While retail marijuana shops under Amendment 64 won’t be able to open until October, legal pot proponents believe they don’t have to wait to set up cannabis-themed private clubs, where members can freely associate and inhale.
The city of Aspen has received several inquiries about opening such a business here, Aspen City Attorney Jim True said.
“It’s a huge debate throughout the state,” True said. “... But the general consensus is, yeah, it’s allowed.”
The legality of the clubs is contingent on their conformity to local zoning ordinances, True said. There also could be a hang-up concerning the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, but True said he is still researching that issue.
“That’s part of the question,” said True, who suggested that would-be pot clubs stick to brownies.
However, a Denver attorney who opened Colorado’s first cannabis club in a temporary location on New Year’s Eve, said no such conflict exists with the state’s no-indoor-smoking law. That legislation, adopted in 2006, specifically talks about protecting people from tobacco smoke in public places, and defines tobacco in the text, said Robert Corry of Denver.
“That definition does not look at marijuana,” said Corry, who opened Club 64 in downtown Denver to ring in the new year. The club charged $29 for a membership, and members had to bring their own pot — it was not provided by the club. The club has since suspended operations, and Corry said he is currently looking to host another Club 64 gathering in another location, or find a permanent place where the establishment also could conduct alcohol sales.
Aspen would be a natural place to set up a cannabis club, Corry said.
“I think Aspen would be the next logical step,” Corry said. “It’s perfect for our business model; it’s a recreation and tourism economy, it has people who are open-minded and free thinking, some of whom have disposable income. It would probably be my first choice if I lived up there. I think it would be an excellent place to expand.”
The city has not received any official applications for a pot club business license, True said. However, “We are hearing that people are inquiring,” he said.
Voters in Colorado approved Amendment 64 in November, legalizing the possession and use of personal amounts of marijuana for people over 21. The law calls for a regulatory framework where pot will be sold in retail locations much like alcohol, and a state task force is crafting recommendations for how such a system should work. By October, cities and towns will be able to grant business licenses to retail pot shops, guided by the new state rules.
Amendment 64 allows cities and towns to opt out of allowing retail pot shops. While town councils in Basalt and Carbondale have taken the pre-emptive step of placing moratoriums on such businesses, Aspen has a more hands-off approach.
“We’ve decided that we are not going to freak out,” city planning director Chris Bendon told the Aspen Daily News in December. “We are not going to use the zoning code to legislate morality and personal responsibility.”