Marijuana

Colorado Regulators Ban Marijuana Use in Businesses That Serve Alcohol

Denver's newly approved pilot program won't include bars or restaurants with liquor licenses.

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Speakeasy Vape Lounge

Last Friday, a week and a half after Denver voters approved an initiative allowing cannabis consumption in local businesses, the Colorado Department of Revenue's Liquor Enforcement Division announced that businesses it regulates are prohibited from participating in the pilot program. That means bars and restaurants with liquor licenses can't legally let customers bring their own marijuana to enjoy on the premises, as envisioned by supporters of Initiative 300, which was favored by 54 percent of voters.

The department said the new rule has been in the works since last year, prompted by the liquor industry's concerns. Although that sounds like special pleading from manufacturers and distributors worried about competition from another intoxicant, DOR Executive Director Barbara Brohl said the ban is all about safety. "After carefully considering all impacts to Coloradans and industry," she said, the department decided "this rule is in the best interests of public health and safety resulting from public and dual consumption." The Colorado Restaurant Association said it also "expressed concerns about the public dual consumption of marijuana and alcohol," which suggests that some restaurateurs worried that their competitors might attract customers by offering a BYOC option.

Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public of Public Health and Environment, supports the DOR's decision. "There is substantial evidence that combined use of marijuana and alcohol increases impairment more than use of either substance alone," he said. "If marijuana use is allowed in establishments that hold a liquor license, dual use certainly would occur regularly and present a danger to public health and safety."

The rule eliminates one of the major arguments against Initiative 300, but at the cost of consumer choice and business flexibility. Daniel Landes, owner of the City O' City restaurant and bar in Denver, told the Associated Press he'd like to be able to hold special events where cannabis consumption is allowed. "I'm in the hospitality business, and there is no place like this to use marijuana," he said. "That is inhospitable." Since the rule applies statewide, even bars and restaurants in jurisdictions that have been more tolerant of cannabis consumption than Denver will be risking their liquor licenses if they let customers use marijuana.

Denver businesses that don't sell alcohol, such as cigar bars, yoga studios, art galleries, newly created cannabis clubs, and restaurants without liquor licenses, can still seek permission from the city to create "designated consumption areas," providing a new option for residents and visitors who have struggled since legalization to find social settings outside the home where they are allowed to use the marijuana they are now allowed to buy. Permits are contingent on approval by an officially recognized neighborhood organization, which can demand restrictions in addition to the ones imposed by Initiative 300.

The DOR rule "doesn't completely hinder the entire law," Mason Tvert, an organizer of the initiative campaign, told The Denver Post. "Remember that this whole thing kind of got started with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra fundraiser that was held in an art gallery." I cited that episode as an illustration of Colorado's cannabis consumption conundrum in a 2014 Reason feature story. Reason TV has covered the issue too:

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  1. I used to visit a bar frequented by a retiree named Sam. Sam was a model drinker, conscientious, courteous, tipped generously, was neither loud nor boisterous, and left well before getting trashed. Sam was a good guy. But Sam had an odd proclivity. Every now and again, Sam would leave his seat and stroll out to his truck. After a few minutes he’d return with an unmistakable skunky odor. And he’d resume drinking jovially and without further incident. Methinks banning pot from the premises of bars and restaurants will have exactly zero effect on consumption.

    That said, I can see why owners would be leery of explicitly permitting use on their premises. The state holds their liquor licenses hostage, and would no doubt be happy to come down like the wrath of God on an establishment that had knowingly sold to a pot-smoking patron.

    1. The state holds their liquor licenses hostage, and would no doubt be happy to come down like the wrath of God on an establishment that had knowingly sold to a pot-smoking patron.

      exactly. my same point below.

