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Where Can I Legally Smoke??

Public Marijuana Use Prohibited in Legal States: Colorado Leads the Way in Social Use Clubs

Just as it is illegal to walk down the street with an open beer in hand, it is illegal to use marijuana in public spaces. The main difference is that you can pop into any bar and get a drink, but the places where consumption of cannabis is legal are much harder to find.

In each state that has passed the legalization of recreational marijuana, the final rulings contained wording that the consumption of marijuana is not permitted "openly and publicly." The areas, defined in Colorado's Amendment 64 as public, include "ski resorts, sporting and music venues, state and national parks, campsites, playgrounds, sidewalks and roads, dispensaries, bars, restaurants, and outdoor or rooftop cafes." Senate Bill 63 was voted on in 2017 to create a new type of license for a dispensary in CO that allowed use on site, so basically a bar for cannabis, but unfortunately it did not pass. Violators in any state face fines if caught using in public.

Those who own their own homes are unhindered, as it is legal to use cannabis on private property, however, a good deal of residents of legal states are finding themselves in a bind. It is possible for renters to find cannabis-friendly living spaces, but landlords and rental companies have the right to ban the use or possession of marijuana on their property, and many still do. Additionally, parents who want to get out of the home to smoke away from minors cannot do so, as well as those who live in condos or nursing homes that prohibit consumption. You can't even smoke in your car to escape the street, as any marijuana in a vehicle must be sealed and unused, whether you are driving or not. As it is not legal federally, it is also illegal to use or possess marijuana on federal land, including the numerous national parks and forests in Colorado, so forget about lighting up on that hike.

The restrictions created by this amendment affect tourists most greatly, as tourism to legal states increases. Now there are some hotels and AirBnb's that advertise themselves as "420 friendly," but just like landlords, hotels can ban the use on their property and most tend to stick to the classic "No Smoking" rule. Tourists and residents alike have access to social lounges and clubs as well as bus tours that allow smoking. These clubs found a loophole, by charging a membership fee to come inside and requiring that members bring their own cannabis, the space is considered private. Other states like California, Oregon, and Alaska also have these private smoking clubs, allowing adults to get together and consume socially, as they would in a bar to drink alcohol. The bus tours also, by selling tickets, are considered an invite-only private event. All consumption must be out of public view.

With the passing of Initiative 300 in November 2016, Denver became the first city with a measure explicitly allowing limited social consumption of cannabis. It is not fully legal in Colorado, but instead, each city is allowed to decide for themselves. The city's government is permitting businesses to apply for a Colorado Consumption Establishment license, to be classified as a "cannabis club."

The first business to apply and be accepted is a new café, which opened in March 2018, called The Coffee Joint. The coffee shop will not allow any actual smoking inside, but it does provide a safe space for its patrons to vape or use the available dab rigs. No cannabis products are sold on site, although there is a dispensary located right next door.

The second Denver company to apply was the Utopia All Natural Wellness Spa and Lounge, hoping to offer ganja yoga, cannabis massages, and other services. The application was recently denied due to the spa's proximity to a daycare center.

The newest application to be received by the city was for Denver Vape and Play, a marijuana-friendly gaming lounge. As they only submitted their application on June 7, 2018, there is no response yet about their status. The other businesses around the location are showing support, so co-founder Taylor Rosean is confident and hopeful that they will be approved.

This social-use pilot program is the first of any legal state to be implemented, although California, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Washington and Massachusetts have all had talks of putting something similar into effect. For now, they rely on the BYO-bud cannabis lounges that are already in operation.

Seattle, Washington formed a bill that made it to a hearing, but was swiftly rejected. In fact, Republicans added language to a completely unrelated bill that ruined any chances of legalizing cannabis lounges. The amendment made it a class D felony for any business to allow customers to "keep or consume marijuana on the premises." Aside from that law, the Washington Clean Air Act and King County's clean air act, which ban all smoking and vaporizing indoors, create further obstacles. All BYO type lounges that have popped up have since been shut down. So instead, Seattle residents are forced to break the law. Cops have been instructed not to give out tickets to people smoking on the street and even if they do, the fine is an affordable $27.

California has left it up to each city to decide whether to permit these cannabis lounges, so cities may also ban it if they so choose. San Francisco, unsurprisingly, has forged ahead with West Hollywood, L.A., Oakland, Sacramento, and others close behind. San Francisco has been tolerating onsite consumption at medical dispensaries since 2005, long before it became recreationally legal. Usually cannabis cannot be sold and consumed in the same location, but SF has proved to be most like the Netherlands in this regard. The lounges in dispensaries are, however, required to install expensive, heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation systems to ensure that none of the smoke or odor can leak outside, and they must have state clearance to sell.

One strict limitation that will not change is that no business may be approved while also holding a liquor license. As the law stands, there will be no place aside from private residences where it is legal to consume both alcohol and cannabis together. The legal lounges do not permit indoor cigarette smoking either.

Seeing an increase in licensing these businesses in large cities like San Francisco and Denver, we can expect to see state-sanctioned social use programs before too long. Maybe soon we'll get to hang out in the Amsterdam-style smoking lounges we've been dreaming of, but for now at least we have a few fun options for toking up.

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