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Why did public weed consumption laws take so long???



Last Friday and today on the City Cast Denver podcast, we are sharing the story of a tense neighborhood battle over Denver’s latest step forward on legal weed. It’s all about 1800 S. Broadway, the current owner’s application to open one of the city’s first weed lounges, and the neighbors organizing to stop him. But this isn’t the first time Denver tried to regulate public consumption of marijuana.

So how did we get here? Let’s take a look down foggy memory lane…

1876: Colorado is founded and cannabis is already here, legal, and completely unregulated.

1917: States across the nation begin tightening control over alcohol and drugs. Colorado makes cannabis consumption and cultivation a misdemeanor crime.

1929: Maijuana gets unfairly tangled up with the racist, anti-immigration sentiments of the era. Consumption and distribution gets upgraded to a felony crime.

1937: The U.S. government passes the “Marihuana Tax Act,” making marijuana cultivation and consumption (without a license) criminal on a federal level.

1960s-70s: Public sentiment shifts, and Coloradans are back to being cool with cannabis. Some state lawmakers push for more leniency around consumption and cultivation. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 is ruled unconstitutional and repealed.

1975: Colorado legislators decriminalize the possession and private use of marijuana, lessening the penalty for possession of up to 1 ounce to a $100 fine.

2000: Colorado voters pass Amendment 20, making Colorado the first state in the nation to officially re-legalize marijuana (for medicinal purposes).

2005: Denver becomes one of the first major cities in the country to decriminalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of pot for anyone over the age of 20.

2007: Denver-based Safer Alternatives to Recreational Enjoyment (or SAFER) successfully pushes the city to make marijuana possession law enforcement’s “lowest priority.” Medical marijuana caregivers are now allowed to distribute to an unlimited number of patients, laying the pavement for the first iteration of dispensaries.

2010: Colorado passes legislation to regulate hours, security requirements, and plant-monitoring procedures. The state creates the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

2012: Coloradans vote to pass Amendment 64, making non-medical marijuana growth, private use, and possession of up to 1 ounce legal for adults over the age of 21. Aka: Recreational marijuana is legalized! Voters also approve a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales.

2014: Colorado’s first recreational shops begin to open. In just the first few months, officials reportedly tally more than $14 million in revenue. Mayor Michael Hancock establishes the Denver Office of Marijuana Policy.

2016: Denver puts a cap on the number of dispensaries permitted in the city. Denver voters approve the Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program, allowing approved businesses to permit cannabis consumption (with the exception of smoking indoors) in designated 21+ areas.

2018: Denver announces the Turn Over a New Leaf program to expunge marijuana convictions for conduct that is now legal.

2021: Denver sees its biggest overhaul in cannabis regulations since 2012. House Bill 1317 tightens regulations on retail and medical marijuana concentrates. The city approves ordinances that allow for cannabis delivery; implement a new marijuana hospitality licensing program; and remove the 2016 dispensary cap.

2022: Tetra Lounge in RiNo is the city’s first business to be approved for a marijuana hospitality license which allows on-site pot consumption, including smoking indoors. Several other lounges, including the Patterson Inn, the Denver Weed Lounge, and Cloud 9 Weed Lounge, are currently awaiting approval for their licenses.

🔎 Want to dive deeper? Check out some of my source materials: 


“Very close to the time of [my father’s] passing, I received an article that Denver was going to start allowing on-site consumption. And that warmed my heart, because if my dad didn’t get sick, I think he would have absolutely loved to start his dream over again.”Josh Horwitz

1800 S. Broadway: Part Two
When the city of Denver opened applications for marijuana hospitality businesses last year, the new program attracted a few plucky go-getters, from the owner of a private marijuana club who wanted to go public to a Cap Hill mansion whose owners thought weed would help attract more tourists. Among them was an enterprising young real estate agent, Josh Horwitz. He applied to open a weed lounge at 1800 S. Broadway, the exact spot where his former tenant, Habibi Hookah Cafe, undermined the trust of the neighborhood with excessive late-night partying and violence. The neighbors are organizing to stop Horwitz and City Councilman Jolon Clark is opposed as well, but no one has heard his side of the story. Until now.

If you haven’t listened to part one of our look at 1800 S. Broadway, scroll back to last Friday in your podcast feed or click here


🏒 DU Pioneers are NCAA Hockey Champs!
They were down by one goal heading into the third period of Saturday night’s national championship game in Boston, but the University of Denver Pioneers rallied to beat Minnesota State 5-1, prompting rowdy students to take to the streets across south Denver. The win marks the ninth national championship for DU men’s hockey, tying the University of Michigan for the most ever. [CBS4]

🏙️ A former gang member/anti-gang activist is running for mayor: As a young man growing up in Park Hill, Terrance Roberts got involved in a gang. But after a stint in prison, he left to become an anti-gang activist. He later faced attempted murder charges when he shot a man in 2013, but a jury found that he acted in self-defense. He’s since led protests against police violence and now he says he’s running for mayor on a platform of “radical change.” [Denverite]
👉 What you can do: Listen to our interview with Roberts and investigative reporter Julian Rubinstein who wrote a book, titled “The Holly,” about Roberts’ life and gang violence in Denver.

🗳️ GOP assembly picks 2020 election deniers for June primary: Republicans from across the state gathered in Colorado Springs on Saturday to pick candidates to appear on their June 28 primary ballot for statewide races this year. While other candidates can still qualify if they collect enough coter signatures, the assembly showed a clear preference for candidates who dabble in the myth that the 2020 election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. [CPR]

  • Governor: Former Parker mayor Greg Lopez and CU regent Heidi Ganahl both qualified for the chance to unseat Democratic governor Jared Polis
  • Senate: State rep. Ron Hanks won a spot on the senate primary ballot, where he’ll face off against businessman Joe O’Dea for the chance to take on U.S. senator Michael Bennet in the fall.
  • Secretary of State: Former Jefferson County clerk and recorder Pam Anderson, political newcomer Mike O’Donnell, and Mesa County clerk and recorder Tina Peters all qualified for the GOP secretary of state primary. The winner will take on Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold. 

— Paul Karolyi, City Cast Denver producer 

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