      Its basically a way to punish establishments for behavior they know *already happens*

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  2. And this is exactly why I did not want marijuana to be legalized. We Americans (as a whole) are too stupid to elect leaders with more than one functioning brain cell. This ordinance is doing absolutely nothing but harassing business owners. I live in a state that will be the 48th or later state to legalize. As it is, I often go to the bar to play (fake) poker. Whenever we have a break, I go out to my car, light a spliff, and get stoned (weed helps me to be a better bluffer), then I go back in continue drinking. I don’t need your laws to allow me to get drunk AND stoned at the same time. Also, I believe, that their thinking is ass-backwards. I believe we would have much fewer bar fights if people could get stoned and drunk. Personally, after 30+ years getting stoned, I still have not seen two stoners beating the fuck out of each because of some implied slight. Yet, that happens in some bar in every city on any given night.

  3. Oh muh gawds! Do you know what happens when you smoke weed AND drink alcohol? Well, do you!? Think of the children!

    1. Do you know what happens when you smoke weed AND drink alcohol?

      You sleep blissfully?

      1. Do you know what happens when you smoke weed AND drink alcohol?

        I have seen it with my own eyes, and it is terrifying

      2. This sleeping blissfully must be wiped out, for the children!

  4. Won’t matter anyway once the Dinosaur comes. The Dinosaur is coming for you, potheads!

  5. So much for treating cannabis like alcohol.

  6. This is shitty as fuck, it should be tossed out, freedom for everyone ect.

    But I do anecdotally as a drunk and a stoner who can hardly drink booze (even though I drink copiously) without getting high — normal people without all the problems I got can usually not even handle their liquor to being with, and generally get all out of sorts after just a puff or two if they are drunk.

    Sorting out my feelings I definitely believe a large portion of the population gets spinny, black-outy and pukey from combining liquor and weed. But for some of us that’s just a Monday night.

    1. But fuck all that, don’t need nanny statists to protect people from themselves. Plenty of people are already puking their brains out at bars every single night across the nation.

    2. I wish I could reset my tolerance. Last night I had a bottle of sauv blanc as a no-shit nightcap. I’d worked till after nine and went to bed after ten, and in the interim downed a bottle. Hardly felt it going to bed or, thankfully, waking up.

      1. Vino ain’t so bad, Frenchmen will drink multiple bottles in one sitting or so fiction has lead me to believe.

        1. The cheap piss I buy probably ain’t doing me any favors, but really I just want to be a cheap drunk again.

  7. Denver businesses that don’t sell alcohol, such as cigar bars, yoga studios, art galleries, newly created cannabis clubs, and restaurants without liquor licenses, can still seek permission from the city to create “designated consumption areas,”

    Sounds to me like they’re creating conditions by which it would be economically infeasible to create one of these “consumption areas” in the first place.

    Yoga studios and art galleries? “You can get high as long as you don’t sell anything people want when they’re high”

    I get that its actually not all that different from the way “Coffee Shops” were regulated in Amsterdam. It just seems to me that they’re creating regulations that so strictly-limit the manner in which people operate that they disincentivize anyone actually trying to serve the market that exists.

    You know what used to happen @ bars? People would pop outside and toke. Been going on forever. Now they probably have a reason to threaten these places with revoking their liquor license because they’re “permitting unregulated behavior”.

    iow, i continue to see the “legal weed” simply being used as an excuse to *increase* regulation and enforcement against existing behavior. Not genuinely attempting to carve out “new freedoms”.

    1. Yep. I have some sympathy for the diehard who used to come around occasionally and lambaste reason and reason commenters for supporting legalization rather than decriminalization. He was a bit of an ass about it but he had a point.

      1. He was a bit of an ass about it but he had a point.

        I know exactly who you’re talking about.

        He did have a point about the double-edged sword of “legalization” compared to “decriminalization”.

        But his steez was always to take this pedantic ideological stance that all law imposes “Duties and Obligations” and that libertarianism somehow ignores that, and falsely believes we can have “freedom” within a structure of ‘better laws’, etc. and therefore we’re all hypocrites.

        But – i’ve spent a lot of my career looking at the way consumer-product markets are regulated, and one thing i think people should realize is that nothing created more shitty and hard-to-repeal laws than the *ending* of Prohibition.

