Sessions-Shy Colorado Legislators Gut Bill Authorizing Cannabis Consumption Clubs

Fear of provoking a federal crackdown prompts a retreat.



If cannabis consumers in Colorado continue to have trouble finding places outside their homes where they can legally enjoy the marijuana they can legally buy, they can thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Yesterday Collorado legislators gutted a broadly supported bill that would have authorized cannabis consumption clubs, citing uncertainty about how a Justice Department run by an old-style pot prohibitionist might respond.

Amendment 64, the 2012 ballot initiative that made Colorado the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, allows adults 21 and older to smoke, vape, eat, or drink cannabis products at home. But Amendment 64 does not apply to "consumption that is conducted openly and publicly," which remains a petty offense punishable by a $100 fine. Because the meaning of "openly and publicly" is a matter of dispute, consuming cannabis outside of private residences remains legally perilous in many jurisdictions. Denver, for example, has a bunch of businesses where you can legally buy marijuana but none where you can legally use it.

S.B. 184, introduced by Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) and Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), defined "openly and publicly" to exclude consumption on private property that is shielded from public view or to which access is restricted. The bill, which was approved by the state Senate last month and was on the verge of approval in the House, would have let people bring their own marijuana to use inside members-only clubs except where prohibited by local law. The clubs would have been forbidden to sell marijuana, alcohol, or food aside from light snacks.

Gov. John Hickenlooper had threatened to veto S.B. 184, partly because he views it as contrary to voters' intent in passing Amendment 64 and partly because he did not want to provoke Sessions, who has repeatedly criticized marijuana legalization and suggested he will crank up enforcement of the federal ban. "It was explicit in [Amendment 64] that it would not be for public consumption," Hickenlooper told The Denver Post last month. "So I'm just trying to defend the will of the voters." In an earlier interview with the Post, he also cited the risk of federal intervention. "Given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be…trying to carve off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana," he said. "The federal government can [wield] a pretty heavy hand on this, and I think we should be doing everything we can to demonstrate…we are being responsible in how we implement the will of our voters."

Yesterday S.B. 184 was amended to eliminate the language authorizing "marijuana membership clubs" and to broaden the definiton of "openly and publicly," which now covers any "place to which the public or a substantial number of the public has access." But the revised bill authorizes local governments to allow "marijuana consumption locations" as long as "the locations are not accessible to the public or a substantial number of the public without restriction, including, but not limited to, restrictions on the age of the members of the public who are allowed access to such location." In other words, the bill would explicitly allow what some jurisdictions have already decided to do: permit cannabis consumption in restricted-access locations, as a local ballot initiative approved by Denver voters in November is supposed to do.

"I'd like to see [a bill] that goes much further, and that does a lot more," Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) told the Associated Press. "But in a year with Jeff Sessions, a small first step is better than no step at all." Sen. Tim Neville (R-Boulder), who sponsored a competing bill that would have allowed on-site consumption in businesses that sell marijuana, disagreed with the retreat. "It only makes sense to allow people to have a place to where they can [use marijuana] where it's controlled and confined," he said. "We have legalized marijuana. Where do we want people to use it if not at home? On the street?"

As Neville's question suggests, the lack of legally approved locations for marijuana use tends to make it more conspicuous, not less. I am not sure I follow the logic of trying to placate a cannaphobe like Sessions by preventing people from discreetly consuming marijuana behind closed doors.

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  1. Sessions tuk ar pot!

  2. Pussies.

    This is obviously not Texas.

  3. You know what I find funny about the new culture of legal weed? I can tell when my neighbors are consuming it, whereas I have no idea when they crack a beer.

  4. Hopefully Sessions is one of those AGs that leaves after a year or two. But I think he loves the authoritah too much.

    1. Since Watergate, the real primary responsibility of the AG is to protect the President from scandal investigations.

      Thus, having the trust of the President is the primary qualification.

