Denver and Alaska Set to Push Legalization Envelope

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel April 28, 2016

    News out of Anchorage and Denver this week was good for marijuana smokers, as both the city of Denver and the state of Alaska moved closer to the legalization of marijuana social clubs. Smokers could thus socialize in a venue with other adults where marijuana smoking would be legal.

    Until now, in the states that have legalized recreational use (and in the District of Columbia), marijuana smokers are only permitted to exercise their newly won freedom in their home or as a guest in someone else’s home. Holland-style coffee shops or marijuana lounges were not legalized by those early voter initiatives.

    That is about to change.


    Denver NORML and The Committee for the Responsible Use Initiative in Denver have announced the final language for their municipal initiative. They expect to be cleared this week by the city to begin circulating petitions seeking the signature of registered voters, putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

    The proposal would license and regulate private marijuana social clubs and special events where adult marijuana smoking would be legal. The state legislature had earlier indicated some interest in amending state law to permit marijuana social clubs, but when that stalled, Denver NORML began to move forward with their municipal voter initiative. Clubs could not sell or distribute marijuana, and bars, nightclubs and restaurants could not become private marijuana clubs or host special events.

    The most current polling suggests the proposal is favored by a clear majority (56%) of voters in Denver.

    Denver NORML executive director Jordon Person offered this appraisal of the proposed initiative. “Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. This is a pragmatic approach that focuses on the basics and provides the city of Denver a solution to an issue that is not going away.”

    Proponents have until August 15 to collect 5,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.


    In Alaska, the decision to license some version of marijuana lounges was made by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board last November, and this week the board issued draft regulations to define when and where “on-site consumption” would be permitted.

    The proposed regulations are now open for public comment before the board finalizes them.

    While the outline is still tentative, marijuana cafes would be permitted only in conjunction with an existing marijuana retail store, on the same premises, either indoor or outdoor, but with a separate entrance and separate serving area. A separate license would be required for on-site consumption.

    Customers could purchase small amounts of marijuana ( 1 gram of marijuana, edibles with up to 10 milligrams of THC, or .25 grams of marijuana concentrates) to consume on-site and would not be permitted to bring their own marijuana to smoke on-site. Strangely, they would be required to leave any unfinished marijuana behind to be destroyed, and “happy hours” would not be permitted. Marijuana lounges would be permitted to sell food and non-alcohol beverages.

    Marijuana Control Board chair Bruce Schulte explained the board was proceeding with a degree of caution, because this is new territory for state legalization regulatory agencies. One of the more difficult issues the board had to deal with, according to board member Brandon Emmett, was whether to permit dabbing.

    Laboratories of Democracy

    As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “a state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Denver and Alaska are exercising that important role as we move forward with better and better versions of legalization. What we learn from these initial experiments with marijuana social clubs will inform subsequent states in the coming years.

    This column first ran on Marijuana.com.


    19 responses to “Denver and Alaska Set to Push Legalization Envelope”

    1. Derek says:

      No dabbing? Are they going to outlaw other forms of dancing too? Otherwise this reeks of racist undertones.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        Although this is serious business, I have to admit sometimes I think it’s hilarious to watch our enemies trying to fuck this up for us. They don’t know which way to go! Got ’em running in circles.

        Some are scared of “dabs” and want to outlaw all forms of extracts, while other are more afraid of the natural plant (ha!), states like PA, where you can ONLY use extracts!!

        They can’t even get on the same page! They don’t know whether to scratch their watches or wind their asses! Now, that’s a hoot.

        The cannabis clubs obviously need to be legal if cannabis is legal. Duh. It’s just more obstructionism, we’ll get through it.

    2. TheOracle says:

      The Alaskan plan of having to leave behind whatever you don’t consume on the premises is set up for failure before it even gets implemented. Ain’t gonna happen. People are going to take it with them. That is just so retarding I’m dropping any thoughts I ever had of visiting Alaska. No tourists dollars for you from me.

      I like the Denver idea, so long as it doesn’t get so watered down by the prohibitionists and the NIMBY people. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana legislation got watered down to near shit because it doesn’t allow you to buy the flower to smoke, and it likely won’t be available to vape the buds either. Even the Not In My Back Yard prohibitionists want some of that pot money, like Denver schools are complaining they didn’t get squat, yet didn’t ask the state for any.

