Boulder, Colo. — March 23, 2018 — A bipartisan bill that crossed a critical first hurdle in the Colorado Legislature offers a measured approach to implementing cannabis hospitality.
The Tasting Rooms legislation, House Bill 1258, would allow retail cannabis businesses to add an endorsement to their existing license that would permit limited onsite sales and consumption beginning in January 2019. The balanced legislation is the result of a multi-year effort to create cannabis consumption learning centers where consumers can receive product and consumption safety information from trained professionals.
The measure received an 8-5 bipartisan vote in the House Finance Committee on March 19. It now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.
“We don’t need people using marijuana in our parks or on our sidewalks,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, a sponsor of the legislation. “This bill will help make sure people aren’t consuming more than they should and are doing it in an environment no different than what you would see at a winery or brewery.”
“This bill coincides with the goals of Colorado voters who approved Amendment 64,” added Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, one of the bill’s sponsors in the Senate. “We are providing a safe, well-regulated environment for Colorado’s cannabis consumers.”
Other bill sponsors include Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.
In testifying on the legislation, the Marijuana Enforcement Division pointed to a collaborative and responsive stakeholder process.
“We’re confident we’re able to work with the sponsors on… some of the… more minor technical issues we’ve identified in the bill to ensure reasonable safeguards that will allow the Division to continue its mission of promoting public safety and reducing risks of public harm,” said Dominique Mendiola, a deputy director with MED.
Chris Woods, founder, owner and chief executive of Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, a national cannabis company that is backing the tasting rooms effort in Colorado, said the proposal is “a step towards providing a licensed and supervised environment for residents and tourists seeking a safe, responsible place to consume marijuana.”
“Regulatory uncertainty on the local level has resulted in confusion, prompting the need for a statewide uniform policy,” Woods continued. “This bill creates a uniform policy for licensed marijuana consumption establishments; provides a critical step towards cannabis-free public spaces; and allows consumers safe and supervised consumption while comporting with the state’s indoor smoking ban and protecting the integrity of Colorado’s regulatory system.”
To remain compliant with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, customers would be permitted to vaporize cannabis flower and concentrate. Sampling single-serving infused products also would be allowed under the bill. The measure would set a consumer purchase limit of 3.5 grams of flower, or 1 gram of marijuana concentrate, or the standard infused product serving size of 10 milligrams active THC. Consumers would have to be at least 21 years old, and retail employees would be trained to spot for intoxication.
In terms of health and safety, the measure promotes cannabis-free public spaces, which reduces burdens on state and local law enforcement while offering a safe alternative for parents who want to sample products outside of the home. Regulators see the public safety value in creating a consistent statewide policy with regulatory oversight.
The bill also would help retain Colorado’s economic leadership role in the cannabis industry, an industry that was born in the Centennial State. Proposals for cannabis hospitality are moving forward in peer states such as California, Massachusetts and Nevada, which are implementing or pursuing public consumption models of their own.
Retail marijuana license and medical marijuana center license holders would only be allowed to operate one tasting room per licensed location under the measure. A tasting room could be adjacent to the retail marijuana center, or elsewhere in the city depending on local zoning, but it would have to be separated with a separate entrance and exit. Consumers would be allowed to exit with any unused products that are purchased in child-resistant, re-sealable packages, and the bill mandates maintaining strict packaging and labeling requirements.
The legislation also places a heavy focus on local control, giving towns and cities the power to decide whether to allow cannabis tasting rooms. The bill would not interfere with Denver’s implementation of social consumption facilities, where voters in 2016 backed social use with the passage of I-300. The measure would give local officials an option to address cannabis hospitality in a manner that reflects their community, while creating predictability for consumers and consistency for regulators.
The ancillary opportunity for businesses also would be immense, which is why House Bill 1258 is receiving support from outside the direct cannabis industry. Companies developing vaporization products – including GoFire and Hopper Labs — would be able to sell those products in the same room where consumers are testing the products. And because it would be prohibited to prepare food on premises in a tasting room, food trucks could provide a valuable service.
“We look forward to having this critical conversation,” Woods concluded. “This legislation represents a potential giant step forward for the cannabis industry in Colorado.”
About Terrapin Care Station
Boulder, Colorado-based Terrapin Care Station (TCS) is a vertically-integrated consumer-focused cultivator, processor and provider of high-quality medical and adult-use cannabis products. Founded in 2009, TCS has five storefronts on Colorado’s Front Range; it holds retail and cultivation licenses in Eugene, Oregon; and it is a medical marijuana grower/processor in Clinton County, Pennsylvania. Follow TCS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information, visit TerrapinCareStation.com.