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Bars can’t seek new Denver social marijuana use permits allowed by Initiative 300, state says

(DP) State licensing officials delivered a blow Friday to Denver’s voter-passed Initiative 300 by announcing a new rule that will keep bars and many restaurants from applying for new social marijuana use permits. The new regulation starting Jan. 1 will make clear that liquor licensees cannot allow the consumption of marijuana on their premises. It greatly expands the types of businesses that likely will be disqualified from applying for the new permits for on-site marijuana consumption areas when the city makes applications available in late January, as required by Initiative 300. Already, licensed marijuana businesses, including dispensaries, can’t allow consumption on site under state law. Now add to that all bars and other businesses that serve alcohol, potentially including event venues. Some of Initiative 300’s backers were caught off guard by the new rule, while others had state discussions on their radar. The Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue developed the regulation administratively in recent months, and the department’s director approved it. Supporters of the new rule, including the Colorado Restaurant Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, focused more generally on how to address the prospect that bar and restaurant patrons might use marijuana with or without explicit permission. “The CRA, along with many other stakeholders, expressed concerns about the public dual consumption of marijuana and alcohol,” according to a statement issued by the group Friday. Among concerns outlined by the restaurant association: possible liability for establishments if patrons mix alcohol and marijuana consumption; a lack of clarity for insurance companies that have indicated they wouldn’t insure restaurants and bars that allow pot use on site; and potential confusion for customers, business owners and police if bars and restaurants adopt a patchwork of policies toward marijuana use, perhaps by opting in to Denver’s new law. The restaurant association supported a group called Protect Denver’s Atmosphere that campaign against Initiative 300. Ultimately, Denver voters approved Initiative 300 with 53.5 percent support. Tvert called the new state liquor rule “absurd” and suggested in an e-mail that marijuana was not as large a factor as alcohol in “the fights and rowdy behavior that plague LoDo every weekend at 2 a.m.,” when bars let out. The DOR’s Kammerzell said that under the new regulation, liquor licensees could fall under scrutiny and face penalties, from a warning up to revocation of their license, if they repeatedly allow marijuana consumption to occur.

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