Colorado’s First Pot Club Splits Marijuana Activists

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Some who fought for Amendment 64 fear that unregulated clubs could turn voters against legal weed.

Marijuana was recently legalized in Colorado, but the the state’s pro-pot groups are divided over how to celebrate victory. Some support the opening of private clubs like Denver’s « Club 64 » (named after Amendment 64), which met for the first time at 4:20 pm on New Year’s Eve. About a dozen revelers payed $29 each and supplied their own weed, ringing in 2013 with their now-legal drug of choice. But Club 64 has riled other pot activists, who fear that such establishments will tarnish marijuana’s improving reputation and undo years of hard work to convince the public that legalization is safe. “Much of our success with Amendment 64 was making the soccer moms comfortable,” says an anonymous advocate who campaigned to pass Amendment 64. “This is not the fight we want to have right now.” There are concerns that the unregulated clubs could not only reverse support for legal pot in Colorado, but also deter voters in other states from considering similar bills. “We have not only an opportunity but a responsibility to demonstrate to America this can work,” says the anonymous campaigner. Betty Aldworth, the advocacy director of Yes on Amendment 64 agrees: “We can best demonstrate that regulation is a much safer approach to marijuana policy than prohibition through the careful and swift creation of regulated businesses [our italics],” she says.

But others argue that taking risks is the best way to instigate change: “The voters of Colorado have said we want cannabis to be legalized and we want a bunch of like-minded adults to be able to get together and exercise their constitutional rights together and that’s what Club 64 embodies,” says its owner, Rob Corry. “This is much larger than just marijuana; this is a civil rights struggle to end prohibition and civil rights struggles and overcoming oppression [do] not happen easily. It has to happen by people taking chances and sometimes yes, pushing the envelope.” Corry hopes to make Club 64 a monthly event, moving from one location to another. Denver marijuana activist Miguel Lopez calls Club 64 an important stepping stone for constitutional rights—and not just within the US. “Are we truly free if all human beings cannot possess marijuana? Not just in Colorado but as a human rights campaign globally, » he says. « Let Denver be a beacon of hope for freedom, for true freedom.”

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