Marijuana is often thought of as a social drug similar to alcohol. Most states that have legalized the drug have relegated its usage to the privacy of one’s home. Public consumption is generally prohibited in legal states. Since the federal government has yet to legalize the drug many state governments are being cautious in how they approach their own legalization and allowing the drug to be flaunted in public might be pushing it too far with federal prosecutors.
Colorado, however, has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to marijuana. Marijuana social clubs started to pop up after the state legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2012. These clubs operated without any real legal authority. They could not be licensed as one of the six approved marijuana business types but they also were not fined or prosecuted for their operations.
The marijuana lounges were not supposed to be selling marijuana, so instead, they allowed patrons to trade cannabis for membership or sign affidavits stating that the club was growing marijuana plants on their behalf. Officials in Colorado Springs banned such practices in 2016 to crack down on these unlicensed clubs and the City Clerk’s Office started sending cease and desist letters to these clubs.
Clubs that existed before Sept. 23, 2015, have eight years to phase out their operations and submit to the city’s new rules and regulations for operating marijuana social clubs.
The basic rules for operating a marijuana consumption club are that no one under the age of 21 is allowed. The clubs must also close by 2 a.m. and cannot re-open until 7 a.m. You are also not allowed to have mobile or movable marijuana clubs. The clubs are also required to have ventilation and filtration systems that ensure that people on adjoining lots or property cannot smell marijuana coming from the club.
Marijuana social clubs in Colorado Springs are still not like bars that serve alcohol. The rules of the city make it explicit that marijuana consumption clubs cannot sell, transfer, distribute, or permit the transfer of marijuana for remuneration on the licensed premises. Furthermore, marijuana clubs cannot cultivate, manufacture, or store marijuana on the premises and cannot allow anyone else to do the same.
The city ordinance even goes as far as to disallow marijuana clubs from allowing alcohol on the premises. All of these restrictions make it hard to see how a marijuana consumption club could profit or even keep the lights on. The city ordinance seems to only allow club operators to use them as gathering halls only essentially.
The law does not prevent clubs from charging a cover fee or membership fees though. There is also no prohibition on marijuana consumption clubs from selling other goods or food. It also does not seem to be the case that marijuana consumption clubs are prohibited from being located near or even next to a marijuana dispensary. Some cities do not allow marijuana businesses from being within 500 feet of one another but technically, a marijuana consumption club is not a marijuana business.
Potentially, the owner of a marijuana dispensary could put a consumption club next door. Assuming they have the proper licenses they could also serve food and drinks at the club as long as they are not alcoholic. The truth is that most people who are interested in going to a marijuana club want it to be a bar that serves cannabis instead of alcohol. That simply is not a legal option and it is likely the case that there are few people willing to operate a cannabis club until that changes.