Pot shoppers make a late night purchase at Emerald Fields in Glendale, which is open till midnight, April 29, 2015. Shops in Denver are forced by the city to close by 7 p.m., and it's become an issue with pot shop owners within Denver city limits. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

Keeping an open mind: Lots of reasons for Denver pot shops to have later hours

We get it that since Colorado voters legalized recreational sales of cannabis, Denver city officials have tried carefully to balance a desire to allow the businesses and also protect the civic reputation. Should the experiment not have gone well, the state’s capital city could have lost business and clout.

But now the city enters its fourth year of legal marijuana sales, a period marked by a successful roll-out and maturation that hasn’t proved harmful to its reputation. Rather, Denver is thriving.

So we’re pleased to see that there is building, though lethargic, support among city council members for extending hours for Denver’s cannabis industry, which has comported itself well, and which has clear, demonstrable support from those who live here.

Presently, the city continues to follow an outdated policy of requiring cannabis retailers to shut their doors by 7 p.m. The stop time is a holdover from when state law required medical marijuana dispensaries to shut down. But state law has for some time now allowed recreational and also medical sellers to remain open to midnight.

Now, set aside our caution and caveats, and consider what would happen if city officials told any business in Denver that catered to adults looking to recreate they must close up by 7 p.m.

Imagine the outcry. Imagine the derision, and all of it well-placed. Why, for a big chunk of the year, the sun’s not even close to setting. And during months bright and dark many hard-charging Denverites haven’t even left the office.

Meanwhile, the cities that ring Colorado’s capital let the shops stay open, some as late as midnight. No doubt, those shops are pulling from money Denver shops could be making.

As The Denver Post’s Jon Murray reported recently, most of the members of Denver’s City Council who make up a marijuana special-issue committee voiced receptiveness to the idea of extending hours following a presentation from industry advocates. A few remain skeptical and there is some entrenched opposition. But even among those who support the change, Murray reports, the expectation is that change isn’t coming for weeks or months.

And there is clear opposition, especially from Councilman Chris Herndon, who said of extending hours: “I’m trying to understand a compelling reason, because I have not heard from anybody who has said, ‘Hey, we need longer hours’ that are not part of the industry.”

Well. Why isn’t the industry to be considered? Cannabis businesses have created good jobs, invested millions of dollars in order to meet onerous regulations, and regularly pay high taxes and licensing fees that contributed $30 million to city coffers in 2015.

Also, we would expect that if the councilman visited a pot shop in Edgewater or Glendale after 7 p.m., he would find quite a few Denver residents among the clientele.

And as Councilman Paul Kashmann noted, “Some flexibility in hours might be easier for the average work person.”

Another consideration ought to be Denver’s known rush-hour problem. Why add to the six-o’clock traffic?

It’s time to be adults and let the cannabis industry live by rules more like liquor stores. Let the pot shops stay open late, too.

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com