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Colorado Cannabis Club Measure Clears Early Hurdle

Shot of a young man smoking a joint at an outdoor festival

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is moving ahead with a first-in-the-nation attempt to allow marijuana clubs.

But the measure that passed a Republican state Senate committee Wednesday evening doesn’t go as far as some marijuana activists hoped.

The bill would allow on-site marijuana consumption at private clubs in willing jurisdictions. And those clubs may allow indoor cannabis consumption, despite health concerns about indoor smoking.

“We're legal and we need a place for people to go. We need social clubs.”
Ashley Weber, Colorado NORML

But the bill is far from allowing a statewide network of cannabis clubs. For one, it would allow any jurisdiction to ban them, same as they can currently prohibit retail marijuana sales.

Also, the bill does not permit cannabis clubs to serve alcohol nor food.

Since the legalization measure passed in 2012, marijuana activists have complained that tourists and people who don’t want to use cannabis in front of their children need places to consume.

“We’re legal and we need a place for people to go. We need social clubs,” said Ashley Weber of Colorado NORML, a marijuana-legalization advocacy group.

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Smoking cannabis is banned on sidewalks, in parks as well as most Colorado hotels and car-rental companies.

Colorado law currently neither bans nor permits cannabis clubs. The result is a patchwork of local regulations regarding the clubs.

Supporters of the bill called it more of a first step toward establishing the nation’s first Amsterdam-like clubs. Though bars couldn’t allow cannabis consumption, yoga studios, art galleries, coffee shops or other public event spaces could apply for licenses.

“I don’t have time for perfect when we have an opportunity to move forward,” said Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist for a Boulder County marijuana company.

I Spent 3 Hours on Loopr, Denver’s New Dab Bus. Here’s Who I Met.

The city of Denver is working on its own rules for bring-your-own cannabis clubs. Denver’s measure does not allow indoor smoking, though the drug could be smoked on outdoor patios in some cases.

The statewide measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

Even if Colorado’s cannabis club proposal clears the Senate and then the House, the bill still faces a dicey path to becoming law.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed Denver’s measure last fall, and he has told reporters more recently that he’s not sure if a statewide law would invite federal intervention in Colorado’s marijuana experiment.