Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Cannabis Cafés in Colorado?


The Denver Post worries that Colorado's Amendment 64, approved by voters last month, will be interpreted to allow Dutch-style "pot taverns." The editorial was provoked by a Post report that quoted comments by Rob Corry, a lawyer and activist, at a recent forum on implementation of the initiative:

Because the measure prohibits marijuana use only that is done "openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others," Corry said private businesses will be able to allow marijuana smoking on site.

"You can have an Amsterdam-style private coffee shop," Corry said at Tuesday's forum.

The Post editorial objects that the Yes on 64 campaign did not play up that prospect and that the initiative talks about "retail marijuana stores," not cannabis cafés. "It nowhere uses any term implying that consumption of marijuana on the premises of an establishment might be allowed—as, for example, the words 'bar' and 'tavern' imply regarding alcohol," the Post says. True, but unlike Washington's Initiative 502, Amendment 64 does not explicitly prohibit on-site consumption either. And while someone smoking pot at a table on a patio or next to a window (not an unusual sight in Amsterdam) might run afoul of the ban on "openly and publicly" consuming marijuana, someone invisible from the street might not, especially if he pays a membership fee for the privilege. "That is a possibility," Yes on 64 co-director Brian Vicente told me right after the election, adding: "We don't think the Department of Revenue [which is charged with regulating pot shops] initially will head down the road of allowing consumption in private clubs. Really this was drafted to allow retail stores and allow individuals to use marijuana privately in their homes."

Even if the law can be interpreted to allow cannabis clubs, the Post says, letting people smoke pot in such a social setting would be needlessly provocative:

As everyone knows, the big unknown in the future of the amendment is the attitude of the Justice Department —and the main hurdle in that regard is of course the amendment's vision of cultivation and retail facilities.

We're on record as urging the Justice Department to show restraint and allow Colorado to proceed with implementing the amendment over the coming year.

But we also believe it would be both foolish and reckless to give the department yet one more excuse for intervention by talking about possible consumption in coffee houses—particularly when no such scenario was suggested by advocates of the amendment during the recent campaign.

Perhaps a few marijuana activists have forgotten what actually happened on Nov. 6. They won, and they should concentrate on preserving their victory, not jeopardizing it with reckless talk of public consumption.

Unlike the Post's editors, I view "pot taverns" as a positive development, not just because consumers want them but because they help create a culture of responsible, socially integrated use. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see whether Colorado's relatively liberal approach to legalization—which, as Corry noted, includes home cultivation and noncommercial distribution as well as the possibility of cannabis cafés—does in fact generate more complaints and invite more federal interference than Washington's relatively buttoned-down system. These differences will help inform the unfolding debate about the risks and benefits of experimenting with pharmacological freedom.  

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

NEXT: Today's Crappy Drug War Headline Is Brought to You by The Huffington Post

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  1. …Corry said private businesses will be able to allow marijuana smoking on site.

    Seems like wishful thinking indeed.

  2. Remember, if you actually exercise your freedom you’ll just make other people try to take it away.

    I bet none of the editorial writer’s friends liked them growing up, because they were always whining “we’re gonna get in trouuuubbbble.”

    1. Caf?s don’t seem like they’re on the immediate horizon.

      They would have a huge target on their backs.

      1. I agree, I just (na?vely) hope that a jury would refuse to convict, even in a federal court.

        1. Except that, like with MMJ cases, in federal court, the defense is not allowed to so much as even HINT that what they have done is completely legal under state law.

          1. Why would they need to? Every juror they seat is going to know marijuana is legal in the state, and they don’t have to guess whether it’s medical to know that. If the prosecution never raises the state law as an issue, everybody’s going to assume the federal violation was legal under state law, just because it’d be hard to imagine it not being so, once this is in effect, because the illegal ops will just about vanish.

  3. AS a Colorado citizen, I welcome the legalization of pot. As a social drug it is terrible. It’s a stay at home close your eyes/watch tv kind of high. The concentrations are so powerful, the high so strong you can not walk easily after use, much less interact in public competently. When people are at home they tend to stay there till the effects subside. A pot cafe depends on people leaving after they finish their use, putting them smack dab in the middle of the public square, and unable to deal. Tripping acid just doesn’t mix well with shopping malls and neither does cannabis. Dealing with drunk people is hard enough. Stoned people are not violent and belligerent, but they are tweaked out of their mind. I’m all for freedom, and I’ll recommend that people get a clue and realize salvia and cannibis are stay at home activities, not social enhancing drugs.