      And, the UNGASS didn’t do shit to nudge cannabis prohibition over the edge of the cliff to its death, according to what I read about what Blumenauer had to say at marijuana.com.

      I figured those Bozos from ONDCP who met with the DCMJ folks where just going to interrogate them. Cover you asses. I’ll bet those MFers are up to no good. It’d be just like the feds to swoop in and Tommy Chong high profile legalizers in DC.

      Barry, how many times did members of the Choom Gang ponder legalizing weed if they were in the position to? Well, now you’re in that position. The worldwide cannabis community is waiting, waiting for you to end the New Jim Crow, waiting for legal cannabis banking, waiting for research into the benefits of cannabis, waiting for FREEDOM, waiting to put back the shattered lives and families prohibition has caused and continues to cause. What the hell are you waiting for? You had better have something up your sleeve.

    3. Anonymous says:

      I love the quantity restriction in AK. Fine, give me 1 gram of the 30% THC, it’s the same thing as 10 grams of the 3% THC. And I love the leaving of the unfinished weed behind to be destroyed and not given to anyone else. First of all, have fun enforcing that. And second of all, if someone’s at their limit and don’t want to consume any more before they leave, this rule encourages people to “down the rest and not let any go to waste.” Brilliant, I hope they’re not driving when they’re beyond their personal limit. What other restrictions will apply, the cafes can only be open one day per month from 4:20pm-4:21pm? Who thinks this crap up? Oh well, I guess we have to take what we can get, it’s always a case of beggars can’t be choosers.

    4. mexweed says:

      1. Couldn’t help but notice in this report repeated use of “$mokers”, “$moking” etc. without mention of the drafting bodies’ having discussed any encouragement of vaporization or recognition of any important differences between $moking and vaporization.

      2. Might consider including explicit permission and invitation to bring (and display for education purposes) customers’ own 25-mg service utensils designed to permit highest percentages of vaporization and correspondingly lower of $moking, i.e. not necessarily combustion-free but with the easy-learn vape-not-burn technique each user can calibrate this personally.

      3. Alaska’s 1-gram-per-customer ration is not to complain of, adds up to 40 tokes in a 25-mg serving device, 2 or 3 is all some of us/me need for a 90-minute uprush of worthwhile LEAP* memory data.

      4. “Strangely, they would be required to leave any unfinished marijuana behind to be destroyed”– horrible! Maybe a Med Smoothie Donation Jar could be passed around?

    5. mexweed says:

      *LEAP is Long-term Episodic Associative Performance– memories uprushed from the unconscious vault, any two of which meeting each other for the first time could give birth to an innovation idea that saves the planet.

    6. Julian says:

      After the disappointing news from the DC City Council after the white house protest from DCMJ this is uplifting news. Denver is about to become the heart of the nation’s marijuana social club, with the leading research from which designs for our future sustainability we can yet scarcely imagine.

    7. Anonymous1 says:

      Honestly, dabbing in itself is becoming an unnecessary practice. This was a tactic used to quickly consume cannabis after it’s been refined and concentrated, to lower chances of getting caught based on the amount of smoke produced by raw cannabis.

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I really don’t see the point in dabbing if you’re in a legal consumption state.

    8. grandma3d says:

      Keith , your article is as always forever eloquent. It is obvious they don’t want us to congregate. It might unite and insight us in our cause. This is perfectly logical to their agenda. Deeper reasons are as always concerning money. Give them a hefty tax compensation and the open the doors to the social clubs like the ladies of the nights svelte and flexing abductor longus humongus. I was reviewing an old video that is worth reviewing and sharing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQwwGPiyW9M

    9. phrtao says:

      This is so stupid in a state that has legalised sales and possession of cannabis. I have not seen any information on what terrible consequences have been avoided by banning places that allow their patrons to consume cannabis. Does the ban on public consumption also extend to vaping cannabis and edibles as well ?

    10. Toby Keith says:

      Talk about overkill… There is no need for harm reduction regulation if there is no harm. Be reasonable, a regular bar is more liberal than what is proposed. The real issues should be zoning (which is all ready taken care of), operational hours, and how much can you serve a customer. OMFG! Why can’t legislators just do their jobs like they’re getting paid?