Attempt to allow marijuana clubs across Colorado clears first hurdle

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By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is moving ahead with a first-in-the-nation attempt to allow marijuana clubs.

But the measure that passed a Republican state Senate committee Wednesday evening doesn’t go as far as some marijuana activists hoped.

The bill would allow on-site marijuana consumption at private clubs in willing jurisdictions.

And those clubs may allow indoor pot smoking, despite health concerns about indoor smoking.

But the bill is far from allowing a statewide network of pot clubs. For one, it would allow any jurisdiction to ban them, same as they can currently prohibit retail pot sales.

Also, the bill does not permit pot clubs to serve alcohol nor food.

Since the pot-legalization measure passed in 2012, marijuana activists have complained that tourists and people who don’t want to use pot in front of their children need places to consume pot.

“We’re legal and we need a place for people to go. We need social clubs,” said Ashley Weber of Colorado NORML, a marijuana-legalization advocacy group.

Smoking pot is banned on sidewalks, in parks as well as most Colorado hotels and car-rental companies.

Colorado law currently neither bans nor permits pot clubs. The result is a patchwork of local regulations regarding pot clubs.

Supporters of the bill called it more of a first step toward establishing the nation’s first Amsterdam-like clubs. Though bars couldn’t allow pot consumption, yoga studios, art galleries, coffee shops or other public event spaces could apply for licenses.

“I don’t have time for perfect when we have an opportunity to move forward,” said Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist for a Boulder County marijuana company.

The city of Denver is working on its own rules for bring-your-own pot clubs. Denver’s measure does not allow indoor pot smoking, though the drug could be smoked on outdoor patios in some cases.

The statewide measure now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

Even if Colorado’s pot club proposal clears the Senate and then the House, the bill still faces a dicey path to becoming law.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed Denver’s pot-club measure last fall, and he has told reporters more recently that he’s not sure if a statewide pot-club law would invite federal intervention in Colorado’s marijuana experiment.

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