Pot is Legal in Colorado. So Why Can't You Smoke It Anywhere?


Originally published on Oct 16, 2015

Weed is legal in Colorado. But it's illegal to consume it in most public locations. 

On January 1, 2014, Colorado became one of the first states to allow recreational marijuana sales. But the law contains one little twist. 

"People can buy it. They can use it. But in a lot of cases, they don't have anywhere they can use it legally," says Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. 

Yes, weed is legal in Colorado. But it's illegal to consume it in most public locations. 

It's become a big issue for a state that's attracting record numbers of tourists who are curious to try cannabis, but have no safe legal place to do so. In fact, since Colorado legalized marijuana, public consumption citations have increased 471 percent.  

Denver business owner Ryan Connolly, who operates Grassroots Clothing and the 710 Cannabis Cup, says he began to notice the problem when people from out of town came to his store for help. "Once customers started buying legal weed, they would come to our store and shop for clothes and always ask us the question, 'Where can I smoke this?" And this question started to happen more and more where we actually just couldn't ignore it anymore."

So with the help of his attorney, Ryan created a private membership marijuana club that operated in an unused space in his clothing store. 

"There is an exception in the Colorado Indoor Air Act for private member clubs. So the VFW, the Odd Fellows, the Elks Club—things of that nature—are all allowed to smoke within their businesses provided that they are organized for private membership," states Jeff Gard, a Boulder-based attorney who represents Connolly and has successfully established private marijuana clubs in several Colorado counties. 

Under this private membership model, Ryan's Breakroom tallied 4,000 members in just over a year. Even stars like Cheech Marin stopped by when visiting Denver. The private pot club operated without incident until police raided the location on the eve of Denver's 4/20 festivities. 

"I think they were a little surprised to find that this is a private membership club that they had to sign up as members to become part of—that there wasn't anything going on from the perspective of the Breakroom that was arguably illegal," says Gard. 

Though the Denver police department did not charge any of the members with a crime, they cited Connolly for operating a marijuana business without a license and for violating the Clean Indoor Air Act. But the ordeal didn't end there. After citing him for licensing violations, the city went one step further and threatened Connolly's landlord with a public nuisance abatement if they did not evict him from the premises. 

"The eviction is what hurts the most," says Connolly. "We have over 20 staff that I want to make sure we keep jobs for all of them. They rely on me for a paycheck and so that's what's most important."

Connolly appeared in court in July to pay his fines and is moving to a new location in Denver. Though he was forced out of his space, Connolly hopes the experience will inspire change in the current law. 

"I think its the peoples' choice now to step up and look at these instances where they are still wasting our taxpayer money and going after something you would think would be a respectable thing to do—which is offer someone from out of state a safe place to smoke," Connolly says. 

As Ryan moves forward, a debate is unfolding between marijuana policy advocates and city leaders on how to address the public consumption issue. Denver's office of marijuana policy says Amendment 64 clearly states that marijuana is only to be used for private and personal use and that the initiative was not designed to accommodate tourists. But that hasn't stopped visitors or local residents from consuming pot in public. 

Though marijuana advocates had collected signatures to place an ordinance allowing private pot clubs like Connolly's on the November ballot, they pulled the measure in September with the hopes of working on a compromise with city officials. 

"A majority of people are not scofflaws," says Gard. "We understand that rules are necessary for order of society, so just tell us where to do this and we will go do that. If you want to quit writing public consumption tickets…then creating a private environment for that makes perfect sense." 

Approximately 6 minutes. 

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning. Music from YouTube Audio Library. 

NEXT: The People We Trust to 'Save' Women From Prostitution Keep Paying Them for Sex—and Worse

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. One of these days I’m going to stop trusting democracy.

  2. It’s almost as if laws and enforcement and government are all a bullshit scam. Imagine that.

    1. More like the government is in get-even mode. As I recall MJ was legalized in Colorado by a popular referendum, going over the heads of their Legislature.

      So the Legislature went all Not Invented Here and said, “Okay, pot’s legalized. But we’re going to write the rules so you’ll never enjoy it.”

