Alpine Wellness’ Michael Grady addressed Telluride Town Council Tuesday in support of creating laws governing the social consumption of cannabis in licensed and regulated establishments within town limits. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

Since Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, which legalized the sale of marijuana in the state, the burning question has been, “Where can I smoke this?” With the passage of HB-1230 this year, that question is inching toward an answer. At Tuesday’s Telluride Town Council meeting, council once again took up the discussion about just how — or if — local government will opt in to the new law.

Town Attorney Kevin Geiger briefed council on prior discussions and sought direction for the next step. Though the new bill was voted into law this past legislative session, what remains incomplete are a detailed set of rules that will guide the particulars of the law. According to Geiger, those rules will likely be determined by Oct. 15. There is, however, a possibility they may not be finalized by that date. HB 1234 goes into effect Jan. 1.

What council is tasked with is first of all deciding whether or not, as a local government, they want to opt in, as the bill permits. If council does not move on the decision and any subsequent, additional regulations, the citizens could.

“It you don’t take action, citizens have the right to propose (opting in),” he said.

In the course of the discussion, in which members of the public also weighed in, council was generally supportive of adopting the legislation in a localized fashion in order to take smoking off the streets. Public consumption of marijuana is prohibited, as is consumption on federal property or in places like hotels.

Local governments can make HB-1230 more restrictive and Telluride’s liquor code has restrictions such as proximity to schools and various zoning requirements that would likely be applied to any social consumption laws council passes.

Members of the public who spoke out were mostly attached to the local cannabis industry, either in manufacturing or retail sales, and voiced support for providing a safe, social and completely contained opportunity for regulated consumption areas.

Local Jerry Greene and others spoke to the public health aspect of permitting places for combustion of cannabis products, which includes vaping.

“It would be a big step backwards,” he said. “I encourage you to reject any proposal to permit indoor smoking of any kind.”

But Michael Grady, the license holder for Alpine Wellness retail marijuana store, reiterated the question most often asked of budtenders.

“Customers want to know where they can smoke it,” Grady said. “In the end, I think it’s about Telluride offering an experience. The people that go (to a legal consumption business) want to be here. It’s a social experience that’s not centered around alcohol.”

Dahlia Mertens, owner of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, a THC-infused topical products manufacturer, stressed the positive benefits she believed would accompany allowing social consumption lounges, among them economic and employment opportunities.

“I see this as a progressive community,” Mertens said. “This will give people dedicated places to consume and get people out of the alleys. It really makes sense.”

There are two classifications to HB-1230: one is a marijuana hospitality business, in which consumers would bring their own product to consume; and hospitality and sales business where customers can purchase and consume onsite and can leave with any unconsumed product. Both classifications share basic regulations such as ages 21 and over only, that they must not be visible to the public, that no alcohol or tobacco be permitted on the premises, and that service be denied to any visibly intoxicated individual.

Certain rules yet to be determined by the state, such as any limits on amounts that can be sold, will be determined at the Oct. 15 rule-making session.

HB-1230 also allows for home delivery of cannabis products. Patients holding medical marijuana cards will be able to avail themselves of the service as of Jan. 1, 2020, from a medical marijuana licensed store, while orders and deliveries from retail marijuana outlets will get the delivery go-ahead Jan. 1, 2021. Of Telluride’s five cannabis shops, only one holds a medical marijuana license. The delivery aspect of the new bill also allows for opt-in by local governments. If a government declines to opt in, state social consumption law would not apply, nor could a Telluride customer get delivery from an outside municipality’s retail marijuana outlet that had opted in.

In what Geiger called “an interesting twist,” the new law would provide an exemption to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in any workplace.

“This new legislation does create an option for local regulations to except marijuana hospitality businesses from the smoking prohibition,” Geiger’s memo to council read. “It only allows marijuana and marijuana concentrates to be smoked (not tobacco).”

Telluride’s version of the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act is more restrictive than the state’s, Geiger said.

Mayor Sean Murphy and others on council were hoping for more public input, especially from representatives from the schools or local health and social welfare organizations like Tri-County Health Network.

“It’s shocking and disappointing … they’re not present to speak out,” Murphy said.

Council member Geneva Shaunette agreed, saying she’d hoped to hear from more people in the community.

“I’d love to also hear from the tourism board,” she said.

Crafting any local ordinance for social consumption licensing, council directed Geiger, must take into consideration appropriate ventilation, and adherence to the proximity and zoning codes currently in place that apply to the issuance of liquor licenses. Consideration of what rules are actually encoded on Oct. 15 must also be included.

The timeframe as council and staff further explore what HB-1230 could mean for Telluride is based on the few meetings left in the calendar year. The next council meeting after the Oct. 15 rule-making deliberations at the state level is Nov. 19. At that meeting, council could conceivably consider the first reading of a social consumption ordinance. A second reading of an ordinance at the Dec. 10 meeting, if approved, would go live on Jan 1, 2020, in concert with HB-1230’s first day as active state law.