Just days after Denver voters narrowly approved Initiative 300, which was intended to allow pot use in city bars and restaurants, a new rule was published November 18 by the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) slamming the door on the plan. [1]

Source: Marijuana.com

The rule prohibits marijuana consumption at any business that holds a liquor license starting January 1, 2017.

Mason Tvert, an organizer for Initiative 300, said:

“This isn’t a surprise. It’s kind of astonishing that the Department of Revenue is working on behalf of the liquor industry to protect its turf.”

The alcohol industry has been funding anti-marijuana efforts nationwide and, in this case, they seem to have won, at least to a degree.

It was the alcohol industry that raised the idea of banning marijuana at bars and restaurants in Colorado this summer during a series of workshops hosted by DOR to review existing regulations. But Initiative 300 was not the inspiration for the new law, according to Ron Kammerzell, DOR’s senior director of enforcement. (Right.)

Still, opponents of Initiative 300 had loudly voiced concerns that mixing alcohol and marijuana at bars and restaurants posed some specific and grave dangers, including the Colorado chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Fran Lanzer, executive director of MADD Colorado, said:

“Detecting the combined impairment from marijuana and alcohol would be very difficult for servers at bars and restaurants. It’s just not reasonable to expect that servers could effectively identify the combined impairment from alcohol and marijuana and prevent impaired customers from driving.”

She went on:

“Research shows that driving while high on marijuana may double the risk of an automobile crash. When both alcohol and marijuana are consumed at the same time, it is likely to result in greater impairment than either one alone.

Detecting the combined impairment from marijuana and alcohol would be very difficult for servers at bars and restaurants. It’s just not reasonable to expect that servers could effectively identify the combined impairment from alcohol and marijuana and prevent impaired customers from driving.” [2]

Another concern purportedly raised during the DOR’s summer workshops was a lack of clarity for insurance companies that suggested they would not cover restaurants and bars that allowed pot use on site. [3]

However, marijuana could still be allowed by Denver businesses that don’t sell alcohol, including coffee shops and yoga studios. Businesses that want to do that won’t be able to apply for a license until Denver City Council creates the application, which is likely to happen in January. They will also need the approval of at least 1 neighborhood association in their area. [1]

Marijuana dispensaries cannot obtain licenses, because on-site consumption is now allowed at the moment. That could change. There is a possibility that a bill will be introduced in the 2017 legislative session that would permit dispensaries to build tasting rooms.

Tvert thinks a Denver bar or restaurant might be able to challenge the DOR’s new rule. He explained:

“I would not be surprised if we see challenges. This rule was created to override what Denver voters approved.”

He added:

“This will not prevent adults from using marijuana and alcohol at the same time, but it will ensure that the marijuana gets used out in the alley or on the street rather than inside of a private establishment.” [3]

Sources:

[1] NBC 9News

[2] Denver Business Journal

[3] The Denver Post


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.