Owner Jim Norris works behind the coffee counter at Mutiny Information Cafe on December 2, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Along with co-owner Matt Megyesi, Norris is hoping to license his storefront as one of the nation’s first legal marijuana clubs.(Anya Semenoff, Special to The Denver Post)

Denver businesses can now apply for social marijuana use licenses

Denver’s voter-authorized program to allow social marijuana use at some businesses is ready for launch, city officials said Thursday as they announced they were ready to accept applications.

But the initial batch of license requests for the first-of-its-kind program may not come in immediately, given the extensive process required to prepare an application.

And the lead proponents of Initiative 300, which Denver voters passed last November, are still considering whether to sue over rules that they say impose too many hassles and make too many locations ineligible because they are within 1,000 feet of schools, alcohol and drug treatment centers, and child-care facilities.

In an email Thursday to other members of a wide-ranging advisory committee that helped suggest rules, Emmett Reistroffer, the I-300 campaign manager, suggested the four-year pilot envisioned by the ballot measure “is set up to fail.”

But Denver Department of Excise and Licenses officials dispute that claim and say they’re now ready to begin accepting cannabis consumption establishment licenses.

Next month, the department plans to begin accepting applications for a second license type that applies to special events, which would not be allowed to be hosted on public property.

Businesses that want to provide set-off, 21-and-over areas for bring-your-own marijuana consumption have to jump through several hoops before applying. Those include obtaining backing from a nearby neighborhood or business group, making sure the site isn’t within 1,000 feet of restricted sites, putting together extensive supporting documents and plans, and paying the $1,000 application fee.

Licensing department spokesman Dan Rowland said several prospective applicants have been in contact about their plans, including representatives of the Strainwise and LivWell Enlightened Health chains of marijuana shops. Under state law, dispensaries can’t allow consumption on site, but their owners could open up separate businesses as close as next door.

Another business that has expressed interest in a license is Mutiny Information Cafe on South Broadway.

Because of state-imposed restrictions on businesses with liquor licenses, it’s more likely that coffee shops and even yoga studios would seek licenses for consumption areas. Some business owners also have floated event ideas.

“Since final adoption of the rules, our team has been diligently working on the technology, applications and business processes for these new licenses,” Ashley Kilroy, the city’s licensing director, said in a bulletin Thursday. “We are glad to have these up and running and look forward to hearing from interested businesses.”

Op-Ed by I-300 proponents Kayvan Khalatbari and Emmett Reistroffer: Colorado illustrates how special interests and establishment politics threaten cannabis industry

Reistroffer said in an interview that wide-open areas where licenses would be allowed under the restrictions include “basically the airport and parts of Montbello and Green Valley Ranch,” as well as along Interstate 70 and in “the neighborhoods where there’s been issues with cannabis (business) concentration in the past, like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea.”

“Really, the rest of the city is off-limits,” he added, “except for those industrial areas along I-25 and the South Platte River as it goes through the city.”

Based on his group’s early analysis, however, he said limited stretches of Colfax Avenue and Broadway appeared to be clear of overlaps with 1,000-foot buffers from schools and other restricted places.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com