DENVER (AP) — Bars and many restaurants in Denver won’t be able to offer on-site marijuana consumption because of a new state rule announced Friday that prohibits liquor-license holders from applying for the permit.
The new regulation, approved by the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue, takes effect Jan. 1 and strikes a major blow to Denver’s voter-passed initiative to allow patrons to consume cannabis in such establishments, according to The Denver Post.
Supporters of the city’s initiative, which passed in the Nov. 8 election, reacted with dismay and said they were studying the state’s decision.
“It’s remarkable that state officials are trying to scare bars and restaurants into not seeking these permits,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project and a proponent of the consumption law. “The Department of Revenue is fighting a turf battle on behalf of the liquor industry.”
Meanwhile, Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauded the decision, saying the group is concerned about the consequences of alcohol and marijuana impairment on the state’s roads.
“Detecting the combined impairment from marijuana and alcohol would be very difficult for servers at bars and restaurants,” said Fran Lanzer, MADD’s state executive director.
City officials have been trying to figure out how to implement Initiative 300, which calls for the creation of a four-year pilot program that will allow most businesses, including cafes and even yoga studios, to seek permits for separate cannabis consumption areas.
“We clearly will be taking this new rule into account as we assess how to implement 300,” Dan Rowland, a spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, told the newspaper.
Denver’s measure took effect immediately after it passed but has a lot of caveats.
Interested businesses would have to show they have neighborhood support before getting a license to allow marijuana use. Patrons also would have to bring their own weed and would not be allowed to smoke it indoors. The law does provide for the possibility of outside smoking areas with some restrictions.
Supporters of the measure do not know how many establishments will apply for the permits or how long it will take for them to demonstrate community acceptance and be approved. So it may be many months before Denver sees any Amsterdam-style coffee shops.
The measure sunsets in 2020, unless city officials renew the licenses or voters make it permanent.