DENVER - With reggae music pumping in the background and flashing disco-style lights, members of the recreational pot club lit up in celebration of the new year - and a new place to smoke legally among friends.
Club 64, in an industrial area just north of downtown Denver, opened at 4:20 p.m. on Monday, with some 200 people signed up. The opening came less than 24 hours after organizers announced they would charge a $29.99 admission price for the bring-your-own pot club.
"Look at this!" Chloe Villano exclaimed as the club she created over the weekend opened. "We were so scared because we didn't want it to be crazy. But this is crazy! People want this."
The private pot dens popped up less than a month after Colorado's governor signed into law a constitutional amendment allowing recreational pot use. Club 64 gets its name from the number of the amendment.
Two Colorado clubs were believed to be the first legal pot dens in the nation. The Denver Post reported that a similar pot club opened earlier Monday in the small southern Colorado town of Del Norte. It closed a day later (see below).
Colorado's marijuana amendment prohibits public consumption, and smoke-free laws also appear to ban indoor smokeouts. But Club 64 attorney Robert Corry said private pot dens are permissible because marijuana isn't sold, nor is it food or drink.
Villano, the club owner, said the pot club would meet monthly at different locations, with the $29.99 membership fee good for only one event. On Monday, the pot club was meeting in a hemp-based clothing store near downtown. Hooded sweatshirts and backpacks were shoved to a corner. In the main area, a few small tables sat next to a screen showing "The Big Lebowski."
A bar decorated with blue Christmas lights handed out sodas and Club 64's official snacks - Goldfish and Cheetos. The snacks were inspired by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who warned marijuana users the night of the marijuana vote, "don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
Corry said the pot clubs are intended for people who can't use marijuana at home because of local ordinance or because their landlords threaten eviction.
"It's just a place for adults to exercise their constitutional rights together," Corry said. "We're not selling pot here."
Among the new Club 64 members planning to ring in the New Year was Joe Valenciano of Denver. He heard about Club 64 a day ago and signed up immediately.
"We need more clubs like this," Valenciano said.
The nation's first known legal recreational pot club has already shut its doors.
The White Horse Inn in the southern Colorado town of Del Norte closed Tuesday, a day after its opening, because of a landlord dispute, The Denver Post reported.
Owner Paul Lovato told the newspaper that he wanted to be first in the nation to open a marijuana club. He beat an establishment in Denver by a few hours.
Lovato said his lease on the building didn't start until Tuesday. Lovato said that when his landlord saw the publicity about the club, he canceled the lease before it took effect.
"By opening early, I kind of screwed myself out of my building," Lovato told The Post.
Colorado voters in November legalized use and limited possession of marijuana. The marijuana measure bans public consumption but doesn't prevent members-only group smoke-outs.
Lovato's business model called for having a storefront where customers could buy coffee, T-shirts and other items and then a private building next door where they could smoke free samples of marijuana. He had planned to open just after New Year's Eve ticked over into New Year's Day. But pressure from another cannabis venue - Denver's Club 64, a members-only gathering that intends to stage at different spots throughout the year - caused Lovato to speed up his timetable.
Lovato said he opened for a few hours during the day Monday, long enough to be the first in the state and to draw the media attention that came with the distinction.
"Wow guys!" Lovato wrote on the club's Facebook page. "Today was a blast and a blur!"
Lovato said he may adopt Club 64's model for the next year and then try to open a recreational marijuana shop when he's allowed to.
After Monday's opening, Lovato said he got calls from people in New Mexico who wanted to drive up to visit. He expected them to arrive sometime Tuesday morning.
- The Associated Press
"We're doing the White Horse Inn at my house today," he said.