DENVER, Colo. (May 3, 2019) – Yesterday, the Colorado House gave final approval to a bill that would authorize “cannabis hospitality establishments” for public consumption of marijuana. Passage of this bill would expand the cannabis market in Colorado despite an ongoing federal prohibition of the same.

A coalition of two representatives and two senators sponsored House Bill 1230 (HB1230). The legislation would allow limited on-site sales and consumption of marijuana in licensed, public establishments. Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) told Westword that passage of HB1230 would help uphold the will of Colorado voters.

“Coloradans voted for the freedom to choose cannabis as an alternative. But we have not extended similar liberties to the consumption aspect of cannabis legalization. With this legislation, we are upholding the will of voters while providing a safe and responsible place for people to consume outside of parks and off of the street.”

The legislation would also allow for hospitality businesses to be mobile. However, it would not allow a hospitality establishment that also sells marijuana to be mobile.

“This bill offers retail consumers the option to consume legally in a social setting,” said Ashley Weber, executive director of the Colorado office of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “With the cannabis industry reaching a billion dollars in revenue, Coloradans understand that they cannot continue to re-criminalize the use of a legal substance.”

The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 23-12, and the House gave it final approval yesterday by a vote of 41-22. It now goes to Gov. Jared Polis who was one of the first people to criticize former-Gov. Hickenlooper for vetoing a similar bill last year.


Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of cannabis in Colorado removed a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in effect.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.


Along with Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act. and Michigan passed a ballot measure legalizing cannabis for general use.

With 33 states including New Mexico allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.

Passage of HB1230 demonstrates another important strategic reality. Once a state legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – the law tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. HB1230 represents a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.


Gov. Polis must sign or veto the bill within 30 days of transmittal.

Michael Boldin

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