Colorado’s top marijuana regulator called legislation that would lead to cannabis tasting rooms an “incremental approach” to social use.
Jim Burack, director of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, offered the comment during testimony on separate legislation, Senate Bill 211, which would have allowed for cannabis consumption clubs. The legislation died April 2 on a vote of 6-1.
Instead, Burack highlighted House Bill 1258, a measured approach to implementing cannabis hospitality without indoor smoking. The bill 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 stakeholder process to create cannabis consumption education centers where consumers can receive product and consumption safety information from trained professionals.
Several backers of the bill are working with the Colorado Department of Transportation on having a conversation around cannabis and driving. The so-called “Cannabis Conversation” is a partnership between the marijuana industry and state transportation and law enforcement officials to raise awareness around cannabis and driving.
At a recent Cannabis Conversation event in Denver, state officials called it unprecedented to have such a partnership with the cannabis industry on a public safety issue like impaired driving. Terrapin Care Station, one of the cannabis companies to sponsor the Cannabis Conversation, recently attended the Denver Auto Show with CDOT at the Colorado Convention Center where surveys of driver habits were taken. Cannabis tasting rooms could serve as another point of access for officials to expand on the impaired driving conversation. Terrapin Care Station is also working on an “Explore Responsibly” campaign to remind consumers to be responsible when consuming cannabis.
“The cannabis industry is committed to a responsible approach to consumption, especially when it comes to driving,” said Peter Marcus, communications director for Terrapin Care Station. “The large presence of cannabis industry professionals involved in the Cannabis Conversation is an indication of the industry’s commitment to work with state and private partners to advance a productive conversation on cannabis and driving.”
House Bill 1258 mandates local control, with towns and cities having the option to enter a tasting rooms program. 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, however, adds statewide certainty in light of a patchwork of local rules and regulations.
To remain compliant with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, customers would be permitted to vaporize cannabis flower and concentrate. Smoking would be prohibited. Sampling single-serving infused products also would be allowed under the bill. The measure would set consumer purchase limits on marijuana flower, concentrates and infused products. The limit would be guided by feedback from the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Consumers would have to be at least 21 years old, and retail employees would be trained to spot for intoxication.
When asked about House Bill 1258, Burack said MED had been active in discussions for both public consumption bills, but he added that only HB 1258 offers an “incremental” step.
The measure has now cleared two House committees, where it received bipartisan votes in both committees. Its last stop was in the House Appropriations Committee on April 6, where it moved to the House floor on a vote of 9-4. House Republican Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock joined in supporting the legislation. The bill could be heard on the floor of the House as early as Monday.
Tasting rooms also would begin to move cannabis consumption out of streets and parks and into supervised, licensed and regulated settings.
“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.
Chris Woods, founder, owner and chief executive of Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, 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 said. “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.”