        I think the lobby for “legal weed” looked at how the state-regulation of alcohol created multiple lucrative rent-seeking opportunities, and state-mandated monopolies, etc. and said, “We’d like some of that, please”. Nobody really wants a ‘de-regulated’ sphere of human behavior, where people are free to consume what they want without interference. They want opportunities to grant favors, and make-work for regulators and law-enforcement

        1. Part of me feels blessed because I feel like I can observe the ideal without blinding myself to the reality. I think it’s perfectly OK to keep striving for idyllic outcomes but it’s been hard enough to make marginal gains in this area.

          When it comes to government, law, and forced obligations we got to take an inch and turn that into a mile. I’d love decriminalization but people are literally dying in jail and families are still being destroyed.

          1. I think it’s perfectly OK to keep striving for idyllic outcomes but it’s been hard enough to make marginal gains in this area.

            yes.

            the best argument is that “moving the ball is more important than the short term tangible impact on real-liberty”.

            but = again, my pretty-extensive experience w/ the alcohol (*and tobacco) industry leads me to be very skeptical that the ball will KEEP moving beyond this new, highly-regulated status.

            What i expect (and fear) is that these changes simply open the door for justifications on “how to limit areas of freedom”. Yes, in theory its not “illegal” anymore = but now you need *permission*.

            My benchmark for human freedom is stuff like “whether you can drink a beer on the beach”

            In theory, alcohol is legal. The last time i had an interaction with a cop? Was drinking a beer on the beach. I recall asking why exactly there was a uniformed police officer wandering along the beach anyway. Why, to enforce these laws, of course.

          2. people are literally dying in jail and families are still being destroyed.

            As i said below = the people who think that weed-legalization is somehow a trade-off which will free certain people from the violence of the drug war…. is an illusion.

            the people who tried to make money selling weed before legalization are still criminals after legalization. and if they move to other product markets, its not like they’re living in a kinder-gentler form of drug-war.

            One part of the weed-legalization thing that has constantly irritated me is the complete lack of focus on the people already in jail for weed-related crimes. What most people really ca

            1. One part of the weed-legalization thing that has constantly irritated me is the complete lack of focus on the people already in jail for weed-related crimes.

              That is a good point that does seem to be glossed over. Seems like kind of a big oversight.

            2. “”What most people really care about”…. is making it safe for middle-class white people to smoke weed. not liberate the people who’ve suffered the most under prohibition.

              The fact that tens of thousands of poor black people may still be in the hoosegow for distributing/selling the stuff has been politely swept under the rug and ignored. I’d be happier if people who were so adamant about changing the laws added a provision which required the release of people who were previously convicted for weed-related crimes.

              1. Not sure if you were calling me out or just the general legalization crowd; but It’s that injustice that most galls me. That’s why I specifically referenced the doomed bastards in jail and those soon to be doomed bastards going to jail.

                I think a fair number of people on the ‘legalize weed’ bandwagon have the idea that people will be let of the hook. Even if they haven’t really thought it all through, I’m sure many believe legalization comes with a pardoning for past offenders — pardoning of some sort.

                Idk, I don’t have much hope for all that really. I just would like to stop the bleeding first — to stop having black kids sent to jail for trivial weed shit would be a gain.

                1. Not sure if you were calling me out or just the general legalization crowd

                  Not calling anybody out. I was agreeing with your point “”it’s perfectly OK to keep striving for idyllic outcomes but it’s been hard enough to make marginal gains in this area.””

                  I think the best “pro-legalization” (the way its being done now) case is basically that. That, regardless of how crappy the quasi-legal regime will be, its ‘progress’.

                  the problem is i’m not sure that progress goes much farther without more people being dissatisfied with this sort of the status-quo

                  I think a fair number of people on the ‘legalize weed’ bandwagon have the idea that people will be let of the hook

                  Yes, and i think this is naive and a bit selfish. As i said, the people who celebrate are mostly the ones who feel that they’re “free to smoke weed” now. But there’s been zero attention paid to the lower-classes that are the most-often jailed for weed-crimes.

