Cannabis Clubs Provide a Needed Service - But at What Risk?
Nearly two years after voters in Colorado passed Amendment 64, much of the promise of treating marijuana like alcohol is still falling short. While the legal market is thriving, and tax dollars are filling state and municipal coffers, the notable absence of establishments allowing the consumption of marijuana is felt by residents and visitors alike. A safe and comfortable place where like-minded individuals can congregate and recreate in whatever legal manner they see fit is still elusive, leaving many confined to their homes or the often-yet-ill-advised vehicle.
But in the peripheries, pot clubs have been clandestinely operating, skirting Amendment 64’s ban on “open and public consumption” by designating themselves as private social clubs. They are scattered across the state, and while they can be hard to find, these clubs are available to those in need of a place to consume.
Unfortunately, starting such a venture can be a risky choice. The city of Denver in particular has shown a certain zeal in shutting down venues that allow marijuana consumption, shuttering clubs and threatening the liquor licenses of bars and venues that look the other way.
“There are different levels of pushback statewide,” says Rob Corry, outspoken marijuana activist and one of the attorneys that helped to craft Amendment 64. Corry is legal counsel for several marijuana social clubs around the state, and he’s often had to take legal action to defend what he says is the constitutionally protected right of such clubs to exist.
“I think these clubs are 100 percent compliant under Colorado law,” says Corry. While Amendment 64 does explicitly mention open and public consumption, it also explicitly states that marijuana use in private is legal. This mandate in the state constitution trumps all state and municipal laws, says Corry.
While it may seem like these businesses operate in the fringes of legality, Corry sees them as strictly compliant with state law.
“I don’t think [marijuana social clubs] operate in a grey area,” he says. Instead it is the overzealous law enforcers that shut them down that are operating in the legal grey area.
“It’s striking to me that the marijuana industry and the marijuana consumer stand for this,” he says.
One establishment pushing these perceived limits is Gary’s Rec Room, which opened in July on south Broadway.
“I never expected I’d find a place on Broadway, right here in the green mile,” says Gary Trueblood, the owner, operator and namesake. Gary doesn’t operate a business, as that would require licenses that would surely be in Jeopardy from the city. Instead, Gary opens his home – the other half of the duplex in which he lives – to all who would like a place to congregate and relax. There is a suggested five-dollar donation for upkeep, but entry entitles you to a relaxed, clean space in which to responsibly consume. ID’s are checked at the door, not because it’s law, says Trueblood, but because he isn’t interested in having friends over who can’t legally consume as adults.
It’s one of the only such places within Denver County, a problem that became glaringly apparent to Trueblood when he visited with his wife in April of this year. He says he was forced to huddle in his hotel bathroom, blowing hits into the exhaust fan, an experience that didn’t reflect marijuana’s legal status in the state.
“That’s a fucking problem,” says Trueblood. He set out to rectify the issue, and came back in June to create such a place.
“I’m here not just providing a service to the dispensaries,” he says, “I’m providing a service to the city of Denver.”
An unfortunate reality of the city’s approach to marijuana policy is the surplus of people who have nowhere to smoke their legally purchased marijuana, leading to more people consuming where they shouldn’t, more unwelcome second-hand smoke, and ultimately more tickets, says Trueblood.
While Gary’s Rec Room gets around the idiotic enforcement strategies of the city by remaining a private residence, others are forced to outside of city limits. Places like Ibake Lounge and Three Kings Dab Supply are open to new members, just outside of Denver in Commerce City and Wheatridge respectively.
Ironically, Colorado Springs seems to be welcoming enough to the idea of a smoking lounge, with mainstays like The Speakeasy and the Lazy Lion. Both have been in operation for over a year without notable interference from law enforcement.
However, in the right legal light, all are potentially in jeopardy – whether it be for violations of Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act, a loose definition of the term “public”, or something else that might tickle an official’s fancy – and that is something Corry sees as an integral part of marijuana thus far.
“We’ve built this industry around pushing [the law],” says Corry. “We didn’t ask for anyone’s permission, we knew our rights and we grabbed them.”
If you are looking for a place to enjoy your legal marijuana legally (or just a place to enjoy and meet new people) check out any of the places mentioned here. You are sure to find the patrons open and accommodating, and the bathrooms immaculate.
Gary’s Rec Room
2487 South Broadway, Denver
$5 dollar suggested donation. Feels like your friend’s home, and it will be once you get to know Gary. Pipes, rigs and papers are available to those in need, but strictly BYO bud. Alcohol is not allowed.
Speak Easy Vape Lounge
2508 Bijou St., Colorado Springs
$5 membership. Probably the closest in feel to an actual bar, Speakeasy offers lockers for patrons to rent if they would like to bring in their own alcohol (thereby making it their own property, for legal reasons.)
6125 Washington St., Commerce City.
$10 membership. This smoke shop and hangout feels a lot like a club house used for table-top gamming. A friendly, subdued crowd, don’t expect anything too fancy. Be sure to have your own bud when you show up, but making friends here is no problem.
Three Kings Dab Supply
12390 W 44th Ave., Wheatridge
Variable membership rates available. A place that really feels like hanging out at your buddy’s house, if your buddy had a glass blowing area next to his large backyard patio. Equipped with various glass to be used should club members need and an Xbob One for all to enjoy.
The Lazy Lion
2502 E Bijou St., Colorado Springs
$5 entry. Probably the only place on this list that can qualify as an actual dab bar, The Lion has a selection of flowers and concentrates available for donated compensation, though the suggested donation can be fairly steep. The interior feels sterile and probably the less homey than the others listed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.