Colorado has backed off plans for marijuana clubs
By Kristen Wyatt | AP April 13 at 4:58 PM
DENVER — Colorado lawmakers have backed off plans to regulate marijuana clubs, saying the state could invite a federal crackdown by approving Amsterdam-style pot clubs.
Thursday’s vote in the state House was perhaps the starkest display yet of how pot states are unsure how to proceed regulating the drug under President Donald Trump.
The Colorado bring-your-own club proposal could have been the nation’s first statewide pot club regulation, with Alaska pot regulators recently putting on hold plans there to regulate on-site pot consumption at dispensaries.
Colorado’s bill initially had substantial bipartisan support. But lawmakers ultimately sided with Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has warned that bold changes may anger federal drug enforcers.
“Given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be . trying to carve off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana,” Hickenlooper told The Denver Post last month.
Both states have cited federal uncertainty about whether clubs would anger federal drug enforcers. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized the 28 states and Washington, D.C., that do not enforce federal marijuana law.
But with no details yet from the Trump Administration about how a crackdown would look, states are skittish about making national headlines that could be interpreted as thumbing their noses at federal drug law.
So the Colorado club bill was amended to remove club regulations, with the remaining bits of the bill relatively minor. The bill could face yet more changes before a final vote.
“I’d like to see (a club bill) that goes much further, and that does a lot more, but in a year with Jeff Sessions, a small first step is better than no step at all,” Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer said.
Sponsors of the club bill said that they had little choice but to back off, leaving Colorado with its current spotty club landscape.
Colorado already has about 30 private pot clubs, according to legislative analysts, but they operate under a patchwork of local regulations and are sometimes raided by law enforcement.
Clubs in Colorado frequently operate in a similar manner to pot clubs in states where pot isn’t legal, with small groups meeting up to smoke in a secret location members sometimes call “Dave’s House,” a reference to an old Cheech and Chong skit.
Not everyone agreed with the change, saying Colorado is wimping out.
“It only makes sense to allow people to have a place to where they can (smoke marijuana) where it’s controlled and confined,” said Republican Sen. Tim Neville, who sponsored a separate club bill that failed because it would have allowed clubs to sell the marijuana people would smoke, similar to a bar selling alcohol.
“We have legalized marijuana. Where do we want people to use it if not at home? On the street?”
Alaska pot regulators decided earlier this month to delay action on a measure to allow on-site pot consumption at marijuana dispensaries, or “tasting rooms.”
Ballot measures approved by voters last year in California, Maine and the city of Denver would allow either on-site pot consumption or so-called “social use” clubs, but regulations for how those clubs would work haven’t been settled.