A new state law that allows businesses to serve marijuana has Durango entrepreneurs contemplating new possibilities.
What if residents could bowl and smoke? What if customers could play video games and partake in marijuana?
As the city of Durango starts a public process to decide whether to allow marijuana lounges in town, Scott Holland and Travis Hinze said they see an opening for those creative business options and others, such as hosting celebrations featuring marijuana.
“It’s incorporating business models that already work with cannabis,” Hinze said.
Holland and Hinze were among those who came to learn about the city of Durango’s process for exploring the legalization of marijuana hospitality businesses and what kind of regulations might be on the horizon. The meeting drew a small crowd Monday night to the Durango Community Recreation Center.
The Colorado Legislature legalized public marijuana hospitality businesses this year, but left it up to local governments to allow them.
Durango City Council sees the economic development potential of marijuana hospitality businesses and asked city staff to explore the issue, said Kevin Hall, assistant city manager and community development director.
“We would like to hear from the community,” he said.
The staff expects to present community feedback about allowing marijuana hospitality businesses and ideas for regulations in late January, said Nicol Killian, assistant director of the city’s Community Development Department. At that time, the council could give further direction, she said.
The city has not drafted any regulations that could govern marijuana hospitality businesses yet. But city officials did present the state’s rules for the businesses and existing city rules for retail and medical marijuana shops. City rules for retail and marijuana shops would not necessarily apply to marijuana hospitality businesses.
Under House Bill 19-1230, the state can license two classes of marijuana hospitality businesses, which allow customers to smoke and consume other marijuana products.
One class of business can provide a space for recreational marijuana to be consumed but cannot sell it. Customers must bring their own cannabis. These types of businesses can be mobile, such as a tour bus, as long as the driver is separated by a barrier from the consumption, Killian said.
The second class of business can serve and sell marijuana, she said. The businesses cannot be mobile, and customers cannot bring marijuana into these establishments, she said.
Under state law, businesses where public marijuana consumption happens cannot sell alcohol and the consumption of marijuana cannot be visible from outside the business, according to city documentation.
If the City Council decided to allow marijuana hospitality businesses, it could put in zoning rules to govern where the businesses could open and how far away the businesses would need to be from public spaces, such as parks or other marijuana businesses, Killian said.
The city would require the businesses to be 1,000 feet from any school to abide by federal law, she said.
Businesses serving marijuana can include doctors’ offices and spas, which might make new zoning rules complicated, she said.
In general, city planning officials have seen opposition to new marijuana businesses fade since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014, she said.
“As it’s been progressing, the public perception has changed,” she said.
Durango Marijuana Hospitality Association President Jaime McMillan said the legalization of marijuana hospitality businesses presents new economic opportunities and would serve local residents because 80% of the marijuana purchased in the state is consumed by residents.
“It’s also about choice and being able to share experiences that we haven’t been able to before,” he said.
The trade group was formed in August and has about 100 members, he said. As president, McMillan said he planned to provide industry input into the pending city rules.
Questions and comments about marijuana hospitality business regulations can be sent to Lia.Campbell@DurangoGov.org.