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Denver city council removes sunset on social marijuana consumption law

When voters passed a social consumption ordinance in 2016, the initiative included a sunset date in 2020. At its meeting Monday night, council voted to allow the program to continue past 2020.

DENVER — The expiration date for social marijuana businesses in the city of Denver, set by voters in 2016, has been lifted by Denver's city council.

In a 10-1 vote Monday night, councilors removed the sunset date from Initiative 300, which allows businesses to allow marijuana users to consume cannabis inside a business. The council needed at least nine votes to pass the repeal, as their decision overrides language in the initiative voters originally passed.

The pilot program allowing social use of cannabis has been plagued with problems since voters enacted it. In that time only two businesses have been granted licenses.

One of those businesses, Vape and Play, announced Monday that it was temporarily closed and for sale, less than a month after the day it opened. The other business, The Coffee Joint near 8th Avenue and I-25, remains open.

“I think we should solve all of the problems together and move them forward as a package,” Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn, the lone "no" vote, said.

Some potential business owners argue rules imposed by the city's excise and licensing department make the map of available properties too small.

RELATED: Denver approves application for second social pot business

RELATED: Denver has just two social pot club applications; Why?

The initiative passed by voters included a requirement that the businesses must be 1,000 feet away from schools. Denver's Department of Excise and Licensing added additional setbacks, including a 1,000-foot setback from daycare locations, and city pools and recreation centers.

In the two years since passage, only one business owner was denied a license. Cindy Sovine, who wanted to open a spa that allowed social consumption, was not allowed to open in Capitol Hill's Creswell Mansion because it was within 19 feet of a child care center. 

RELATED: Denver denies social-use permit for marijuana spa because of 19.07 feet

The repeal of the sunset was one of several suggestions from a citywide task force looking into obstacles in the pilot program. The group has also suggested amendments to proximity restrictions.

“I don’t believe that simply repealing the sunset, which the voters had approved and which the authors of the initiative had included, is going to make any difference in the context of all the other changes that would have to be looked at before this program can actually take off and have an attempt to be successful,” Flynn said.

A total of five businesses have applied for social consumption licenses. Two were granted, one was denied, one withdrew an application and one application is still under review.

RELATED: Denver's new job opening: Cannabis process navigator

Steve Staeger is a reporter for Next with Kyle Clark. He also anchors 9News Weekend Mornings. Contact Steve by e-mailing steve@9news.com or calling 303-871-1825.