O∞cials de­tail work for OK’d pot mea­sure

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jon Mur­ray

Den­ver licensing and le­gal of­fi­cials told City Coun­cil mem­bers Mon­day that they still had plenty of work to do to im­ple­ment the first-of-its-kind mar­i­juana so­cial-use law ap­proved by city vot­ers last month.

“Our plan is to im­ple­ment the will of the vot­ers within the con­fines of the law,” said Ashley Kil­roy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Den­ver Depart­ment of Ex­cise and Li­censes. She’s also the long­time di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Mar­i­juana Pol­icy.

But fig­ur­ing out the “con­fines of the law” may be the trick­i­est part in com­ing months as of­fi­cials de­velop reg­u­la­tions for Ini­tia­tive 300. The bal­lot mea­sure, which passed with 53.6 per­cent sup­port Nov. 8, man­dates that the city make per­mits avail­able for busi­nesses to cre­ate bring-your-own-mar­i­juana con­sump­tion ar­eas, ei­ther for events or reg­u­lar use, last­ing up to a year. Those busi­nesses first would need to ob­tain sup­port from a lo­cal neigh­bor­hood or busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tion.

City At­tor­ney Kristin Bron­son said state law, which bars con­sump­tion of mar­i­juana “openly and pub­licly,” doesn’t de­fine those terms clearly, leav­ing plenty for her of­fice to in­ter­pret.

She said it would con­sult other laws defin­ing “pub­lic places” to cre­ate fur­ther re­stric­tions for the con­sump­tion ar­eas as well as other safe­guards to com­ply with Colorado’s Amend­ment 64.

The ar­eas also would need to op­er­ate in keep­ing with ob­jec­tives out­lined by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice to states with le­gal­ized mar­i­juana, in­clud­ing pre­vent­ing mar­i­juana from get­ting into chil­dren’s hands, although she noted that fed­eral guid­ance could change un­der Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mon­day af­ter­noon’s meet­ing of the coun­cil’s mar­i­juana spe­cial is­sue com­mit­tee marked the first post­elec­tion brief­ing of coun­cil mem­bers by Mayor Michael Han­cock’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Den­ver Post re­ported Sun­day that city licensing of­fi­cials are aim­ing to in­vite sup­port­ers, op­po­nents, com­mu­nity mem­bers, ex­perts and busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives to join an ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee soon. The So­cial Con­sump­tion Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee will help shape the reg­u­la­tions the city pro­poses, with an air­ing of those rules ex­pected at a pub­lic hear­ing in April or May.

While Ini­tia­tive 300 re­quires the city to make per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions avail­able by Jan. 21 — and of­fi­cials plan to meet that dead­line — ap­pli­ca­tions likely won’t be ac­cepted un­til next sum­mer.

A draft time­line de­tailed by Kil­roy said that may hap­pen be­tween June and Au­gust. The city then would be­gin is­su­ing per­mits.

“We won’t be­gin ac­cept­ing (ap­pli­ca­tions) un­til we’ve got­ten through the process and know what the rules will be,” she told nine coun­cil mem­bers who at­tended Mon­day’s brief­ing.

Ini­tia­tive 300 set a fouryear pi­lot pe­riod for the per­mit pro­gram and re­quires that the coun­cil es­tab­lish a task force to an­a­lyze its im­pact. There are some big lim­i­ta­tions from the start: Un­der state laws and reg­u­la­tions, the per­mits will be off-lim­its for mar­i­juana busi­nesses, in­clud­ing dis­pen­saries, and for busi­nesses with liquor li­censes, in­clud­ing bars.

Coun­cil­man Paul Lopez sug­gested to Kil­roy that pol­i­cy­mak­ers strongly con­sider re­quir­ing pub­lic hear­ings for each per­mit, in ad­di­tion to the re­quired sup­port from a lo­cal neigh­bor­hood group. “I think that’s go­ing to be crit­i­cal, be­cause imag­ine there be­ing bars with­out any kind of pub­lic hear­ing or any­thing like that,” he said.

“It will def­i­nitely be on our agenda,” Kil­roy said.

Robin Kniech, an at­large coun­cil mem­ber, sug­gested that licensing of­fi­cials make sure to choose mem­bers of the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee who, even if they didn’t sup­port Ini­tia­tive 300, are geared to­ward im­ple­ment­ing it in a prac­ti­cal way, and quickly. She ex­pressed worry that some skep­tics could try to take a wider view by fo­cus­ing too much on health im­pacts or the ef­fects of mar­i­juana on chil­dren.

“I think we’re set­ting ex­pec­ta­tions for frus­tra­tion if the com­mu­nity thinks they’re go­ing to come in and have a de­bate about whether this is good or bad,” Kniech said. “That de­bate hap­pened dur­ing the elec­tion.”

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