      Who can he replace Sessions with–someone he can trust?

      Even Obama needed an AG to protect him from scandal–after he sent classified emails to Hillary’s server under a pseudonym because he knew it was illegal. That’s why Comey announced that there would be no charges against Hillary–despite that not being his determination to make. The FBI director works under the AG. She made that decision to protect Obama.

      Practically everyone in Washington–including people in his own party–would love to see Trump take a big fall. His own intelligence services were investigating his campaign and trying to get warrants to tap him just months ago!

      Sessions will be there so long as Trump trusts him to watch his back. I don’t think there’s anyone who can replace him. Giuliani would probably get confirmed. Can you think of anyone else?

    2. Certainly, Sessions’ position as AG isn’t because of Sessions; position on cannabis.

      During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to respect state cannabis laws.

      And he’s certainly done a better job of that than Obama did during his first term. Obama launched hundreds of raids on medical marijuana clinics.

    3. But this story concerns ostensible policy influence by raised eyebrow. Somebody’s blaming the mere install’n of Jeff Sessions as reason not to enact a certain state law. Sessions didn’t do anything but “be Jeff Sessions”, yet he gets the blame? This is ridiculous misattribution of responsibility. I doubt the governor’s mind would’ve been any different had Tommy Chong been US AG; he just wouldn’t’ve given that as an excuse.

  5. I am not sure I follow the logic of trying to placate a cannaphobe like Sessions

    I mean who isn’t afraid of cannoli??

    1. It’s these cans! He has a grudge against cans!

  6. “If cannabis consumers in Colorado continue to have trouble finding places outside their homes where they can legally enjoy the marijuana they can legally buy, they can thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

    If Sessions can persecute cannabis consumers in states where it’s legal without endangering support for Trump in any state that broke for Trump, that’s largely the fault of blue state voters who would sell most any principle down the river–including voting for a criminal like Hillary Clinton–rather than vote for someone whose tweets are insufficiently PC.

    Two pints:

    1) Every state that has legal recreational marijuana went for Hillary Clinton except for Alaska.

    2) The states that have recreational marijuana had to get it through the initiative process because they had to legalize it over the objections of progressive legislatures.

    Also, remember, Jeff Sessions is AG despite his position on cannabis–not because of it. Jeff Sessions is AG because he was loyal to Trump during the campaign–and very few Republicans would support Trump, so Trump had very few people he could trust to watch his back to choose from. The only other Republican who threw their futures in with Trump during the campaign (Giuliani, Bolton, Gingrich, Palin, Christie), were Republicans who had no future. Sessions was the only one with any real influence–beyond simple name recognition and star power.

    1. that’s largely the fault of blue state voters who would sell most any principle down the river–including voting for a criminal like Hillary Clinton–rather than vote for someone whose tweets are insufficiently PC.

      Trump doesn’t strike me as a very principled or liberty-respecting fellow, either. The problem with Trump is not that he’s not PC, but that he is an authoritarian scumbag. Clinton’s evil does not excuse Trump’s evil in any way.

      I’m really tired of the Trump apologists.

  7. Point being, Trump’s position during the campaign was that he would respect the laws in states where it’s legal, but if winning in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin come 2020 depends on making cannabis users scream in pain in California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington State, and Colorado, he’ll do that. it’s not like the idiot progressives will ever support the policies of Trump anyway–no matter what they are.

    They hate him because of what he says and tweets–and that isn’t Trump’s fault. It isn’t Trump’s fault that blue state progressives supported Obama and Hillary–despite what they did–because of what they said, either. If there isn’t anything Trump could do to win their support, then I’ll feel sorry for the people who suffer because of the Drug War–in spite of the idiot progressives whose stupid obsession with speech, tweets, and political correctness have made those sorts of ugly political calculations possible.

  8. It’s a good thing I don’t hold on to hope. Else news like this would trouble me. And yet fuck, I still feel that sting.

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