Cannabis bars are now legal in Colorado but don’t expect one in Steamboat anytime soon
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As of Jan. 1, Colorado now allows two new types of marijuana businesses to operate in the state, but Steamboat Springs City Council has no plans to permit them anytime soon.
House Bill 1230 legalized marijuana tasting rooms, where people can buy and sample the flower, and marijuana hospitality establishments, which can’t sell cannabis products on-site but can provide customers a social place to consume it. However, the law gives municipalities discretion to decide how these new establishments operate, if at all.
Prior to the new laws, people in Colorado could get high, but they had to do so on private property. The Colorado Indoor Clean Air Act also bans smoking in most public, indoor places. The new business models carve out public spaces for marijuana consumption, similar to bars.
Since the start of the year, City Council has received at least two inquiries regarding the establishments.
One came from an attorney representing the local marijuana dispensary Golden Leaf, according to City Attorney Dan Foote. Representatives from the dispensary could not immediately be reached for comment.
The other came from a law firm in Denver, representing a group of investors, some of whom are locals.
“They are exploring various options throughout Colorado, specifically looking at some of the resort towns,” said Garrett Davey, an attorney with Greenspoon Marder LLP.
Allowing businesses to offer social consumption of marijuana would require the city to lift a ban on what it calls “cannabis clubs,” according to Foote.
City Council members discussed the inquiries during their meeting Tuesday, but their reaction was lukewarm at best. Many of them voiced fatigue following a months-long debate over whether to increase the number of licensed dispensaries in the city from the current limit of three marijuana shops. The discussion eventually ended in deadlock, with the council indefinitely postponing the proposed increase.
Council members, therefore, balked at the thought of opening discussion to further loosen regulations.
“I thought the feeling of the council was that this issue was done and done,” said council member Sonja Macys.
Other council members agreed, arguing they had other issues to prioritize, at least for the near future.
President Jason Lacy said council members could reconsider holding a discussion later in the year, but they had not received enough interest in changing local regulations to devote time and energy to doing so.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t consider looking at it at some point,” Lacy said.
Davey said he has received similar hesitation from other municipalities. Some resort towns, including Aspen, see cannabis clubs as a way to curb marijuana consumption in places where it remains illegal, such as parks and on the streets, he said.
Even before the new laws, businesses found loopholes to provide social places for people to get high. The Coffee Joint, Colorado’s first “pot café,” opened in 2018, but it did not allow people to smoke inside. Instead, people could use vaping devices or edibles. The business is one of several in the state that has applied for a license to open a hospitality establishment.
Another marijuana business, Tetra, took a more creative approach, sidestepping the Clearing Air Act. It acts as a private club that sells daily and monthly memberships, offering people plush lounge areas to indulge in marijuana products, watch TV and relax with fellow members.
Application fees to open one of the new marijuana businesses range from $1,000 for the hospitality establishments to $5,000 for the tasting rooms, where people also can buy cannabis products. Once granted, owners cannot hold a liquor license for the same business, meaning customers will have to pick their poison, so to speak.
For now, applicants will have to look elsewhere in the state to open such businesses, and Steamboat residents will have to travel if they want to take a puff of the new smoking opportunities.
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