      1. Looks like the weed is not quite as leagalized as advertised. Even less legal than vaping.

        Someone give me a shout when a pickup bed filled with trash bags full of marijuana is as legal as one full of fescue grass clippings. Until then, stop saying anybody legalized anything.

      2. Sort of like the way certain state legislatures responded to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, with Black Codes, Jim Crow, poll taxes, and literacy tests. Or the way certain jurisdictions are responding to the Heller and McDonald rulings that the 2nd Amendment is a real thing.

  3. Yes, tobacco is legal in Colorado. But it’s illegal to consume it in most public locations.

    Yes, alcoholic beverages are legal in Colorado. But it’s illegal to consume them in most public locations.

    Meh. I mean, it’s stupid, but not inconsistent.

    1. Only, what you just said is very obviously false. There are no allowed public establishments where people can light up. Conversely, most bars allow smoking and all allow drinking. Obviously.

      It is most definitely inconsistent. And the reality is that its a way to keep the revenue stream flowing to local government after the arrests for possession dried up.

      1. Conversely, most bars allow smoking

        Not quite

        Statewide smoking ban: On July 1, 2006, the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect, banning smoking in all enclosed workplaces statewide, including bars and restaurants. Casinos, initially exempt, were added to the ban Jan. 1, 2008. The Act only exempts private residences and automobiles unless used for the public transportation of children or as part of healthcare or daycare, limousines under private hire, hotel/motel rooms designated as smoking rooms, retail tobacco stores, cigar bars, designated areas in airports, outdoor areas, workplaces not open to the public where the employer employs three or fewer employees, private nonresidential buildings on a farm or ranch that has annual gross income of less than $500,000, and designated areas in nursing homes. Local governments may regulate smoking more strictly than the state. A judge has ruled that a bar sharing common indoor space with a tobacco shop is also exempt from the ban.

        See link for references.

        1. To add to that – the cities that have been most pro-pot are also the ones that ban tobacco smoking way beyond that statute. Boulder eg bans outdoor smoking in parks or any public-owned property. I also think (not sure) that you can be pulled over and fined if you are smoking in a car with a child inside.

    2. Therefore, calling it legal is a misnomer.

      1. Yeah, sure. But everyone knows what is meant when someone says that it is legal, and that there are still restrictions.

        But if being technically correct makes you happy, good for you.

  4. Fucking is legal. Would you want to see that in public? I have one word to convince you this is a good idea.


    1. If you ask most statists, they’d tell you that without laws against those sorts of things, it would be a rampant problem. So it somehow justifies locking people up for years for having sex in a place where a child could have seen it. Any child who sees adults having sex is obviously traumatized for life.

      1. mmmmm….. that was a just an easy excuse for a Warty joke. I would disagree with the statist. When I was in the army in West Germany, there were nude sun bathers in the parks and you could take a shit on the side of the Autobahn. But they were descreet about it. The sunbathers, i.e. HAmburg, would be in a part of the part where it wasn’t completely open. And the shitting on the side of the autobahn seemed to be always be behind bushes. I’m guessing that if it were legal, you might see some fucking in San Francisco, but probably not so much in Nampa, Idaho or Springfield, Missouri.

        1. You see fucking in San francisco even though it’s not legal.

            1. Just Google “Folsom Street Fair” plus your choice of sex act for images and videos. I’m not recommending you do it, just making a point….

          1. I saw a bum fucking the street once in NYC.

            1. I saw NYC fucking everybody else.

              1. NYC has been bery, bery good to me.

    2. I consider Warty fucking to be a form of public execution, not sex.

  5. That which is not explicitly legal is illegal. That which is banned is also illegal.

    Any questions?

    Wait – what?

  6. Connolly appeared in court in July to pay his fines and is moving to a new location in Denver.

    Where the Law will find some other excuse to harass him.

  7. The hubby & I were reminicing today about hanky-panky among the sand dunes in Destin. I guess that wasn’t legal, we did it & would again. If ticketed I would probably fight it.

