Lonely Planet Writer

Would you like weed with that? Denver voters say yes to recreational pot in bars and restaurants

By a slim margin, Denver voters have approved the use of marijuana products in bars and restaurants, possibly paving the way for so-called cannabis clubs.

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado Image by 500px

The passage of Proposition 300 allows establishments like bars and restaurants to permit patrons to use marijuana alongside a meal or cocktail. The catch? Smoking is still prohibited indoors, and the businesses would have to get community approval. In order to receive a license to allow marijuana onsite, any establishment must first show community support, such as backing from a local neighbourhood organisation. The businesses also can’t sell marijuana onsite – state law bans the sale of both marijuana and food or drink at the same location – so patrons must bring their own. The law allows any establishment to apply for the license, such as bars, restaurants or yoga studios.

Supporters of the measure say it will reduce the instances of tourists smoking marijuana in public because there is nowhere that previously allowed private use. Critics say the program will lead to an increase in stoned driving, promote the mixing of alcohol and pot at permitted bars and encourage more public use.  Although the proposition is effective immediately, it’s currently unknown how long the permitting process will take. Most agree that it will be many months before Mile High City gets Amsterdam-style coffee shops. The measure sunsets in 2020 unless voters make the plan permanent or city officials renew licenses. The Denver proposition was approved the same week that four other states passed legislation legalising recreational marijuana, doubling the number of US states that already allow recreational sales.