What's next in cannabis legislation?


On Tuesday, Studio A64 hosted a conversation on legislation that will affect all cannabis clubs in Colorado. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • On Tuesday, Studio A64 hosted a conversation on legislation that will affect all cannabis clubs in Colorado.

Tuesday morning, Studio A64 owner and statesman of all things dank and sticky KC Stark invited District 17 state Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, into his studio to discuss cannabis legislation, as part of the Cannabis Business Hour on Sirius XM 420 siriusxm420.com. Roupe, Stark, and local attorney Charles D. Houghton Charles T. Houghton, Esq. discussed a variety of still-pending concerns, including PTSD and medical marijuana, but much of the discussion centered around cannabis clubs.

Roupe has drafted a bill to regulate cannabis clubs. As it stands, her bill will allow for private cannabis clubs, but clubs can't sell cannabis. There will be a license, and specifics will be determined from community to community. Roupe will be holding two stakeholders' meetings to get comments from the public before revising and presenting the bill at the next legislative session starting in January, likely with support from District 11 state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D). The first meeting will take place at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 10. The second meeting (date to be determined) will be in Denver.

Roupe has invited a variety of stakeholders – members of the District Attorney's office, City Council, Mayor John Suthers and El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, as well as members of regulatory agencies and the owners of local cannabis clubs. The public will be welcome as well. All three parties agreed that good legislation isn't written in a vacuum. 

And Roupe, it seems, has been doing her homework. Roupe and Stark discussed how other countries have dealt with cannabis clubs. Uruguay, for instance, allows marijuana to be smoked wherever you can smoke tobacco – mostly outside. Spain has members-only clubs, much like the Springs, but all product is produced by the club and consumed on-site. And Amsterdam's notorious cannabis cafes, as it turns out, are a product of the Dutch government deciding not to enforce their marijuana laws rather than any formal legalization. All ban the use of alcohol in their clubs.

What Stark is looking for with A64, though, has more to do with the Elks Lodge. He says the Lodge formed, initially, as a means of getting around Victorian bans on serving alcohol after a certain hour. Today, Elks Lodges in dry counties serve much the same purpose as cannabis clubs: a legal place to have a drink or a smoke. Roupe recalls doing just that while living in Oklahoma – the club asked that she pay for mixers.

They also addressed the elephant in the room: cannabis clubs acting like de-facto dispensaries by effectively selling cannabis on-site. 

“I think they’re jumping over the ropes," says Roupe. "You cannot sell it in Colorado Springs unless you have a medical license … and in our county, we decided to ban [recreational sales] with the option to revisit that eventually. And here are those clubs who are flaunting those values and saying ‘come and get me.’” 

Stark says that when he won the legal challenges against opening A64, in February of last year, people assumed cannabis clubs could sell cannabis. 

“Are those people committing crimes? That’s not my decision," says Stark. "But by not having a clear set of definitions, we kind of opened up Pandora’s box.”

“A lot of this is driven by fear of the unknown," says Houghton. "We don’t know what this means. We don’t know what it means to my neighborhood… where are they going to fit along the continuum from liquor stores to shoe stores to heavy industry.” But Houghton thinks that education is the key. If people know what happens at a cannabis club, whether it's music, arts and theatre, yoga, stand-up comedy or poker, they will have that much less to worry about. 

“Educated people make good decisions as long as they’re not basing those decisions on antediluvian reefer madness.”

We expect to have the text of the bill draft later Tuesday; expect updates on this page.

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