In less than a week, you will be able to buy marijuana until 10 p.m. in Denver

The Denver City Council voted 11-2 Monday to approve later store hours after proponents beat back a series of amendments to slightly limit the longer hours.

Maat Khan and Kristen Amescua at Simply Pure dispensary. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Maat Khan and Kristen Amescua at Simply Pure dispensary. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Maat Khan and Kristen Amescua at Simply Pure dispensary. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Starting next Monday, marijuana stores in Denver will be able to stay open until 10 p.m.

The Denver City Council voted 11-2 Monday to approve later store hours after proponents beat back a series of amendments that would have very slightly limited the longer hours. The ordinance takes effect May 1.

Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega and Councilman Chris Herndon, the authors of and primary advocates for the rejected amendments, voted no.

This was a frustrating conversation on all sides at the end of a months-long process at the committee level spearheaded by Councilwoman Kendra Black, who said the longer hours were a matter of convenience for consumers. State law allows marijuana stores to be open until midnight, and many surrounding communities have longer hours than the 7 p.m. limit imposed by Denver.

Black and other proponents of longer hours kept asking why these amendments weren’t proposed at the committee level where they could have been hashed out, with pros, cons and unintended consequences considered. Ortega and Herndon said the process hadn’t included a real voice from the community and gave too much leeway to an industry that still contains too many bad actors who don’t respect their neighbors.

No staff members from Excise and Licenses attended the Denver City Council meeting to answer questions from council members, and it wasn’t clear why not.

But the proposed changes to the ordinance were really just nibbling around the edges of store hours.

Herndon proposed making the opening hours later in exchange for the later closing time, first proposing 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and then 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Earlier this month, he had said he would propose 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but in the end, he didn’t introduce that iteration.

Ortega wanted to keep closing hours at 7 p.m. for the 30 businesses with pending license applications for existing locations and for the 12 businesses with open disciplinary issues before the city.

“If we have someone going through disciplinary action, they shouldn’t get to automatically extend their hours,” Ortega said.

But Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech said store hours were the wrong tool for the city to exert leverage over potential rule-breakers in the industry. She also had concerns the amendment didn’t distinguish between different types of violations when seeking to restrict hours.

All three of these amendments failed, as did an amendment from Councilman Rafael Espinoza to delay implementation of the change to June 21 (“the longest day of the year for longer hours” — get it?) to allow time to work out an amendment specifically on how to deal with stores going through a disciplinary process.

Several council members remarked on how little the general public seemed to care about this issue, compared to other concerns about the marijuana industry, like odors and the proliferation of grow operations in low-income neighborhoods with lots of industrial zoning. At a public hearing last week, the only speakers were those from the industry and a representative of Smart Colorado, a group that generally supports restrictions on marijuana.

Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, the umbrella group of Denver’s registered neighborhood organizations, supported the 10 p.m. close.

“I have been amazed at how few calls I’ve had on either side of this,” Councilman Paul Kashmann said.

Black said that in her own community outreach, many people weren’t even aware of stores’ closing times.

Well, soon they’ll be three hours later.

Congratulations, Denver.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.