Marijuana social clubs could become available for tourists

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DENVER -- In January, the marijuana industry sold $88 million worth of pot-related products. That number is up more than 50 percent from last year.

Part of the increase is the result of tourists coming to the state and participating in the legal trade. But tourists often run into problems when they want to smoke. Mostly, where can they do it?

“It’s the No. 1 question we get from out-of-staters,” said Emma Attolini, general manager of the Grass Station in Denver.

One of those tourists asking questions is Nick Davenport. He was is in town from Atlanta and was baffled that he could not easily smoke in a social setting like he can in Amsterdam.

“We thought we could walk down the street and smoke a joint. Last night, I smoked one outside by Quality Inn Hotel,” Davenport said with a smile.

Davenport and Attolini are hopeful a bill in the General Assembly to expand pot social clubs has received a warm reception.

While such social venues exist, they are few in number, unregulated, require membership fees, and in some cities, face the threat of closure by city council.

State Rep. Jonathan Singer is leading the charge at the State Capitol.

“What this bill will allow is people to enjoy marijuana in the same way that they have enjoyed a glass of beer or a pint of wine,” Singer said.

The measure has yet to be officially introduced as Singer works out some of the specifics.

But critics are already speaking out, including Jim Gerhardt with the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. Gerhardt said social clubs violate the state Constitution and the spirit of Amendment 64.

Others like Brenda Labella fear for safety.

“They are getting high, and then they leave and maybe they’re not capable of driving. They’re putting people's lives in danger,” said Labella, who supports the idea of pot in homes but not in public.

Some of the questions people in the marijuana industry have include:

  • How will social clubs be able to make money if they are not allowed to sell food or drink?
  • Would dispensaries be allowed to open tasting rooms?
  • Would social clubs be allowed to sell marijuana?
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