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Colorado Regulators Deny Cannabis Consumption In Denver Bars

By Melissa Garcia

DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – State regulators delivered a blow to supporters of social marijuana use in the city of Denver.

Just days after Denver voters passed a measure allowing public consumption at certain businesses, the Colorado Department of Revenue enacted a new regulation prohibiting cannabis use in bars.

Results show 53.5f percent of Denver voters decided in favor of Initiative 300, which will allow local businesses to apply for permits for public cannabis consumption beginning in late January.

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The initiative was designed to make it legal for customers to bring in and use their own marijuana products in permitted establishments like bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and even yoga studios.

State officials, however, decided on Friday that no permits will be given to any establishment that sells alcohol.

Challys Maybee, a bar patron who consumes cannabis, had mixed feelings on the topic.

"Tourists (and) everyone needs a safe place where they can exercise their rights," Maybee told CBS4's Melissa Garcia. "But in a bar, it's definitely an imposition on other people's rights. Not everyone is for marijuana."

Some liquor industry professionals agree with the state's new rule.

"It's better to just have (cannabis consumption) at a separate location," said Peter Penzenstadler, a bartender at Sancho's Broken Arrow.

Penzenstadler said that allowing marijuana use in bars could present a challenge in keeping patrons safe.

"Alcohol messes up people well enough. (If you) add marijuana to it, we can't be in control of the customers for a safety standard as well," Penzenstadler added.

In its decision to deny permits for liquor licensees, the state's liquor enforcement division cited public health studies showing higher impairment and an increased risk of car crashes in people using alcohol and marijuana together as opposed to using either one alone.

Some cannabis advocates, however, disagreed with that perspective.

"It's funny how they spin things," said Wanda James, a long-time restauranteur and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver's LoHi neighborhood.

James said that residents and tourists should have a safe and legal place to responsibly consume cannabis as well as alcohol.

"We've legalized cannabis. People are excited to come in record numbers, and come to Denver and come to Colorado and spend money. And then when they come here and legally buy cannabis, we then treat them as criminals because there is nowhere for them to consume here in Denver," said James.

Mason Tvert, a cannabis activist and proponent of Initiative 300, said the new state restriction still leaves many other businesses eligible for consumption permits.

Tvert said that initiative advocates planned to take steps to get the new city law to trump the new state regulation.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to

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