In Amsterdam, the term “coffeeshop” is synonymous with “place to buy and smoke marijuana.” If you want an actual coffee, you go to a “café.” (Advertising cannabis consumption is illegal, so the “coffeeshop” moniker is a bit of workaround.) Though such lingo hasn’t really taken hold here, America has a problem that the Netherlands’ coffeeshop system could help solve: Where are people supposed to use marijuana outside of their own homes? It’s one of the reasons Denver is considering opening what would be America’s first marijuana coffee shop: a public place where people could legally consume cannabis.
Colorado led the way in America’s legalization of recreational marijuana, and now, it may also lead the way in sorting out pot’s most perplexing paradox: Buying and selling recreational marijuana is legal, but smoking it outside of a private residence isn’t. It’s similar to how buying alcohol is allowed in most parts of the US, but drinking it in public is far more restricted. Bars give people an alternative to drinking at home; marijuana could use the same thing. So in 2016, Denver voters approved an ordinance allowing cafes and restaurants to request just such a permit from the city. However, due to a litany of restrictions, it wasn’t until last month when someone actually applied for one of those permits.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Rita Tsalyuk will soon be opening a coffee shop, called the Coffee Joint, next to her dispensary, 1136 Yuma, and has applied to allow marijuana consumption in the new space. “I think this is a natural step in the legalization movement,” Tsalyuk told the Times. “People want to use pot and have a nice social experience. … I want to provide that.”
Much like in the Netherlands, one of the restrictions of the Denver permit process is that these businesses can’t sell alcohol, once again making coffee shops an ideal consumption spot. But oddly enough, in Colorado, “consumption” can’t include indoor smoking because smoking was banned as part of the battle against cigarettes. Instead, the Coffee Joint will only be allowed to offer edibles and vaping indoors.
Still, opening any sort of cannabis-friendly coffee shop in the United States, even if it is smoke-free, would be another significant step forward in America’s assimilation into a modern marijuana culture, one that continues to pull pot use from the dark shadows. “If my friends and I want to eat a brownie and chill out with a cup of coffee, we can do that,” one recent 1136 Yuma customer told the Times. “Sounds like a nice afternoon.” Call it a nice afternoon and a new day.