Consuming alcohol and marijuana in Denver businesses could be council decision

Should business patrons be able to consume cannabis and alcohol under the same roof? The group tasked with helping turn Initiative 300 from a stoner’s dream to a reality in Denver grappled with that question Wednesday.

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My Brother's Bar. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver group tasked with shaping how Initiative 300 should roll out might want to leave one issue to city regulators and elected officials: Should business patrons be able to consume cannabis and alcohol under the same roof?

The Social Consumption Advisory Committee wrestled with that question Wednesday during its third meeting on suggested rules for social cannabis consumption permit seekers. The choice on whether people can dual consume in businesses might ultimately be made by elected officials.

In some eyes, there’s currently nothing to decide at all. In November, a division under the Colorado Department of Revenue passed a regulation making it illegal for businesses to allow customers to consume marijuana and drink alcohol — getting crossfaded or twisted — anywhere in the state.

Emmett Reistroffer, who sits on the city’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee, helped get I-300 passed and is currently suing the state to get the rule dropped.

The state’s rule prohibits all liquor licensed premises from allowing marijuana even if it’s not being consumed at the same time, or even on the same day, that alcohol is available, he said.

Reistroffer is hoping for each neighborhood to decide whether a social cannabis consumption permit holder should be allowed to serve alcohol.

Committee member and community representative Aubrey Lavizzo said Reistroffer’s lawsuit against the state “violates the spirit” of the committee’s discussions and that he would fight allowing dual consumption if the legal action prevails.

“I would suggest to you that maybe you should drop that lawsuit,” Lavizzo said. “We are going into uncharted waters here. We are. We’re doing some things that have never done. It’s up to us to be responsible.”

Lavizzo and others on the committee indicated they want to see dual consumption in businesses continued to be barred even if the state drops its regulation.

City staff plans to finalize the rules for social cannabis consumption permits during the summer. City Council can start adding conditions of its own starting in May.

Several committee members felt the dual consumption issue should be left to council.

“I can’t even imagine a registered neighborhood organization signing a good neighbor agreement that provides for dual consumption,” said Margie Valdez, committee member and zoning and planning chair for the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation. “This is huge. I would hate to see us try to resolve the issue in a 20-minute or 10-minute conversation because it really does present a huge problem for the residents and neighborhoods in Denver.”

Reistroffer said he’d prefer for council to make the call on dual consumption rather than the committee endorsing “a blanket rule” banning it altogether.

“If you want to support a rule that just says no consumption at a place that serves liquor, we’re removing the vast majority of places that we really had in mind, like concert halls and music venues,” he said.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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