As Marijuana Economy Booms in Denver, There's Nowhere To Smoke It

DENVER (MainStreet) — While Amendment 64 legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, it does not address where users can legally consume except to outlaw its consumption on site at dispensaries that sell it.

"It's comparable to cigarettes," said Tae Darnell, an attorney who specializes in marijuana law. "The idea is not to put it in people's faces but to make it available. Colorado is focusing on regulating cannabis in a matter that's strict to prove the efficacy of regulation."

Consuming cannabis isn't an issue for residents with a home but for tourists the challenge is finding a hotel where smoking cannabis is allowed.

"You can buy marijuana in Denver and you can smoke it, but you need to do it in private," Darnell told MainStreet. "If you get caught smoking in a hotel, you might get kicked out."

Hotels can allow up to 25% of their rooms to be smoking-friendly but the safest place to inhale is in a private residence.

"Businesses are evolving to offer options for people coming out of town," said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. "Some hotels and bed and breakfasts are identifying themselves as cannabis friendly in order to provide space for people to consume."

With thousands of people moving to Denver since recreational use of marijuana became legal, even locals are feeling the housing pinch.

"There's an enormous housing boom going on," said Meg Sanders who owns three dispensaries and one grow facility in Denver. "Houses are staying on the market for one or two days. Owners are being offered cash for 10% to 20% above asking price."

If stuck in a smoke-free hotel with an itch to consume, visitors can always book a tour and there are plenty of tour companies to choose from. In addition to Colorado Green Tours, there's My420Tours.com and ColoradoRockyMountainHighTours.com.

"A private tour within the bus is a perfectly legal place to consume," West told MainStreet.

Kent McBride has been driving Colorado Green Tour clients since January.

"When people consume in the car, it doesn't effect me at all," McBride told MainStreet.

An alternative to smoking in a tour limousine or bus is ingesting marijuana edibles.

No regulation or limitation currently exists on the types of edible products that can be sold or the level of THC content that can be infused in a piece of chocolate, soda, cookie or gum, for example, but that lack of restriction may soon be coming to an end.

"I think the next significant phase of regulation will be around controlling the potency of edibles," Darnell said. "What will come now is a more formatted approach."

Although restaurants and bars are 100% smoke free thanks to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, there is a loophole for cigar bars.

"If the majority of your business income is from tobacco or tobacco products then it's O.K. to smoke so these establishments are setting themselves up as tobacco businesses," said Colorado Green Tours travel agency founder Peter Johnson. "But the truth is a lot of the tobacco shop establishments out there are not quite a fit for our clientele."

In addition to organizing customized tours, Johnson is expanding into real estate to meet the demand for upscale smoke friendly accommodations.

"There's a lot of people coming into town and they have needs not being met," Johnson told Mainstreet. "We are expanding to meet those needs, which include private property that is cannabis friendly and offers luxury level service. It's difficult to come across and that's what our specialty is."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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