One of the clouds over Denver’s marijuana hospitality businesses is about to go away.
On Monday night, the Denver City Council decided in a 10-1 vote that the city should permanently allow “social” cannabis use at certain businesses in the city. Until now, the city’s social-use laws were scheduled to expire at the end of 2020.
The change is meant to give some stability to businesses where people can vaporize or eat marijuana legally.
The social-use law approved by voters in 2016 included a four-year “sunset” date. But the industry has been slow to develop since then. So far, only two businesses have won a social-use license: a coffee shop in a strip mall and a new lounge on Broadway.
The time limit has discouraged some business owners, according to Councilwoman Kendra Black.
“With less than two years available, it’s difficult to get financing. If you’re leasing a space, most leases, they’re three to five years. And then you’d have to get funds to build out the space,” she said at an earlier meeting. “And so it’s just really not feasible for a prospective business to open a business in that time frame.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn wasn’t convinced. He said that the city should take on business owners’ other complaints first.
“I think that we ought to have a more comprehensive package of changes that could address the problems that we’re looking to solve,” Flynn said at the earlier meeting
Councilman Rafael Espinoza agreed that it was too early, with the program still struggling, to end the sunset. The bill passed with Flynn opposing; Espinoza and Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore were absent.
City officials also are examining the city’s distance requirements. Social-use businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers, city recreation centers and pools, and addiction treatment centers.
Council members are considering further changes to loosen those distance restrictions. Meanwhile, state legislators could tackle an agenda of cannabis changes, including a potential bill for use at businesses.