Denver Colorado, the state’s largest city, has approved its very first social consumption permit. Appropriately named, The Coffee Joint is now one of a handful of businesses in the country which allow people to consume cannabis on the premises.
The executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, Ashley Kilroy, approved the license application Monday afternoon. The document incorporated recommendations from the hearing officer included in an earlier draft.
Referring to marijuana dispensary and liquor license applications, Kilroy said, “I routinely look over things like this. And especially seeing that nobody opposed it, it’s something I would issue as a matter of routine.”
About The Coffee Joint
The Coffee Joint will soon be permitted to allow customers 21 and older to vape cannabis concentrates and consume cannabis-infused edibles.
Marijuana products will not be sold on the premises. Customers will have to bring their own.
The Joint, at 1130 Yuma Court, has been open to the public since January, selling coffee, tea, and snacks. It is located just east of Interstate 25 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
And they’re holding an open house of sorts. Kilroy says the cafe is offering free coffee and sneak previews of the Joint (so to speak). “Tons of people already came in,” says Kilroy.
Smoking marijuana will not be permitted in the shop, as smoking is only allowed outdoors under state law.
The Approval Process
The Coffee Joint became Denver’s first applicant for a public consumption permit back in December after receiving the approval of the La Alma-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association. A public license hearing held on Feb. 9 drew no opposition.
Neighborhood business owners reportedly welcomed the opening of a social cannabis club. They hope that it will attract tourists to the area by giving them a legal place to consume marijuana. The thinking is that the business will spill over to neighboring cannabis shops and other establishments.
The Coffee Joint’s application was approved the same day as the introduction of a bill that would allow dispensary tasting rooms. It also follows on the heels of the opening of a members-only pot lounge in RiNo, Colorado.
The private club won't be part of the City of Denver's Cannabis Consumption Establishment license program. Instead, members will be allowed to consume cannabis during special events and private parties. Each event will require its own permit.
Colorado's state law doesn't expressly address the issue of social consumption clubs.
Social consumption regulations were adopted by the city last summer. Some claim the law includes rules that are overly restrictive. For instance, clubs can't be located within 1000 feet of a school, daycares or addiction treatment facilities.
One of the motivations behind the ordinance is to provide more places for tourists to legally consume marijuana since Denver doesn’t allow public use.
The Short-Term Plan
Business is expected to be brisk at The Coffee Joint. Reason being that most hotels and rental properties have banned marijuana use, and public use is illegal.
Tsalyuk says customers at his dispensary often ask employees for tips on where to use the products legally. Conveniently, The Coffee Joint is right next door.
The plan at this time is to charge patrons a $5 entry fee to allow them to bring their own cannabis into the space. They expect to do well selling coffee and non-cannabis-infused food to cannabis consuming patrons.
The owners originally planned to offer vaping equipment rentals. However, that would require the approval of a sanitation and health plan. The plan would have to pass muster with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. So, Tsalyuk says they have put that plan on a back burner.
An exact date has not been set for the official launch of legal vaping and edibles consumption. City inspections are required before the city can formally award the license. Though, Tsalyuk hopes to begin operating within a couple weeks.
Future plans include yoga classes and educational and cultural events.
In the meantime, Tsalyuk says the Joint will need to scramble to hire and train more employees.
Tsalyuk raised the prospect of tasting events for marijuana-infused products. Vendors could offer coupons to patrons to buy their edible products at the dispensary, she said, and then return to the coffee shop for the tasting event.
Now that The Coffee Joint has shown that it can be done, more applications are expected to follow. Another application was submitted for a marijuana spa in Capitol Hill. And city licensing officials say they are aware of other potential applicants.
"We feel a lot of responsibility," says Kilroy. "I'm very proud of it. I want to take it to a different level and give back to our community as much as we can."