Den­ver crack­down on pot tour buses heads to court

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NEVADA & THE WEST - By An­drew Ken­ney

DEN­VER — Two months af­ter un­der­cover Den­ver po­lice of­fi­cers led a raid on mar­i­juana party buses, the case is head­ing to­ward a trial.

The tour buses, which are still op­er­at­ing, al­low pay­ing cus­tomers to use cannabis while they ride be­tween dis­pen­saries and other des­ti­na­tions. Af­ter run­ning for years with lit­tle trou­ble, buses from two com­pa­nies were tar­geted in a June 15 op­er­a­tion that re­sulted in crim­i­nal charges for dozens of cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees.

“They were fac­ing crim­i­nal charges that based on the pro­fes­sions they had … that would have re­ally de­stroyed some of these peo­ple’s lives,” said Danny Schae­fer, CEO of My 420 Tours, one of the af­fected com­pa­nies.

More than $100,000 in le­gal bills later, he said, the 27 cus­tomers caught up in the raid have set­tled their cases for pub­lic con­sump­tion by in­stead ac­cept­ing low-level civil tick­ets. But the fight isn’t over: Four em­ploy­ees of the tour bus com­pa­nies have agreed to go to trial on var­i­ous crim­i­nal charges, Schae­fer said.

“We’ve been work­ing dili­gently to come to kind of an am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion with the city,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, they’re tak­ing a hard­line stance on just our seg­ment of the space, straight across the board.”

Mean­while, My 420 Tours is still run­ning its op­er­a­tion in Den­ver. The other tar­geted com­pany, Colorado Cannabis Tours, de­clined to com­ment on its cur­rent routes.

And to make things even more com­pli­cated, a new rec­om­men­da­tion from a city task force says that the buses should be le­gal­ized. That will be up for dis­cus­sion by the Den­ver City Coun­cil in the com­ing months.

The crack­down high­lighted what some see as a gap in the state’s recre­ational mar­i­juana laws. There are few le­gal spa­ces to con­sume mar­i­juana, aside from pri­vate homes. Tourists make up most of the mar­ket for the buses, and most of the tick­ets went to out-of-staters.

The com­pa­nies have paid their cus­tomers’ le­gal and travel bills, in­clud­ing for a group of eight that had to travel back to Den­ver for a court date, Schae­fer said. Sev­eral weeks ago, 26 of the tourists pleaded guilty to a lesser civil in­frac­tion of smok­ing in pub­lic, he said.

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