Denver’s top licensing official Friday unveiled final rules for a four-year pilot program that in coming months will allow patrons of some businesses to use marijuana in a social setting.
The first-in-the-nation program — ordered by the nearly 54 percent of voters who approved Initiative 300 in the Nov. 8 election — will begin accepting applications by the end of August to permit social consumption areas. Applicants who want annual or event-based permits must obtain backing from a neighborhood or area business group, giving those groups the power to set operating conditions for the set-off, 21-and-over areas where customers can consume their own cannabis.
Officials say they need to update licensing systems to process the applications, so that likely will push back the acceptance of requests from an original late-July target.
“We have had a very aggressive timeline, and we’re right on time,” Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses, said about finalizing the rules. “Building any structure from the ground up takes time.”
Sponsors of I-300 are likely to be unsatisfied with some of the final rules, since they have pushed to change several — mostly unsuccessfully — since Kilroy proposed them May 11. An advisory committee including both supporters and opponents of I-300 helped shape the regulations, resulting in wide consensus on some issues but disagreement on others intended to protect neighborhoods near businesses that seek permits.
I-300 campaign leader Emmett Reistroffer, from Denver Relief Consulting, said he planned to review the final rules before commenting on them Friday.
Kilroy did bow to the initiative backers on some issues. The licensing department no longer will require businesses with consumption area permits to have customers sign waivers as they enter. Instead, the businesses must post a visible notice advising patrons they are responsible for their own actions, must consume marijuana responsibly, should not drive impaired and cannot share marijuana in exchange for money.
The other major change is to drop a requirement for a business to create and follow a ventilation plan if it allows the use of vaping devices indoors. Kilroy said that ultimately was deemed unnecessary since city requirements already call for adequate ventilation and applicants already need an odor-control plan.
Fees for successful permit applications will total $2,000. Interested businesses so far have included yoga studios, coffee shops with back-door patios, and bars or restaurants — though they must be willing to meet strict liquor exclusion rules for regular or one-off events, since state liquor licensing rules bar the mixture of alcohol and marijuana. Businesses that grow or sell marijuana in Denver won’t be eligible to apply for consumption area permits.
This story will be updated.
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