Colin McCallin Sept. 10, 2015

The short answer at this point is no. While an initiative was introduced earlier this year to permit public smoking in certain areas, activists just announced they are pulling the initiative from the ballot and seeking a more collaborative effort between themselves and local businesses in Denver.

The initiative was called the Limited Social Cannabis Use proposal and was introduced to address a gap in legalization. While tourists can visit and purchase marijuana here, there are really no sanctioned places, minus a few pot friendly hotels, where they can legally partake. Additionally, pot users have long expressed a desire to congregate and use publicly much in the same way drinkers congregate at the bar. In fact, many activists feel that public consumption will further break down stigma by making the activity less clandestine.

Backed by law firm Vicente Sederberg, LLC, whose focus is marijuana businesses and regulations, the initiative was introduced and gathered twice the signatures needed to put it on the ballot this fall. But last week it was announced that the proposal was pulled. After numerous discussions with local businesses, it was determined that a collaborative plan could be developed without a forced ballot measure, and that this plan would give businesses a chance to examine all the implications of public smoking more thoroughly. Businesses had expressed concerns about liability insurance and managing smoking areas, since as with tobacco smoke, there will be customers who don’t want to have to be exposed to the smoke or the scent.

However, within the pro-legalization community there were critics of the approach and the removal. Many felt that it was rushed and not thought out; and they also see retreating from the measure as saving face, as it would have struggled to pass in an off year election.

On the other hand, perhaps forcing the measure is a strategy that brought local businesses to the table to find the best approach to regulate inevitable public consumption. And the fact that the proposal could get on the ballot easily motivates local businesses to address this issue before next year’s elections, where it will surely have the momentum it needs to pass, with or without local business support.

The face of legalization changes constantly as awareness of issues and the need to regulate them increases.  But it’s safe to say taking a cooperative approach with the local community and its businesses is an effective and positive way to finding working solutions.