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Colorado Governor Vetoes Marijuana Tasting Room Bill

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By Adam Drury

There’s no cannabis-specific equivalent to the phrase “close, but no cigar.” But what unfolded in Colorado governor John Hickenlooper’s office on Monday would have been as good a time as any to coin one. Colorado, one of the first states to legalize cannabis for adult use, almost earned another “first” this week. Namely, becoming the first state to allow public cannabis consumption at retail stores. But the marijuana “tasting room” bill, as it came to be known, was vetoed by Gov. Hickenlooper today.

Gov. Hickenlooper Nixes Innovative “Tasting Room” Legislation
Colorado’s 2012 adult-use law prohibits the public consumption of cannabis in any form. But ever the envelope-pushers, Coloradans satisfied their desire for social sessions by setting up cannabis clubs.

These unlicensed establishments gave cannabis users a place outside of the confines of their own homes to share knowledge and experiences with different products.

Eventually, cannabis clubs became so popular that Denver voters approved an initiative to set up licensed social-use establishments.

Colorado House Bill 1258, however, took a different approach. Rather than licensing cannabis clubs, the “tasting room” bill would have allowed adults to vape or eat small quantities of cannabis inside the weed shop.

The concept will be familiar to anyone who has stopped by a wine tasting when shopping for libations. It’s commonplace. And we don’t seem to worry too much that a few small sips of this Malbec and that Rosé will flood the road with drunk drivers.

But cannabis tasting rooms—they present a clear and present danger to public safety. “We are concerned that marijuana use at consumption establishments could result in additional impaired or intoxicated drivers on our roadways,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter announcing his veto of HB 1258, reports The Denver Post.

To be fair, Gov. Hickenlooper’s letter also cited workplace concerns for retail staff. Exposing employees in the often confined spaces of a sales floor to a constant cloud of secondhand vape plumes could definitely prove hazardous.

Coloradans Decry Governor’s Veto
But the “health and safety concern” argument doesn’t have much truck with Colorado’s cannabis communities. Even when, as is the case with Hickenlooper’s veto, they have the backing of the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

And so Hickenlooper’s veto was followed by a fierce volley of criticism from the cannabis industry. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, they cried. The tasting room idea was a gift to regulators, can’t Hickenlooper see that?

“In its wisdom, the Colorado Legislature sought to close a significant gap in regulation,” owner of Terrapin Care Station, a cannabis retailer, said in a statement blasting the veto. “It’s unfortunate that the governor chose not to offer another regulatory tool to state and local regulators.”

Maybe HB 1258 would have given Colorado a sharper dividing line between licensed and unlicensed public cannabis consumption. Fulfilling a consumer demand on one hand and making enforcement easier for the state on the other. But Gov. Hickenlooper didn’t see things that way. So no marijuana tasting rooms, for now.

Original Publication in HighTimes.