Public Consumption Permit, Colorado is Exploring Marijuana Cafes

A public consumption permit is Colorado’s way of testing the possibilities of Amsterdam-like pot cafes and the first one should be coming to Denver soon. Their are elevated expectations by cannabis proponents of cafes because it represents a very desirable social setting for marijuana smoking, however it is going to bump up against strong opposition.

Denver is preparing to open the country’s first cannabis cafés, but people in the bud business say overly strict rules could kill the city’s — and the nation’s — pot lounges before they ever get a chance to thrive.

Picture this: a pub in Colorado where you can go with friends after a long hike, where they blast killer live music, serve your favorite grub, and always have a couple of hoppy IPAs on draft. After you order, you lean back on a stool, crowd around a high table, and pass a joint, all while hollering over SportsCenter in the background.

City officials in Denver are preparing to launch the country’s first legal cannabis cafés — but you should probably adjust your expectations. That scene in the tavern with the beer, the food, and the joint isn’t happening anytime soon. Voters passed Initiative 300 in November, which created a four-year pilot program that will allow Denver to experiment with pot cafés starting as soon as this summer. Under the current plan, a license would cost $1,000. But the compromises made during the rule-making process have changed what the lounges will look like and how they’ll operate, and some pot-business owners wonder if bureaucracy will bury the budding industry before it gets a chance to launch.

In passionate debates at public hearings, neighborhood leaders have expressed fears that cafés will help weed find its way into kids’ hands, or that residents will smell stinky pot from their porches instead of the fragrance of their prized roses. On the other side, marijuana entrepreneurs worry about how they’ll make money since they won’t be allowed to sell weed at cafés: Instead, the spaces will be bring-your-own, and businesses that serve alcohol will be banned from having cannabis on the premises.

Still, all eyes are on Denver, the first US city to open cannabis cafés. There’s a sense that if things go well here, legal public cannabis consumption will spread elsewhere in the country. But if Denver fails to craft a successful blueprint for public pot consumption, that could spell trouble for cannabis business owners hoping for cafés in other states. With tight restrictions strangling this first swing at public consumption, are US cannabis cafés doomed to fail?

Jim Norris is the co-owner of the Mutiny Information Cafe, a used-book store and coffee shop, and he hopes to be one of the first people to get a cannabis café license, known officially as a public consumption permit, when it becomes available. That’s expected to happen in July. Norris’s shop is a weirdo’s delight that Denver’s most hardcore punks and nerds call home. Boxes of Frosted Flakes and Cap’n Crunch sit on the coffee bar — customers can buy a bowl for $2.50 — to draw in locals and tourists already high after visiting one of the city’s retail cannabis shops. Mutiny smells like a comforting mix of coffee and decades-old books. By the end of the summer, Norris hopes it’ll also smell like weed.

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