Left Coast Extracts Blog

The Future is Green

Starting on Jan. 1, House Bill 1230 will allow 2 completely new types of businesses in Colorado: tasting rooms that can sell cannabis flower and cannabis products and solutions, and “marijuana hospitality establishments,” which can’t sell cannabis on-site but allow total use of the plant (including on tour buses).

The flipside of letting virtually anyone apply for a license is that the state has awarded abundant discretion to municipalities, allowing them to decide how and where these new businesses do business, if at all. Application fees range from 1,000 for a hospitality business to 5,000 for a retail hospitality and sales operation. Once granted, operators are actually barred from having a liquor license for the very same business.

The new guidelines, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in May, include House Bill 1234, which allows for commercial home delivery of cannabis. However, the most important deal is, without a doubt, the consumption rules. Ever since Amendment 64 legalized statewide retail sales, growth, and possession of {|cannabis} in 2014, residents and especially tourists have been forced to look for creative ways to consume their weed in the absence of any legal, public option.

“One of the obstacles with that is the profit model because it’s bring-your-own-cannabis, and not sales like the new hospitality bill {|allows} said Eric Escudero, communications director for Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses, which will review pot-lounge applications. “But anything we do isn’t going to happen right away. We have to go through the process initially of talking about social equity, and then any new law or marijuana expansion has to go through a public approval process.”

Colorado residents are able to get high on their own property, needless to say. And there are still the long-running events like Puff, Pass & Paint, a pot-friendly art class that doubles as community smoking experiences. Cannabis cooking classes, party buses, dispensary tours, yoga and have also filled in the gaps over the past 5 years.

“As long as you’re not trying to sell weed and you’re in a private residence, you’re fine,” Puff, Pass & Paint founder Heidi Keyes shared with The Cannabist in 2014.

But tourists have generally defaulted to vaping or gobbling THC-laced edibles since that doesn’t produce the skunky smoke that is the dead-giveaway of smoking joints, bongs or bowls. That’s resulted in Colorado dropping in the back of California in public consumption laws – in spite of Colorado actually being hailed all over the world for pioneering recreational cannabis in the first place.

West Hollywood, Calif.’s Lowell Cafe, which opened in October, is the nation’s 1st cannabis-friendly restaurant. But, because of existing laws there, Lowell Cafe’s proprietors were required to find a clever workaround, as Rolling Stone referred to as, since laws don’t allow licensees to sell food or drinks on-site at a cannabis retail business.

Lowell’s answer was to separate the cafe into 3 areas, Rolling Stone reported: “a street-facing area where diners can’t consume cannabis, but can purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks, and an indoor lounge and outdoor garden that allow cannabis smoking, vaping and edible consumption.” Food and drinks are made in a kitchen that is considered a separate business, which allows people in the smoking section to purchase food from the restaurant.

So if Colorado beat California in the legal-weed game by a couple of years, what’s stopping Colorado from seeing the same concepts?

“It’s not for lack of interest on the entrepreneurial side,” stated Jeremy Jacobs, whose Kentucky based company, Enlighten, supplies digital menus and in-house ads for 1,200 dispensaries nationwide, which includes 100 in Colorado. “People have tried to open coffee shops and consumption lounges only to get raided a week later. It’s the authorities that have caused this issue, single-handedly. There’s no one else to blame.”

One of Jacobs’ solutions is the Cannabus, which he debuted this month at MJBizCon in Las Vegas. The upscale coach sells cannabis in the front and offers a smoking lounge in the back. Jacobs wants to take it on a multi-state tour – which includes the steps of Colorado’s state capitol – to show legislators that cannabis enterprises can be as friendly, safe and lucrative as craft breweries.

“Most lounges aren’t some dark and dungeon-y place with black lights and Hendrix posters,” said Jacobs, who sealed a 6.5 million round of financial backing for Enlighten’s digital network in June. “In fact, I’d argue cannabis is building some of the better retail establishments, period because they have far better concepts.”

Barbershops, workout centers, music venues, VR arcades, yoga studios, and other hybrid-cannabis businesses could very well flourish under the new rules, Tetra’s Benjamin said, as long as they follow the enshrined, 21-and-up guidelines of Amendment 64.

“Since we’ve opened, we haven’t had any public safety issues – like fights, violence, people passing out – and no contact with authorities,” he said of Tetra Lounge.

“That’s on the customer side,” he said. “But on the business side, we’ve been able to thrive because we offer a marketing platform for business-to-consumer interaction.”

At Tetra, that takes the form of displays set up by various vendors and dispensaries to advertise their wares. The marketing partnership also encourages weed-friendly hotel concierges and budtenders at dispensaries to send people to Tetra as a safe alternative to consuming in their cars, hotel rooms or on the street.

“You’ll see a 21-year-old black dude talking to an 80-year-old white lady for hours,” he said. “There’s not one demographic that buys or enjoys cannabis. And as one of the few African-American cannabis company owners, I want it to be all-inclusive.”

The new laws may also lead to different types of consumption businesses that are only now being thought about, said PJ Rinker, vice president of business development at Denver-based Cannabis One, which runs The Joint dispensaries.

“We ultimately see someone like Dewayne (Benjamin) having the Jamba Juice of weed, where you can enjoy the full spectrum of the plant and use more than just THC or CBD,” Rinker said.

“Although California was very easily positioned to take the cannabis crown, they’ve done an excellent job of screwing that up recently with the extremely slow roll-out of their licenses,” he said. 

So, who will reign supreme? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure. The future looks green.

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One thought on “The Future is Green

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