  8. Here’s a story in honor of Troll Appreciation Saturday:

    Progresives and the media finally agree with the Westboro Baptist Church Kim Davis is an evil hypocrite slutty-slut who should be ashamed of imposing her values on gays – and she should immediately start giving gays their marriage licenses “with all diligence.” (Which she’s doing already, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities.

    I’m glad the progs and their media on the one hand, and the Westboro people, on the other hand, have agreed to stop their petty quarrels and work together to fight Davis.

    1. What an age we live in!

  9. Now I agree that this set-up seems rather arbitrary, but couldn’t you just bypass the whole problem by buying edibles rather than smoking it?

    1. If their experience goes anything like mine did, they might really not care for edibles.

    2. Edibles are a different experience. They come on slowly (about 45 minutes to an hour after eating, whereas smoking comes on immediately), last longer (they can last up to a few hours sometimes, whereas smoked weed can fade off in as little as 30 minutes), and can hit harder. The reason Maureen Dowd had a horrible weed experience is because she ate a bunch of edibles. And guess what? If you get freaked out on edibles, you are going to have to rough it out for a lot longer than if you get freaked out on smoked weed; hours as opposed to an hour or less.

      Not only are edibles therefore not the same experience as smoking and may not be to a lot of people’s taste, it is a very, very stupid way for beginners or people who haven’t gotten high in a long time to try it. I swear that every idiotic media scare story like Dowd’s involves edibles.

      Now, something that I and a bunch of others here in Seattle have starting doing is vaping shatter and similar extractions such as Nitro Honey Oil and dabs and wax (in fact, I can have all these things delivered right to my door). There’s no smoke, just vapor, and you can just use an e-Cig base with coil attachments, so it’s easily portable and you just bust it out, do a hit, and put it away again. So people are finding ways around moronic smoking bans in multiple ways.

      1. Correct about edibles, and wow, I had never heard of shatter. Cool pix.

      2. So, if I was going to try marijuana for the first time, you would advise NOT using edibles?

        But, if I ignored your advice and tried edibles then what? A very small piece and give it time to take effect?

        My understanding with Dowd was that ate a chunk and, when nothing happened straight away she ate more.

        1. I believe the strain might matter as well. Back when I smoked all I could get was shitty country ditch weed due to location. Then one day I got some hydro from Toronto and that shit knocked me flat on my ass. I’m not sure about how strains influence edibles but I’d assume a weaker strain would make for lighter edibles.

        2. If you are very careful to have a very small dose, you could try edibles your first time, but personally I would not recommend it. At all. Because super small dosage won’t do much, and won’t “show” you what getting high feels like properly. Honestly, smoking is probably the best first timer thing to do. Make sure you’re smoking a known mellow strain (indicas are usually better for this than sativas), and don’t rip huge hits; take a small hit and give it a few minutes, because you can always smoke more, but if you get too high too fast and it freaks you out, you have to wait for it to wear off and that won’t be fun.

          Honestly, if you’re relaxed and not worried about it, you’ll have a good time, but it never hurts to be careful. Even, uh, professionals (for lack of a better word) like me can have a bad time if we screw up, but it’s really not hard to avoid that. However, the absolute easiest way to screw up is edibles.

          For an example, I had a friend whose husband was a daily pot eater (some people *do* prefer edibles, plus I don’t think they wanted to smoke around their kids), and one day they got some cookies from a friend who they often got from. He would normally eat a half a cookie and be groovy. Well, this time the friend had made them way stronger than normal and the husband ate half of one before anyone could tell him that. He spent the next few hours lying on the floor and feeling horrible. And this was a daily edibles consumer. Again, just be very careful with them.

          1. Yes, controlling dosage with edibles is much more difficult. In CO they specify the amount, so one needs to learn a comfortable dose. For me 7.5 mg.

            And the buzz is sharper and a bit shorter if you eat on an empty stomach. Highly recommend this.

            Oh yeah, I’ve been cooking for 45 years. Best ever was a turkey stuffed with a half oz of mediocre Mexican.

          2. Thanks.

            Yeah, I had a friend in college who didn’t smoke pot but one night some of the guys had mixed up a batch of cookies with hash oil. Unfortunately, they didn’t mix it evenly and she, of course, got a cookie with a big dose. She spent about hour lying face down on the floor impersonating a vacuum cleaner and then the guys hog tied her and put her in a corner to keep her out of trouble.

