You can’t consume marijuana out in public, in hotels and even in some rental homes. Despite that need, social cannabis clubs have yet to rise up en masse. Right now, the Coffee Joint in industrial north Denver is the first and only of its kind.
Rita Tslayuk and Kirill Merkulov opened the marijuana-friendly coffee shop earlier this year. The space next door to their medical and recreational dispensary, 1136 Yuma in the La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood, opened up around the same time licenses became available.
“We thought, it’s perfect timing,” Tslayuk said.
You can snack on edibles, vape or dab using concentrates in the Coffee Joint. No smoking is allowed inside because of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act -- the same law that keeps you from lighting a cigarette in restaurants. The shop also sells traditional, THC-free snacks, coffees and teas available for purchase in the Coffee Joint.
No cannabis products are sold at the Coffee Joint. Visitors can provide their own marijuana products, or purchase some from Tslayuk and Merkulov’s dispensary. If people buy something there, they get in to the Coffee Joint for free. If not, it's a $5 cover.
“A lot of things we are trying on and seeing how it fits,” Tslayuk said.
We’re at the Coffee Joint— Denver’s first business to get a cannabis consumption license. @cprwarner and I watched this guy dab (smoking a cannabis concentrate). Tea, coffee, snacks and ping pong are in the next room. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/ntIe4Wlm8L— Michael E Sakas (@_msakas) May 25, 2018
Besides the high, you can also watch TV, play foosball or attend a cannabis-infused yoga class with others. The social aspect is a big draw for the Coffee Joint for Denver locals. But the shop’s biggest customer bloc remains tourists looking for a legal place to consume the marijuana they’ve bought before leaving town.
“Some of the tourists, they come in with their bags for DIA, stay in here, consume and go back to DIA, because they had a layover,” Tslayuk said.
Employees are trained to check-in with customers and understand their needs. That can mean helping a first-timer take the right dose, or arranging a safe way home for someone if they over-consumed. Signs taped up around the store encourage visitors to let a staff member know if they feel sick or paranoid.
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Earlier this month Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have allowed tasting rooms in dispensaries. The governor cited concerns about drivers under the influence of marijuana and the health risks of vaping in confined spaces.
By the city's estimate, as many as 9,000 businesses could qualify for a license. But just three have applied. Denver's put together a committee to look into why so few have expressed interest. Tslayuk thinks the cost and hefty regulations involved with establishing a social club may play a role.
For now, the Coffee Joint keeps this corner on the cannabis market.