    1. Do you actually know anyone who smokes marijuana? I don’t smoke, but know a ton who do, and while I’m not one of those people who says there are zero side effects, I know plenty of people who can function socially while high on weed

      1. Do yourself an experiment, go sit in a public space, and smoke some very strong “medicine” as it’s currently being sold, or better yet eat some, and see how well you walk home after half an hour. It’s just a matter of fact.

    2. Marijuana isn’t one drug. Different strains of plant have different ratios of cannabinoids (particularly THC and Cannabadiol) and thus, different effects. Strains with more THC typically produce more euphoria while those with more CBD produce more of a calming sensation.

      It’s only common sense (and it happens to be true) that the cannabis that sells for $400/oz is not the same as that which sells for $100/oz.

      The good news is that users “titrate” (self-regulate) by inhaling less or more. And, at base, the drug is not terribly harmful. The bad news is that social experiments are trial and error. Stupid, reckless, or unlucky people will get themselves into trouble. Hopefully we don’t retreat into tyranny when they do.

  4. Also, there is a new blood/THC limit in the amendment. This means anyone leaving an establishment cafe where public smoking goes on can be pulled over, arrested, and subjected to an invasive-body-blood test. How’s that for police state?

    1. That’d apply only to drivers. It’s not a public intoxication limit.

      1. Anyone getting in a car after visiting these shops is giving probable cause. There is no dose small enough that won’t show up in a blood test. You drive, you go to jail.

  5. When visiting British Columbia a decade ago, I visited a cafe, and took 1 hit of a concentrate, & got so high I couldn’t walk. I almost fainted due to a rapid change in blood pressure. People at my table were freaking out as well. Also everyone in the shop was acting super paranoid and looking at the floor tripping their faces off. Two weeks later someone got in a car after going to the shop followed by a car wreck and someone died.
    People act like it’s the “new social”. It’s not. It doesn’t work in public. It’s an anti-social drug. It’s a medicine used for introspection, hallucinations, and pain management, not getting chatty.
    At the college 420 rally, 10,000 people show up every year and everyone is having a great time till 4:19. Then a wave of smoke covers the crowd, and people get super awkward and paranoid, stop making eye contact, and disperse no better for it. Sure it’s a great idea to try once like so many dumb things, I did too, but it’s not a constructive social experience. The lesson should be a “waste of time”. As it’s becoming legal, it’s loosing it’s “rebel and find yourself” appeal. Less and less adults even use it. It’s a juvenile kind of thing. The author would be wise to acknowledge it’s pettiness. It’s not just a drug, it’s a lifestyle, and a waste of time. Pot is boring. I’d rather do blow.

    1. Holy BeJeebus, you’re fucking stupid.

      1. Calling people “fucking stupid” doesn’t make you look smart.

    2. I visited a cafe, and took 1 hit of a concentrate, & got so high I couldn’t walk

      Lol, and because you are a dingy dipshit, everyone else needs to have their freedoms restricted? Makes so much sense.

      1. I’m not advocating for people’s freedoms being restricted. I’m advocating for common sense and maturity, just like with alcohol. Getting drunk and getting in a car is stupid and dangerous, and same goes for cannabis.

    3. “I’d rather do blow”
      Just because you can`t handle cannabis don`assume that the same holds for everyone else.

      Oh and BLOW sucks.

  6. Why would on-site smoking, behind closed doors, be provocative? Who’s going to go into such an establishment, other than someone who’s going to be there to buy cannabis? Like they’re going to be offended if they see someone smoking there what they’re buying to take elsewhere?

    Is it because other businesses could be licensed to sell pot, and someone who goes in to buy batteries or pick up their dry cleaning done might be offended by seeing pot smoked there by customers, rather than by the staff?

  7. The Denver Post worries that Colorado’s Amendment 64, approved by voters last month, will be interpreted to allow Dutch-style “pot taverns.

    Oh nos! The apocalype is nigh! Bring out your dead, bring out your dead…

  8. Totally sounds like my kinda place dude. Wow.

  9. If you want to scorch your lungs and stink yourself up smoking doob after it’s legal suit yourself. I’ll do what I do in Amsterdam – grab a brownie. How would my coffee and brownie look any different than the next guy’s?

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