          3. It takes very little weed to get me feeling good, so I go with the sippin’ whisky approach – tiny little puffs, and after 5 or 10 micro hits over a half hour, I’ll get a nice buzz on and stop.

            I was at the second weekend of ACL and because there were like 4 cops policing about 80,000 people, folks were opening sparking up in broad daylight. I told my bleeding heart leftist GF that this is what near-anarchism looks like – a bazillion people, basically no cops, and yet everything worked great.

      3. But isn’t vapping a similar situation to edibles, where you’re actually inhaling a great deal more THC than if you smoked it? Admittedly I haven’t smoked pot since high school so I’m no expert.

        Based on my (limited) personal experience, Dowd and the other media scares could also be as much a product of their own insecurities as the edibles. Some people are just incapable of relaxing in that state.

        1. No. People hear “hash oil” and think “hash is hella strong”, but the extracts do not tend to be stupid strong. And you have even more granular of control with vaping than you do with smoking it because you’re not worried about smoking the whole bowl, etc. No, actually, when I first tried it I found the shatter to be really mellow and a “clean” high. I experience virtually no munchies and I found that I got high, but I didn’t get into that “oh shit I’m so fucking high duuuhhh” Spicoli “that was my skull” type stoned state that is very common (and often very fun) with smoking. That’s why I like the shatter for parties/socializing/being out; because I don’t like to smoke when out.

          I highly recommend trying it if you can get it.

      4. You’re also likelier to have a worser XP f you’re a fucking idiot.

  10. “A majority of people are not scofflaws”

    That’s part of the problem

    1. No. It is the problem. Everybody plays the slave and nat?rlich the servile state has begun.

  11. “If you want to quit writing public consumption tickets?then creating a private environment for that makes perfect sense.”

    Now who could argue with that? IF.

    Just yesterday my nephew was bitching about getting a ticket for speeding in a school zone. There’s a school near me that has a sheriff’s car sitting out front with its lights flashing every morning warning everybody to slow down and drive carefully. At the school closer into town, where my nephew got ticketed, there’s a curve just past the school where the cop hides and catches speeders just after they’ve sped past the school. Now the “reason” the cop has for being there is supposedly to ensure safe driving around the kiddies and yet that sick fuck actually is hoping people don’t drive safely around the kiddies just so he can write them a ticket. If he actually gave a rat’s ass about the kiddies, he’d be parked in plain sight to keep people from speeding. So what really matters here to the cops, do you think?

    1. I read that earlier. It’s interesting how they count rape versus the rest of the world. Makes a hash of the ‘Malmo rape epidemic’.

      1. No, it does not, unless you think Sweden somehow very slowly, in increments, changed their definition of rape over decades.

        1. Yesterday he was claiming that every other country reports multiple rapes perpetrated by one rapist as “one rape”. No proof, of course.

          1. Perhaps he was referring to this =

            “”Sweden reformed its sex crime legislation and made the legal definition of rape much wider in 2005,[3][4][8][12] which largely explains a significant increase in the number of reported rapes in the ten-year period of 2004-2013.[13][14] The Swedish police also record each instance of sexual violence in every case separately, leading to an inflated number of cases compared to other countries.[8][11][15] Additionally, the Swedish police have improved the handling of rape cases, in an effort to increase the number of crimes reported.[8][14][16][17]’

            Also notable =

            “” In 1996, Sweden registered almost three times the average number of rape offenses registered in 35 European countries. However, this does not necessarily mean rape is three times as likely to occur as in the rest of Europe, since cross-national comparisons of crime levels based on official crime statistics are problematic, due to a number of factors described below.[11][27][28][29]”,

            The “Below” factors included =

            “”crime data in Sweden are collected when the offense in question is first reported, at which point the classification may be unclear. In Sweden, once an act has been registered as rape, it retains this classification in the published crime statistics, even if later investigations indicate that no crime can be proven“”

            1. OK, so the overall numbers are in question. I think the ratio of immigants doing the raping is still of interest. Unfortunately, I don’t trust anybody’s statistics.