                  Legal weed is very much a benefit for ‘white people’. poor black people who smoke or sell it are still being arrested/jailed in record numbers, legal-nuances aside.

                  I think the experience in NYC over the past 40+ years should inform people about the reality of changes to the law. (see below) Even tho the 1977 law theoretically ‘downgraded’ its criminal status… its still a more-enforced ‘crime’ today than it was before that even happened.

      2. I remember that, but I still think it was a load of BS. He was talking about how he would like to use the terms, not how they are actually used.
        “Decriminalization” applied to drugs in this country always means removing criminal penalties for possession, but leaving almost all of the prohibition apparatus in place. And usually also leaving some minor civil penalty in place for possession.
        “Legalization” always is used to mean removing the laws making a drug contraband. That does often come with regulations and restrictions, but those aren’t an essential part of legalization. Of course, if you didn’t see the regulations and such coming with legalization, you are a dope.

        But, we live in a world where people think shit should be regulated like that. And I’m not going to hold my breath and wait for people to stop it while people are going to prison for growing, selling and possessing cannabis products, because it isn’t going to happen.

        1. i hate to break it to you, but legalization will still have “people going to prison for growing, selling and possessing cannabis products”

          NYC ‘decriminalized’ marijuana in 1977. here are NYC arrests for marijuana.

          They further downgraded penalties in 2013. Arrests went down and then went back up again.

          Some people assert that a mere change in legal status somehow equates to a de-facto increase in liberty. I disagree.

          The fact is that the drug dealers who went to jail in the weed-prohibition era will still be going to jail in the “legal” weed era. Because they’re not participating in the regulated economy. will penalties be ‘better’? marginally. but weighed against the millions of people who are now liable to be netted in new minor-violations, it is debatable whether there’s any gain for human-freedom overall.

          The thing that bothers me the most is the lack of awareness of how “legalization” creates new potential for crime-enforcement.

          As noted above – the theoretical guy who used to step outside the bar to toke up? he was always liable to be caught on the street and cited. But now, under the “freer” regime, its possible that will still be the case AND the bar itself would have increased liability. Who thinks that’s an improvement?

          1. Gee, I never thought of that.

            Oh, wait, yes I did. You could dial back the condescending asshole shit just a little bit.

            And you don’t actually know anything yet. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. But I expect we’ll end up with something similarly stupid to how alcohol is treated now. Which I do think is a big improvement.

            1. I expect we’ll end up with something similarly stupid to how alcohol is treated now. Which I do think is a big improvement.

              Im not trying to be a condescending asshole…. but i did already point out above that one of the reasons for my commentary happens to come from the fact that i spent ~15+ years covering the alcohol & tobacco industry.

              And that the regulation of the alcohol industry is one of the most scummy, crony-generating, arbitrary-enforcement laden areas of government.

              I am trying to explain to you that – No = becoming more like the alcohol industry is NOT a ‘big improvement’.

              Its a different kind of awful. One which increases opportunities for police to fuck with people, and more laws to be passed gradually encroaching on people’s freedoms.

              Yes, its not the bloody-carnage of the Drug War – but its an alternative that increases the number of ‘victims’ and expands the range of ways that government can control behavior.

              1. Fucking shit comment eating bastards.

                I can’t type all that again, but briefly: I can’t disagree too much. I still think on balance it’s better to legalize. But it’s a tricky question.

                And I have to admit to some bias toward my life being easy and comfortable. If the law on the matter is going to suck, at least let it suck in a way that I can get baked and not worry about it.

                1. I still think on balance it’s better to legalize. But it’s a tricky question.

                  As i said above – none of my commentary is suggesting that there’s any actual “better choice”. And that there are good arguments in favor for supporting the current path, on the theory that we’re making incremental progress.

                  The point of my comments is to clarify that we shouldn’t be fooled about what we’re getting; and that equal vigilance should be made in fighting the regulatory state as much as the criminalization-state

    2. You can’t serve alcohol if you’re a cigar bar?!? Is that true?

  8. How is that faux legalization working out, Reason?

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