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Coffee Shop Wants to Be Denver’s First Legal Cannabis Club

December 11, 2017
(Boogich/iStock)
DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s largest city is reviewing the first application from a business seeking to be among the nation’s first legal marijuana clubs, a step that comes more than a year after voters approved a bring-your-own pot measure.

Dan Rowland, a spokesman for the Denver department that regulates marijuana businesses, said the city received the application from the Coffee Joint on Friday.

Co-owners Rita Tsalyuk and Kirill Merkulov plan to charge a $5 entry fee if they’re approved for the license. Customers could use edible cannabis products or vaporizing pens inside, and the shop would sell food, host events and provide free coffee or tea, she said.

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Denver voters approved the clubs in a 2016 ballot measure, but it took nine months for the city to start accepting applications. Advocates have complained that state restrictions preventing pot use at any business with a liquor license and the city’s own rules unfairly limited potential locations for the clubs.

“We want to give a better name to the cannabis industry and be good for residents, too.”
Rita Tsalyuk, Coffee Joint co-owner

For instance, the city required cannabis clubs to be twice as far from schools and anywhere else children gather as liquor stores.

Customers buying marijuana products often ask where they are allowed to legally use it, and employees have few answers for tourists staying in hotels that ban marijuana use, Tsalyuk said.

Colorado law doesn’t address cannabis clubs. In some cities, they are tolerated, while others operate secretly.

Other states with legal marijuana are at a standstill for developing rules governing places to consume pot products, including Alaska, where state regulators have delayed discussion of rules for retail shops until spring.

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How to Get a ‘Social Marijuana Use’ License in Denver

It could be months before Denver residents and tourists would be allowed to legally vape or eat pot products at the Coffee Joint. The city said it has just started to review the application and a public hearing will probably be scheduled within two to three months.

In the meantime, Tsalyuk and Merkulov want to open their business before the end of the year as a traditional coffee shop. For their 1,850-square-foot space, they plan to convert a garage to a space for “vape and paint” events, open a smaller room for private events and put in comfortable furniture.

“We want to give a better name to the cannabis industry and be good for residents, too,” Tsalyuk said.

The proposal has the backing of a local neighborhood association, which submitted a letter of support to the city. Applicants have to show community support for their proposal as part of the licensing process.

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Alaska Proposal Would Open Door to On-Site Consumption

Aubrey Lavizzo, a member of the La Alma Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, said the club backers attended two of their meetings and invited members to tour the dispensary.

“They’ve shown us that they really want to be good neighbors,” said Lavizzo, a veterinarian who has had a clinic in the neighborhood for over 30 years.

Merkulov said they are aware of the national and global spotlight on the industry.

“It’s a new apex,” he said. “We hope to prove this can be managed well and be safe.”

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  • Wade Rawluk

    If smoking is not allowed then the legalization of social use has not been achieved. I will not vape. It is humiliating to have people try to foce me to say that freedom has been achieved when it has not. Such social use is a lie if bit does not include smoking in the establishment. This kind of law seeks to mollify and make prohibitionists happy while making money for vaporizer and hash oil companies. I want to smoke flowers and hashish (non-solvent concentrates) not vape hash oils. Until that happens I will have tostill look for some bud and breakfast that allows me to smoke flowers and non-solvent concentrates in my room when I visit Denver. As far as I am concerned this “social use” is nothing more than a con and a lie meant to mollify me and make corporations rich. We have not achieved a situation similar to Amsterdam in Denver. In Amsterdam one can smoke floers and hash. In Denver this cannot be done. As a result there is no true social use in Denver. This is only a partial victory since it establishes the public use principle but does not allow public use for anything other than vaping. The fight for true social use – one that allows smoking – has still to be won.

  • Mark Stonebraker

    I don’t enjoy second hand smoke: neither tobacco nor anything else. Smoke is smoke and nobody should be forced to breathe it. Old school smokers must be willing to compromise to move the bigger picture forward. On a happier note, who will be the first in the U.S. to receive a license to allow use in their place of business? Exciting times!