Undercover police led a sting operation today that resulted in citations for employees and passengers of party buses operated by Colorado Cannabis Tours and My 420 Tours today, according to company representatives.
“We’re dealing with quite a shitstorm here,” said Cynthia Ord, the marketing director of My 420 Tours, before deferring further comment.
Denver police say they cited 31 people in all.
Two undercover police officers boarded a Colorado Cannabis Tours limousine-bus, according to CEO and founder Michael Eymer. The officers signed papers to join the company’s private membership club before boarding the bus, he said.
“The vehicle was turned over for a turn-signal violation. The driver’s telling me he obviously used the turn signal,” Eymer said.
There were 30 people aboard, and both passengers and tour guides were issued citations for public consumption, marijuana possession, Clean Indoor Air Act violations and “unlawful acts,” Eymer said. This is the first enforcement action against a tourism company, he said.
“They were forcible with the guides — forcibly removed them from the bus — two young girls, held their hands behind their back like criminals,” he said. “Honestly, it was very heavy handed — and it was meant to send a message.”
Mayoral candidate and marijuana entrepreneur Kayvan Khalatbari described the citations as a “crackdown,” saying that the companies had long been allowed to operate. Some of the citations were for public consumption, he said.
Denver police denied that this was part of a new policy. “Our policy is to enforce the laws that are currently in place,” wrote police spokesperson Jay Casillas in an email to Denverite. “Consuming marijuana in public is illegal and that is why officers cited the people consuming marijuana illegally.”
Several different companies operate charter buses and limos that offer tours between dispensaries, and visitors generally are allowed to consume marijuana in the vehicles.
The services have offered one of the few spaces where tourists can use weed in Denver, aside from private residences. Cannabis use is forbidden in public spaces, and only one business has a cannabis consumption license.
Eymer plans to pay off the tickets for anyone on his bus, he said, estimating the costs at around $6,000 or more. He predicted that a case against cannabis buses wouldn’t go far in court, citing the recent mistrial in the case of the cannabis church.
“There’s not a jury in the world that’s going to find us guilty of public consumption with the amount of privacy we afford our guests,” he said. The vehicles are classified as limousines. A state website says that marijuana can be consumed in the rear passenger area of for-hire limousines, as Ord pointed out.
A third service, Loopr, hasn’t run into any trouble yet — but it also didn’t field any buses on Friday. Owner Hal Taback said he was confident that his operation was legal, and he planned to operate the bus as usual.
“We have never been ticketed,” Taback said. He said that his company operates as a private social lounge. “We’ve been licensed by the Colorado Department of Transportation. They said if we could get insurance to do this, it was perfectly legal.”
His company has insurance, he said. “I believe we’re safe.” (Update: On Saturday afternoon, a Loopr bus ran without any interruptions.)
Just yesterday, My 420 Tours was spotlighted in a Colorado Public Radio Report. Its title: “As Marijuana Mainstreams, Bus Tours View Themselves As Industry Ambassadors.”
Eymer said his company was contacted by Denver officials before the 4/20 marijuana celebration. They wrote a letter to the city attorney justifying their business, but never heard back, he said. Eric Escudero, spokesman for the city’s Office of Marijuana Policy, said he was not aware of the enforcement action.
“They certainly ruined everybody’s fuckin’ vacation,” Eymer said.