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Denver Votes to Allow Weed Use in Restaurants and Bars

But there are several caveats

Marijuana Grow Near Albany For State's Legal Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Restaurants and bars in Denver could begin allowing patrons to BYOW (bring your own weed) in the coming months, making it the first U.S. city to do so: An initiative that would allow bars, cafes, and other businesses to seek permits for on-premises marijuana use has passed.

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in Denver since 2014; it can be used inside private residences, and as the Denver Post notes, a few localities “have licensed a small number of cannabis-only clubs.” But Initiative 300 would broaden marijuana use in the city, allowing for “social use”: It aims to create a four-year pilot program in which establishments with liquor licenses (like bars and restaurants) can seek permits for over-21, bring-your-own-pot consumption areas.

But the measure, which passed this week with 53.4 percent of the vote, has plenty of caveats attached: Permits would either apply to indoor areas — and therefore allow for the use of vaping and edibles, but no smoking, due to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act — or outdoors, where smoking could be permitted.

And as the Denver Post reported back in October, there’s another catch: “Applicants for annual or temporary permits would need backing from a single neighborhood group, such as a city-registered neighborhood organization or Business Improvement District. Those groups could set operating conditions in exchange for their support.”

Nonetheless, the initiative is expected to further boost tourism to a city where visitors spent some $5 billion last year.

The Denver chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association opposed the measure, expressing concerns about the public safety impact of consuming marijuana and alcohol together. Another potential point of concern for restaurants? Liability insurance. The Colorado Restaurant Association has indicated that “several insurance companies have already indicated to us that they will not insure restaurants and bars that allow marijuana consumption.” But apparently, those concerns weren’t enough to dissuade voters.

Denver Is First City in U.S. to Allow Pot in Bars, Restaurants [AP]
Initiative 300: Everything You Need to Know About Denver’s Social Cannabis Use Measure [Denver Post]
All Marijuana Coverage [E]