\Last year on 4/20, a group of liberal-minded Denverites gathered at a bakery for a brunch featuring pot edibles.
As drinks began to be served, a group of black-clad Denver policemen descended on the gathering and ordered everyone to disperse, according to Jane West, the event’s organizer. West, a 38-year-old mother of two, said she was charged with a criminal misdemeanor.
“I wasn’t planning on becoming a criminal,” she said. “I was doing everything i could to make this legit.”
The raid was a result of the ambiguity left in the wake of the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized the sale of marijuana in Colorado three years ago. But while sales are now legal, legislators have left it up to cities and counties to determine where and when it can be smoked.
Since the law came into place, Denver has been cracking down on venues that allow pot-smoking and organized public events that feature it. In one well-known case, authorities dismantled a fundraiser put together for the city’s symphony.
Now a group called The Denver Campaign for Limited Social Marijuana Use is trying to make things more concrete. They recently began a ballot initiative push “so that adults could congregate and enjoy cannabis socially, just as alcohol consumers do.”
“We were frustrated that this issue was not being addressed by city leaders and wanted to push things forward,” the group says on its site.
But last week, the group withdrew the ballot proposal after city councilman Albus Brooks approached pro-pot groups expressing a willingness to come to a compromise.
“We now have the time and ability to include all interested stakeholders to reach consensus on this important issue,” Councilman Brooks said in an emailed statement. “I am committed to working on a broadly acceptable solution."
Any change in the law would not make Denver, let alone Colorado, the new Amsterdam, Mason Tvert, the head of the campaign, told me. He noted that, even in Amsterdam, there are plenty of legal restrictions on marijuana, but the practice of smoking pot in bars is merely tolerated.
The changes Tvert’s group seeks for Denver resemble the ordinance passed last year in Pueblo County two hours south: Any smoking would occur away from public view, to comply with the state’s indoor clean air act, but vaporizers and edibles will be allowed anywhere in an establishment.
And it would still be illegal to share a joint with your bartender, Amsterdam style, as Amendment 64 stipulated pot cannot be smoked where it’s sold.
Tvert said he couldn’t predict how long negotiations with local officials will take, nor how the city will come to define “public.” He also said they would not hesitate to re-float the ballot if talks stall.
“We believe adults who chose to consume marijuana should be treated equally to those who consume alcohol socially with other adults,” Tvert said.
Thanks to vaping360.com for the image.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.