Legalizing Public Marijuana Consumption

When Colorado amended the State Constitution in 2012 to expressly allow possession of smaller amounts of marijuana and marijuana products, actually smoking any continued to be problematic.

Since the amendment only addressed possession the laws against public display or consumption remained in force and consumption on private property without the owner’s consent was still prohibited. This created an environment where many people could legally obtain marijuana but had nowhere to legally smoke it. Only Colorado homeowners or those who knew one that approved were truly in the clear.

This has started to change. An initiative in Denver which passed with about 53% support on Election Day will allow for the public consumption of cannabis in designated consumption areas between 7:00am and 2:00am the following day, unless further restricted in a given neighborhood(Denver Ord 2-6-305). While the fact that such areas cannot be within 1000ft of a school means that significant portions of the city are off limits this is the first example of legal public marijuana consumption in the country. It’s worth noting that this new ordinance comes with a sunset clause – the new rules are only effective until December 31st 2020. If City Council does not act to renew or expand the public consumption regime it will completely evaporate come the first day of 2021.

There are a lot of other requirements in the new rules, such as that smoking at street level not be visible from a public right-of-way or occur anywhere that smoking is generally prohibited, as well as any other restrictions local community groups may impose. The ordinance suggests communities require hosts to provide taxi service or take action to prevent drinking alcohol while smoking, but considering that many tourists and even a number of locals may have a hard time finding a place they can smoke privately this will create a way for people to legally partake of something they legally bought.

If this proves to be an effective way to create a safe outlet for marijuana smokers we will have to see if this spreads to other cities or states. With more and more places are loosening legal restrictions on marijuana, solutions like this are needed to ensure people don’t break the law attempting to exercise their liberties.