              1. “. I think the ratio of immigants doing the raping is still of interest.””

                Sure. That’s assuming that data is actually collected. Once someone is granted residency its doubtful that their stats will reflect ‘newcomers’ versus ‘natives’ in any way.

                Even if it is… the last link i posted should make clear that some kinds of data doesn’t always really indicate what is happening in reality. According to the CDC, 1-in-5 American women have been raped. Shocker.

                In general i think claims of “Rape Waves” tend to be bullshit more often than not. Its the easiest thing to help generate a kind of lynch-mob mentality. See = College Campuses

            2. Well. I watched JONGFRUK?LLAN when I was a boy, and if it at all portrays the national genius of Sweland, then any youngster foolish enough to set aside his pukko for ten seconds is going to get raped, no question. It would be interesting to know what the incidence of rape was, however, in days when as a rule people did not wander about unarmed (and recognised there were more important things than survival).

              On the other hand, this new rape epidemic is probably a product of the ridiculous age of consent in Sweden.

              And the importation of so may Turks is also bound to correlate with a measurable increase in rape men.

              1. Thank you Gilmore. It is clear that the ‘Malmo rape epidemic’ story is just that. A story. While not outright disproven, it lacks supporting evidence.

          2. Oh, Rhywun = according to this source (BBC news broadcast), there apparently is a difference in the # of “rapes” recorded across countries when someone claims a ‘serial event’. Its very quickly within the beginning of the report, fyi

            i’m not sure what that really *means* in practice. I don’t expect most people to go to the police and say they’ve been married to a rapist for the past 5 years.

            That said, the same broadcast points out that quirks in legal systems recording processes produce this sort of inconsistency all the time. Canada, for instance, has a higher kidnap rate than Mexico, as they claim.

            because child-custody disputes are recorded in that category in canada.

            similarly, it seems what they call “rape” in Sweden is equally muckymuck.

            But the US isn’t really one to start throwing stones when it comes to “making up wacky numbers”

            1. After all, we have the lowest *recorded* numbers of killings by police in the Non-OECD countries that have a per-capita income of at least $25 a day and are democratic republics!

        1. Please see above. These numbers just don’t mean much because of Sweden’s wonky ass crime definitions.

          Also, half of very little is still very little.

          1. That link was for Denmark, not Sweden.

      2. Warning: gory picture. This link has more info and links about rape in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

        1. Perhaps you should link to and quote the actual data instead of nutjob blogs.

          1. There are links to other sources within the blog post. But just keep making excuses to ignore evidence.

    2. Well, I guess some Somalis go that way too.

  12. Weed is legal in Colorado. But it’s illegal to consume it in most public locations.

    So, weed is “legal” in Colorado.

    1. It’s totally legal like alcohol or smoking there’s just a ton of petty riders.

      1. Except, as Brochettaward noted up thread, AFAIK, you cannot consume it anywhere in public. Even when the Denver Symphony tried to have a “Pot and Music” night they were stopped. I’m pretty sure you can’t even set up a “pot bar” or something similar.

        No doubt it’s a big step forward but I don’t think it’s reached equality with alchohol.

        1. Just make your bar a “private club” and hope that the local pigs actually respect it.

          1. The private club is still subject to indoor air quality rules. Pro-marijuana “liberals” fucked themselves when they overwhelmingly supported anti-smoking legislation because big tobacco kkkochporashuns.

  13. OT pick-me up of the day: Al-Qaeda commander killed in an airstrike in Syria

    An airstrike has killed a top al-Qaeda commander and two other fighters in Syria, activists said Saturday, but it was not immediately clear whether it was carried out by the U.S.-led coalition or Russian warplanes.


    1. Don’t get too excited – we have a nasty habit of declaring these guy ‘killed in an airstrike’ three or four times before somebody actually hits them.

  14. They don’t call them “the powers that be” for nothing. Foolish plebs thought the government worked for them.

  15. I’m in a bad fucking mood. Where are the trolls?

    1. Semi-related: did John get banned or did he voluntarily take a break?

      1. I doubt he was banned.

        If I had to guess, I’d bet his place of employment had something to do with his absence.

