Cannabis is a major attraction for tourists in recreational states – and Colorado may be the most infamous of them all. According to a report from SMARInsights, 25% of people who traveled to Colorado between 2013 and 2018 listed cannabis as one of the reasons they chose to visit the state. Colorado residents themselves spent $280 on average per year on cannabis compared to $220 and $130 for Washington and Oregon residents respectively, the number two and three states for recreational cannabis spend per capita. It is safe to say that cannabis is everywhere in Colorado.
Restrictions on Public Cannabis Consumption
Public consumption of cannabis is a commonly debated topic. Just because cannabis is legal for Colorado residents doesn’t mean everyone partakes. It is up to users to responsibly consume cannabis in a way that does not harm anyone or perpetuate the negative stereotypes about cannabis.
Colorado has strict public consumption laws; laws that prohibit anyone from smoking, eating, or vaping cannabis in public areas where one could conceivably negatively impact other residents with their cannabis consumption. Under Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act, smoking marijuana is not permitted anywhere that cigarette smoking is also banned, and marijuana is prohibited on federal land, including ski slopes, national forests, parks and monuments. Consumption is specifically banned at state-licensed marijuana facilities. This means users of cannabis are restricted to usage at their private residences. As you can imagine, this makes smoking cannabis a bit difficult for tourists or those who rent or cannot afford their own house or private property. Hotels and AirBnb’s are off limits, as are the dispensaries they purchase their cannabis at. The bevy of restrictions and regulations on public cannabis consumption may be soon to change though.
Public Consumption Changes
Cannabis consumption in Colorado is changing right before our eyes with recent legislation created to establish responsible public spaces for cannabis users. In May 2019, House Bill 1230 passed through Colorado legislation, a thoroughly expansive bill outlining some changes to the current public consumption laws. Marijuana lobbyist Cindy Sovine, who also does consulting for social marijuana entrepreneurs, calls House Bill 1230 the “most expansive bill in the country” for public consumption, and says she believes it could help diversify the cannabis industry.
So what does House Bill 1230 cover? Well for one, your favorite dispensaries can now apply for a special license that would allow them to offer a tasting room experience, similar to a brewery where customers can sample cannabis before making a decision on which strain or product to purchase. Businesses such as hotels, restaurants, music venues, art galleries and yoga studios could also apply for private consumption licenses and pot sales in a limited capacity, not unlike enjoying a beer at a hotel bar! These businesses that are successful in their applications would also be exempt from the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking inside public places.
Mobile marijuana is also included — tour buses and limousines could become the alternative choice to enjoying cannabis without having to worry about finding a private place to consume cannabis. Even temporary events, such as festivals or pop-ups, will be allowed to offer customers a place to consume cannabis on site. This opens up even more business opportunities for those in the cannabis industry.
Implementation of Bill 1230
However great and exciting these new public consumption laws may seem, they are not reality just yet. Communities and local governments will have to opt in to the new law to even receive the public consumption license. Then, the local businesses will have to apply themselves for the right to allow public consumption. This is further complicated by the fact that local governments will have the right to tweak the laws within their city or township so that only certain types of consumption are allowed.
The new law will take effect starting at the beginning of 2020, but the bill will allow for local governments to vote on social consumption businesses well before then. Many businesses in the cannabis industry will markedly benefit from the passage of Bill 1230, as less restrictive public consumption laws point towards wider acceptance, and thus, more demand and sales. It will also allow a much greater variety of establishments to start investing in the cannabis industry, namely those that do not necessarily sell cannabis but can allow consumption such as lounges, hotels, restaurants, and music venues.
The Future of Public Cannabis Consumption
While the path to people casually enjoying a joint in fully public spaces is likely far off in the future, the signs are encouraging. Legalizing certain forms of public consumption is a major step in the fight for widespread cannabis acceptance. However, it is also important to respect those that do not wish to partake, just as we do with those who do not enjoy cigarette smoke or other potentially disturbing behaviors. There is a fine balance where everyone can be happy and safe, and those who wish can enjoy cannabis in a more public setting.
As the State of Colorado continues to lead governments as a pioneer for responsible cannabis consumption, we are excited to see the industry and perceptions positively change in the near future.