Proposal to keep Denver’s marijuana stores open later gets first green light

The ordinance would allow Denver marijuana businesses to stay open until 10 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

staff photo
Simply Pure dispensary with Maat Khan behind the counter. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Simply Pure dispensary with Maat Khan behind the counter. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

The plan to let Denver’s marijuana stores stay open later cleared its first hurdle Monday afternoon despite predictions of increased crime and objection from an advocacy group.

An amended version of Councilwoman Kendra Black’s bill to allow medical and retail pot shops to stay open until 10 p.m. — up from 7 p.m. — was approved 11-2 by the City Council’s committee on marijuana. The proposal now heads to the regular City Council, where there is expected to be a public hearing.

Denver City Council is tentatively scheduled to take its first vote on the store hours question April 17. A public hearing is also set for that day with a possible second vote to follow April 24.

Black said she hopes allowing pot shops to stay open later will mean more tax dollars for the city and less black market sales of the drug. She represents the University Hills and Hampden communities south of Glendale where marijuana stores can sell until midnight.

“If it is a few million dollars or many millions of dollars, it matters to all of our districts in a lot of different ways,” Black said. “These are law-abiding businesses. They are highly regulated, and there’s very little crime associated with them.”

In addition to heading Denver’s marijuana committee, Black is one of two council members who sit on the Denver’s Social Consumption Advisory Committee tasked with shaping Initiative 300’s roll out.

I-300, in a nutshell, allows just about any kind of business that doesn’t sell marijuana to apply for a cannabis consumption permit under the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program. If approved, a business owner can set up space for people to use marijuana in their business.

Henny Lasley is on the leadership team of Smart Colorado and said Monday expanding hours at the same time I-300 would go into effect would be too much too fast.

The group, which focuses on keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, asked the committee to delay an expansion of hours for a year to a year and a half. The city’s hoping to have final rules for I-300 permits in June or July so businesses could start getting permitted this summer.

“These are two major policy decisions to shift the hours of operation as well as rolling out social consumption, and to my knowledge when the campaign was run there was no mention that the industry was going to work to extend dispensary hours,” Lasley said. “If social consumption rolls, let’s let it roll. But let’s take a look at it for the next 12-18 months so we have the opportunity after that to evaluate the impact on our youth.”

Denver police were asked to evaluate how crime could be impacted with expanded hours. Commander James Henning said the agency predicts there could be a 6 percent increase in annual crime related to marijuana shops but most of that would come from shoplifting by customers and employees.

“It’s tough to put our finger on what’s really going to happen,” Henning said.

Police looked at the 584 crimes related to marijuana facilities from 2014 to 2016 as well as the crime from surrounding communities in making its projection.

City Council members on the Special Issues Marijuana Committee started talking about expanding hours in January and on March 13 the group said it wanted to hear from more residents — especially those in opposition — before considering Black’s original proposal to push back the allowed operating hours to midnight.

On Monday, council members Deborah Ortega and Chris Herndon voted no on the amended version of the bill.

Ortega, who represents the city at large, said the proposed bill would grant “broad sweeping approval” for every dispensary to expand its hours without neighborhoods being able to weigh in unless there is a problem or license renewal.

“It doesn’t make sense to say neighborhoods can go backwards and deal with it after the fact,” Ortega said. “You want to do that on the front end not the back end.”

Correction: Due to a source error the date of the public hearing was stated incorrectly in an earlier version of this post. The hearing on store hours is scheduled for April 17, according to Shelley Smith, interim director
of Denver City Council.

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