        1. Thanks. There was a comment a few days back that suggested he “needed” to take a break.

          1. There are 2 possibilities afaik (other than people being mean to him here):

            1) His mom was sick, and things might not be going well. In that case, I wish him the best of luck.

            2) His employer reconfigured the firewall. 98% of his comments here are from work.

            1. I miss being called a “fucking half-wit”. *tear*

              1. Shut up you fucking half-wit.

                1. I usually have to pay extra for that kind of abuse.

              2. I miss being told what my motives and real interests are. I never knew I was so invested in the happiness of American homosexuals until John enlightened me.

                1. You’re part of the agenda. Obviously.

            2. Thanks.

            3. He seemed to be getting more and more angry over the social issues stuff, particularly over teh gays so he may have just took his bucket and shovel to another sandbox.

              1. he may have just took his bucket and shovel to another sandbox

                Nah… I never got the sense that he didn’t enjoy himself here. And he’s obviously missed based on all the people wondering where the hell he is.

                1. And he’s obviously missed based on all the people wondering where the hell he is.

                  Missed like, “I wonder why my hemorrhoids stopped throbbing?”

                  1. Yeah, something like that.

                1. There’s a fine line. He’s toeing it, but still OK IMHO.
                  Err. towing the lion.

            4. Oh, damn. Didn’t know about the Mom.

              If you see any of this John, all the best wishes, man.

              Also, I miss you being an Oklahoma State homer.

    2. Pl?ya Manhattan.|10.17.15 @ 9:12PM|#
      “I’m in a bad fucking mood.”


      1. No. I spent a today, a day that I was supposed to have to myself and my family, doing things for people that I hate out of obligation.

        1. “a today”. That’s how angry I am.

          1. Or, as it’s sometime stated, ‘…spent a week today doing…’

            1. Interstellar sucked, but time dilation is a thing, yo.

  16. Eh. The trouble with smoking pot in public is that you are smoking pot in the public where other people can smell it and be affected by it..

    FFS, it’s annoying enough having to smell their clothing, much less them actually smoke it.

    1. Hey, Playa! Here’s your troll!

      JeremyR|10.17.15 @ 11:38PM|#
      “Eh. The trouble with smoking pot in public is that you are smoking pot in the public where other people can smell it and be affected by it.”

      OK, JR, what concentration of THC in free air is enough for someone to ‘be affected by it’?

      1. Waiting, JR…..
        Or do we call bullshit?

      2. It might be stupidity.

        Let’s see if he wants to ban BBQs. I can smell those from a few blocks away.

        1. Pl?ya Manhattan.|10.18.15 @ 12:32AM|#
          “It might be stupidity.”

          Yeah, well:
          Calling once, calling twice,………………. we have a winner in JR!
          Way to go JR! You win the BULLSHIT prize this evening; care to comment on why you made such a imbecilic claim?
          Naah, didn’t think so.

        2. Playa, it’s been tried and done in some cases.

          1. That’s exactly where I thought it would be.

      3. Sevo, it doesn’t matter. When the tobacco crazies said sixteenthhand smoke could kill you in concentrations of 1 part per trillion, public marijuana smoking was a non starter.

  17. Hmm… Saturday Night Live… Bernie Sanders… two things I quite dislike.

    But Larry David as Sanders on SNL… do I check it out?

    1. No. Take the Tylenol PM challenge instead. It’s far more productive.

      Take 4, wait 30 minutes, and see if you can rub one out before you fall asleep. Either way, you win.

      1. Sleep well, young prince.

  18. I smoke it anywhere I want by using a trick I learned in the Army.

    I get a cigarette and at the end take out some tobacco, put some reefer in its place, and twist the end.

    Whenever I need a buzz, just fire away.

    Some people may say : ‘do I smell what I think I smell?’
    Just say something like : I didn’t fart or some such thing.

    Of course you could always just have a brownie in your pocket and have a bite but that takes awhile.

    1. ” a trick I learned in the Army.”

      This is why i never trust people in the Army.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.