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Colorado's Governor Just Said 'No' to Cannabis Cafes

While state officials won't allow people to consume cannabis in public establishments, Denver has other ideas.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Colorado managed to get a bill all the way to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk that would have allowed the licensing of public cannabis cafes where consumers could use small amounts of marijuana. The game-changing bill would have made Colorado the first state in the nation to have such a law. However, this week Hickenlooper vetoed it. 

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The move further highlighted one of the most contentious battles in the marijuana industry—establishing laws that allow those who purchase marijuana to also consume it at specially licensed establishments. 

As it stands now, legal marijuana users in the U.S. have no place to use the product in public. Massachusetts considered establishing cannabis cafes when it legalized recreational marijuana but decided to hold off debate on the issue until late in 2018 or early in 2019.

Related: How My Cannabis Poem Landed on 8 Billboard Charts

Safety Concerns

Proponents of the cannabis cafe law argue that every night--and day, for that matter--adults are permitted to drink alcohol in bars. So the same rights should be afforded to marijuana users, especially in states where the plant is controlled and legal.

But politicians like Hickenlooper disagree with this comparison. After vetoing the bill, he said that, unlike alcohol, there currently are no tests to measure a person’s intoxication level when using marijuana. Furthermore, there is no standard device, such as a breathalyzer, for testing cannabis intoxication.

“I realize I’m being overly cautious, but let’s take a step at the time," Hickenlooper told the Denver Post. "This is a big experiment. Let’s treat it like one,”

Related: The Case of Georgia Parents Jailed for Providing Son Medical Marijuana Reveals Crazy Variation in State Cannabis Laws

Denver Strikes Back

Hickenlooper’s decision was supported by the American Lung Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. However, those who work in the marijuana industry think the move was counterproductive. 

Chris Woods, the owner of the recreational marijuana chain Terrapin Care Station, said that the law would have provided authorities “a bright line” when it comes to enforcement of public cannabis consumption. He told The Post: “It’s unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators. This fight is not over."

He may be right. While the state isn’t allowing cannabis cafes, the city of Denver is pushing ahead with a new law, approved by voters in 2016, that allows the city to grant licenses for establishments that allow marijuana to be used on premises.

Related: Is Your Cannabis Business Properly Licensed?

The first establishment to get such a license is The Coffee Joint. The coffee house offers papers, pipes, and vaporizers along with coffee and tea. According to the Coffee Joint website, patrons can vape, "dab" and consume marijuana edibles there.

The Coffee Joint has become something of a test case for the city, the state of Colorado and others around the country interested in how a cannabis café fares.

Despite its unique place in marijuana history, the cafe manages to keep a sense of humor as evidenced by its slogan: “Laugh responsibly.”

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