A customer makes a late night purchase at Emerald Fields in Glendale, Colorado, which is open till midnight, April 29, 2015. Currently, shops in Denver are forced by the city to close by 7 p.m., but that may change soon. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

Midnight closing time for Denver pot shops? It’s on the table

Denver may be ready to match some neighboring cities’ late-night closing times for marijuana stores.

A first-stab proposal set to be considered in a City Council committee Monday would extend the cutoff for sales from 7 p.m. to midnight. That’s the latest closing time that both Edgewater and Glendale allow for their pot shops.

Councilwoman Kendra Black says she is optimistic about the measure’s chances to get to the council floor, but it’s possible the members will settle on an earlier closing time. She chairs the marijuana special-issue committee that is set to consider her proposal.

“I do have support for extending the hours, and we have some who are in favor of 12 a.m.,” Black said. “I have others who are in favor of a time earlier than 12. … If we end up at an earlier time, then so be it.”

Aurora and Commerce City are among cities that cut off sales at 10 p.m. State law sets the bounds for business hours at 8 a.m. to midnight, allowing cities and counties that permit marijuana sales to set more restrictive hours.

With 216 storefronts selling recreational or medical marijuana or both, Denver is the state’s largest market. The city accounted for 38 percent of legal marijuana sales in Colorado last year, though its share has declined as stores have opened in other cities and counties.

Dispensary owners long have argued that Denver’s earlier sales cutoff puts them at a competitive disadvantage in the metro area.

The council first reopened the store hours issue Jan. 9, when store owners and industry representatives pressed their case. They cited the likelihood of business lost across city lines and the inconvenience for customers who can’t easily get to a store by 7 p.m.

“Our hope is that we can get to midnight, because that would make it a level playing field with many of the other businesses that we coexist with,” said Kristi Kelly, the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group.

But the idea has faced push-back from Smart Colorado, a group that advocates for protections from marijuana for children. And some neighborhood advocates have raised safety concerns, which Kelly says she hopes to rebut Monday.

Black says Monday’s hearing will include a city attorney’s overview of past discussions about store hours, a presentation by Kelly’s group and a chance for public testimony. The meeting is set to start at 3 p.m. in the council’s third-floor committee room in the City and County Building.

“I hope to move it out of committee. It might happen, and it might not happen,” Black said, if her colleagues decide the issue needs more discussion.

Last year, Colorado’s combined legal retail and medical marijuana sales eclipsed $1.3 billion, with slightly more than $500 million of that in Denver.

Those sales generated $28.3 million in city sales tax proceeds, up 25 percent over 2015. The city also received $4.4 million from a share-back of the state’s 10 percent special retail marijuana tax.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com