Denver will let people get high together in public — just not by smoking weed


Colorado has a pot paradox: Under state law, it’s perfectly legal for adults to buy and possess marijuana, but still illegal for people to use the drug in public.

That’s no big deal for locals who are free to smoke as much weed as they want in the privacy of their own homes, but it can be inordinately difficult for out-of-towners to find a place to legally spark up the joint they just purchased at a state-sanctioned pot shop.

Denver is now working to carve out exemptions that would allow certain venues in the city to permit patrons to get high together, but the new rules will only sanction the use of edibles and certain types of extracts, which can already be used discretely in most places. Anyone caught smoking pot in public will still face a $100 fine and up to 24 hours of community service.

City residents voted in the November election to start allowing “social use” of marijuana. It’s the first law of its kind — no other state where recreational marijuana use is legal permits people to get high together in public.

But the new law is short on specifics. A working group comprised of Denver business owners, city regulators, and marijuana legalization opponents will meet for this first time Wednesday to start deciding precisely where and how public pot use will be allowed, according to the Associated Press.

Whatever the outcome, it won’t be much help to the estimated 23 percent of tourists who visit the state partly because marijuana is legal there. Denver’s new law expressly forbids smoking weed indoors in public spaces.

There are other restrictions, too. None of the businesses will be able to sell marijuana products, and Colorado’s Liquor Control Board prohibits any establishment with a liquor license from allowing marijuana use. That only leaves the door open for restaurants that don’t serve alcohol, coffee shops, yoga studios, art galleries, and other non-boozy places to allow customers to communally enjoy their smokeless high.

The regulations will also require the new pot clubs to get approval from their neighbors before opening, but nobody seems to think that will be a problem. Emmett Reistroffer, a cannabis-industry consultant who ran the campaign to allow public marijuana use, told the AP that “there are plenty of places in Denver where you can find neighbors who want this kind of establishment.”

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