Denver is making green history yet again.
The city’s voters appear to have legalized the social use of marijuana in permitted private establishments, according to election results released Monday evening.
Supporters of Initiative 300 led 53 percent to 47 percent as of 6 p.m. ― a margin of 17,173 votes. State election officials noted that results were unofficial until the election is certified on Nov. 22. The Denver Post pointed out it would take a “supermajority” of opposition votes to shift the results as they stand now.
Colorado became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana nearly three years ago, but it remains illegal for people to consume it in public. The only way adults can legally consume marijuana is in private homes, with the permission of the homeowner, or in a small number of cannabis-only clubs. Initiative 300 would change that, allowing customers of permitted bars and cafes to bring and consume their own pot.
“Colorado has been sending mixed messages to tourists and residents for too long,” state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D) told The Huffington Post Monday. “We tell people to buy marijuana and then tell them, ‘Don’t smoke it in the store, the park, the sidewalk, the bar, or really anywhere else.’
“And, by the way, don’t take it out of state,” he added. Initiative 300 “is a good solution to that problem.”
Initiative 300 would create a four-year pilot program that would allow Denver businesses, such as bars or cafes, to apply for a permit that would enable customers, aged 21 and over, to consume their own marijuana in designated areas.
Businesses that apply would be subjected to regulations similar to liquor licensing and would be required to obtain approval from a neighborhood organization.
Singer said he was concerned that permitted establishments may be tempted to sell marijuana illegally. But “the benefits far outweigh the risks,” he said.
“The social use of marijuana has been around for as long as the plant itself,” Singer said. “Giving a safe location away from schools and sidewalks creates the opportunity for a more responsible outcome.”
Proponents of the measure called the release of Monday night’s results a “victory” and said the measure would reduce the likelihood of people consuming marijuana in public.
“This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings,” Kayvan S.T. Khalatbari, a lead proponent of the measure, said in a statement.
Denver’s vote to further normalize weed comes as marijuana is winning over much of the country.
Marijuana showed up on the ballot in nine states during last week’s election. California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine approved recreational marijuana. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana voters approved medical marijuana. At least 25 states and Washington, D.C., now allow some form of marijuana.
The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug that is as dangerous as heroin, ecstasy and LSD, with “no current accepted medical use.”