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Imagine this: you’re on the dancefloor grooving out to your favorite banger. As the drop hits, you throw your head back and let great, blooming puffs of marijuana vapor loose into the cascading strobes and lasers. Or, if you’re not into the club scene, perhaps you’d rather think about the dab rig that you might keep next to your laptop in your favorite coffee shop. Or the smoking porch for doobies behind your favorite restaurant. None of this is on the table (yet) in Oregon. But if Denver’s recent reforms to allow (semi) public marijuana consumption are any guide, a greener future might be in the cards.

Denver’s Initiative 300 was on November 8th’s ballot, but the final tabulation of results wasn’t complete until a week later, when the initiative’s success  – with more than 53% of the vote – was confirmed. Under the new law, Denver businesses will allowed to seek permits to create marijuana “consumption areas” on their premises. These permits would be subject to approval by local business or neighborhood associations. Under provisions of the law, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses will be required to begin accepting applications for consumption areas by late January 2017, though it remains unclear when the department is likely to begin issuing licenses.  

The program, a four-year pilot that will end in 2021 unless made permanent by the city council, will not permit businesses with consumption area permits to engage in any sales of marijuana. This means that restaurants hoping to offer infused meal options will likely have to work with cannabis brought in by customers.

It is believed that the measure will help support marijuana tourism in the city and allow consumption by residents who are prohibited by landlords from consuming at home. Proponents of the measure suggest that this will reduce public consumption while many opponents believe that a more permissive environment will lead to increased public consumption. They also highlight uncertainty as to whether Initiative 300 conflicts with state laws regulating marijuana. That said, in a system in which state law directly contradicts federal law, a municipal law that contradicts state edicts may not be exceptional at all.

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