the issue of legalized pot smoking lounges.

“I think Englewood has gotten more attention on this issue than the city would have liked,” he said.

Thurlow Weed, co-owner of iBake, said “the opposition came out stronger in the last few meetings with the city” and probably swayed thinking on the council.

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said other communities, such as Nederland and Pueblo, will probably push the issue forward. Eventually, he said, other cities and towns will be more welcoming to the concept as marijuana gains increasing social acceptance, displacing the “antiquated mind-set” that still surrounds the drug today.

“It is an issue where we see local governments evolving on it to meet the needs of the public,” Tvert said. “It’s only a matter of time before they come around or they are no longer in office and their successors take up the issue.”

Voters in Denver, Colorado’s most prolific recreational pot landscape with hundreds of shops selling cannabis, may get a measure to consider in November that would permit private, bring-your-own-cannabis clubs in the city.

The clubs would not be allowed to serve alcohol or food and would allow entry to people 21 or older. Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML, which is pushing the measure in Denver, said iBake in Englewood has trod a solid path. Just last week, Person brought a number of Denver political leaders to iBake to see how a fee-based membership model could work.

“They have done an incredible job of self-policing,” she said.

Person said she has a team of volunteers collecting signatures for the Denver measure. They need to collect 4,726 valid voter signatures by Aug. 15 to get the issue on the ballot.

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