Colorado Should Allow Marijuana Tasting Rooms

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Let’s clear the air: Marijuana users in Colorado need places to consume.

It’s been a flaw in the state’s legalized recreational marijuana experiment since the day pot shops opened on Jan. 1, 2014. The result has been flagrant use in public that is both a violation of state law, which bans public consumption, and a mildly annoying nuisance to those sharing the park, sidewalk or trail.

Denver attempted to tackle the issue by allowing permits for places of public consumption, but the response to the highly regulated process has been far too slow. Meanwhile, municipalities have turned a blind eye to marijuana social clubs that operate outside state regulation by charging a membership fee to make the venue no longer “public.”

Colorado lawmakers have the ability this session to turn the tide. House Bill 1258 is a fairly conservative approach to the issue. It would allow businesses that currently hold licenses to sell retail or medical marijuana to also open an accessory establishment that can sell marijuana products for consumption at the establishment.

This bill takes a softer approach than those that have failed in years past and is sponsored by Democrats in the House — Reps. Jonathan Singer and Jovan Melton — and a Republican in the Senate — Sen. Tim Neville — giving the legislation a good chance of passing the split chambers.

We would hope such legal venues for consumption would help tourists who come to the state avoid the temptation of toking up in public, or violating the no-smoking rules at their hotels. It’d also give those who are homeless or living someplace that prohibits marijuana use a place other than our parks to partake.

Smoking will still be prohibited in these “tasting rooms.” After all, lighting up would violate Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act. But patrons could buy their cannabis product on site and either eat the edible or use a vaporizer.

HB 1258 is scheduled to be considered Monday in the House Finance Committee and we hope it receives broad support from lawmakers who want to fix this problem, even if they are opposed to the concept of recreational marijuana.

These consumption areas will be physically separate from the main sales room at a medical or recreational store, and only those who are at least 21 years old will be able to enter the area.

Each municipality or county can opt out of allowing stores to open these tasting rooms, or can adopt more stringent requirements for the operations. That’s an important local-control measure, especially for jurisdictions that have still refused to allow recreational sales and might be opposed to allowing consumption at medical stores.

The law would prohibit patrons from bringing in their own marijuana products and there would be no alcohol or food sales allowed. Free samples would also be prohibited.

California, the newcomer to recreational marijuana sales, provides for similar consumption establishments at licensed retail stores.

Colorado should follow with this responsible solution.