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By Gage Peake

Private cannabis consumption clubs could be coming to Denver — in some form, at least — thanks to two competing initiatives gunning to make it on November’s ballot. To make the fall ballot, each campaign has until mid-August to submit at least 4,726 verified signatures.

One of the initiatives, sponsored by the Denver chapter of NORML, would allow private marijuana consumption clubs. Denver NORML has been gathering signatures for the social-use measure since late spring. The other initiative, launched earlier this week by advocates associated with Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the Denver-based law firm Vicente Sederberg, would allow nearly any business, including bars and restaurants, to offer a public “consumption area,” for patrons 21 and older so long as the owner first obtains support from a neighborhood group.

If approved by voters, the NORML measure would allow cannabis consumption, but not sales, at private social clubs during private events. A permit would be required for those events.

The MPP–Vicente Sederberg group worked on another recent Denver social-use initiative, but it was withdrawn at the last minute in September. Under the current plan, titled the “Neighborhood Approved Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program,” consumption areas would be allowed for four years unless the City Council changes the system or makes it permanent by the end of 2020. Proponents began the process Tuesday afternoon by meeting with an assistant city attorney and the City Council’s director for input on its proposed language.

The current initiative’s primary sponsor, Kayvan Khalatbari, a cannabis business owner and consultant, said the group is aiming to persuade Denver NORML to drop its own private clubs initiative. To Khalatbari, the private clubs further segregate — rather than integrate — cannabis consumers.

Jordan Person, Denver NORML’s executive director, said her group has no plans to drop its effort and will proceed with the measure. The group’s all-volunteer petitioning force, she said, has already gathered about half the signatures it needs.

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