Thursday, July 2, 2015
You Got To Fight for Your Right to Party! - by Citizen Jay
The summer is in full swing and usually I’d be all excited to tell you about the upcoming 710 Cup that’s been held annually on July 10th in Denver over the last couple of years. But this year, the 710 Cup is not going to happen.
And that’s kind of a bummer.
Over the course of the 420 holiday weekend the Denver Police heavy-handedly shut down the only two places in the city where stony people could congregate to consume cannabis in a responsible manner. One of these places was The Break Room, by Grassroots California. The sponsors of the 710 Cup. The other, a club appropriately called “The People of the United States” or POTUS Club. Both of these establishments were private, membership only, 21+ clubs. They were discreet. They were elegant. They were necessary. And they still are.
That Denver has created an untenable situation for cannabis consumers is clear. The people of this city led the way in pushing for the legalization of cannabis in Colorado. In 2012, over 175,000 of them in Denver cast their ballots in favor of legalization—more people than any other county in the state by a long shot. But the city itself has had a difficult time implementing sensible cannabis policy. And they’re not alone.
The way the rules work around the state is inconsistent to say the least. That’s because every municipality has been given the opportunity to either opt in or out of both the recreational and medical cannabis markets. County by county, city by city the rules are different.
In Denver, the rule is no public consumption. From the Governor’s office, to the Mayor’s office, to the City Council of Denver the word has come down from on high that getting high is just not cool. So despite the people’s desire and need for cannabis, the powers that still be still say, “no.” Oh sure, you can purchase cannabis all you want. We NEED those tax dollars, don’t you know. But you’re not allowed to actually consume what you’ve bought except in the privacy of your own home. Out of sight and all. That’s sort of OK if you live here. But I know from personal experience that a lot (and I mean A LOT) of the cannabis being purchased in dispensaries in Denver is being done so by people traveling to Colorado from somewhere else.
Hence the need for a place to gather socially to consume one’s cannabis responsibly. And it’s not just those visiting that need a place to go. I live here and I consume cannabis in my own home. But why should I be relegated to having to consume my cannabis alone? I prefer to enjoy my cannabis in the company of others—preferably enjoying it together. Isn’t there some old saying about drinking alone? Well, I suppose the same could be said of tokin’ alone, eh?
Both the Break Room and the POTUS Club were following the rules as they understood them. Yet in both cases, the city came in and shut them down citing them each as a public nuisance. In the case of the Break Room, the city went after the building’s owner telling him he could lose the building if he failed to evict his tenants. As of now, the Break Room is out. They have pledged to find another location and try again. Grassroots California is a solid company. I have no doubt we’ll see them somewhere soon again.
The POTUS Club is going to court. The owner of the club is no stranger to battling for his right to consume cannabis. Ed Couse spent eight months in a Denver jail before a judge threw out his arrest for possession on the grounds of “social justice” earlier this year. That’s a long time; and a huge price to pay for one’s freedom. But Couse is not just fighting for his own freedom, and he knows that. As a retired paralegal, he knows at least a little something about the law. And he’s not afraid to scrap it out.
So far, he’s not doing too well. On June 18th, the POTUS Club lost its first court battle, resulting in its losing the right to lease the property they were using for a period of at least three years (and it was a sweet spot too). They were also levied a $2,000.00 fine. Couse is planning an appeal. In the meantime, he’s vacated the premises.
In its case against the POTUS Club, the City used Section (4) of Amendment 64, The Lawful Operation of Cannabis related Facilities section, and Section (5) Regulation of Cannabis. Couse was expecting them to use Section (3), the Personal Use section, as they should have given the case is essentially about the public consumption of cannabis. But the city took a different tact; basically saying that the private POTUS Club falls under Section 4 as a cannabis business and therefore, must be licensed by the state.
This would seem to be fairly cut and dry. But, of Couse, there’s a catch…
The POTUS Club is not a dispensary. Like the Break Room it was set up as a social club—a place for people to gather and toke together harmoniously. But there WAS something that made it different.... And this is where it gets tricky. For you see, inside the POTUS Club you could acquire cannabis to consume. How’s that? Yes, you could. And that is why the City took the tact it did.
It was really a partnership with another group of entrepreneurs that set the POTUS Club apart. The folks from Blue Mountain Caregivers worked it out with Couse to let them set up shop inside the club. It was a novel idea, but not one without precedence. A similar model is working seamlessly in Colorado Springs at the Lazy Lion and the Speakeasy Vape Lounge. The caregivers supply the cannabis in bud and concentrate form to the members of the club in exchange for “reimbursement” for its cost. It’s a non-profit model that assumes that the price paid is strictly to cover the costs of producing and providing the cannabis. It’s not remuneration; it’s reimbursement. This is how Blue Mountain’s caregiver service works. It is one of only two or three caregiver delivery services to be grand-fathered in after the passage of Colorado House Resolution 1284, which in 2010, created a number of rules for governing the nascent cannabis industry in Colorado.
In Colorado, under Amendment 64, Section 3, members of The POTUS Club have a constitutional right to:
(a) Possess, use, display, purchase, or transport cannabis accessories or one ounce or less of cannabis.
(b) Possess, grow, process, or transport no more than six cannabis plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the cannabis produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.
(c) Transfer of one ounce or less of cannabis without remuneration to a person who is twenty-one years of age or older.
(d) Consumption of cannabis, provided that nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.
(e) Assisting another person who is twenty-one years of age or older in any of the acts described in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this subsection.
The Colorado Constitution allows for the activities that took place at the POTUS Club. The way Ed Couse puts it, “I guess associating together to exercise our First Amendment Rights and responsibly enjoy consuming cannabis takes a license from the state now.” Couse has decided to appeal. “Privately associating together to exercise our Constitutional Rights and enjoy cannabis if we so choose is not a nuisance and We the People of the United States - The POTUS Club - will not allow the City and County of Denver to claim that it is! We except nothing less than total VICTORY!”
The fight continues. If you’d like to help, Couse has set up a GoFundMe campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/xndws4 to help raise funds to maintain his legal campaign.