Denver’s marijuana-hospitality proposal would create a health hazard for workers and the public


In a time where there is more emphasis placed on public health and safety in the workplace, it is surprising that an ordinance has been drafted to bring marijuana/cannabis smoking and vaping into Denver’s restaurants, bars, marijuana businesses and other places throughout the Mile High City.

If passed, the Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver will bring marijuana smoking indoors to restaurants and other establishments.

The city of Denver has always worked hard to create workplaces that are free from second-hand smoke from both tobacco and the aerosols emitted by electronic cigarettes. These protections remain very popular with the public. 

Top row: Char Day and RJ Ours. Bottom row: Fernando Pineda-Reyes and JoAnna Strother.

To vast public support, Denver International Airport closed its last smoking room to become 100% smoke free, thus protecting the health of hundreds of airline passengers and staff.

It took decades of effort for Colorado to achieve statewide smoke-free restaurants, bars, retail stores, and most public places. 

Two years ago, the Colorado legislature strengthened the law and closed several key gaps in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act that was adopted in 2006. The modernized law eliminated exemptions that have allowed smoking in small workplaces, hotels, and long-term care facilities. It also prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in smoke-free venues. 

Undoubtedly, allowing marijuana smoking or vaping in places where smoking and vaping is now prohibited will undermine the laws that protect the public from exposure to second-hand smoke and second-hand vapor.

Smoke is smoke. Second-hand marijuana smoke is a health hazard for nonsmokers and smokers.  There is now enough scientific evidence to affirm that second-hand marijuana smoke creates a serious health risk to the public.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Research shows that, just like second-hand tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is a potent source of PM 2.5 fine particulate matter, which is hazardous regardless of source, including wildfires and air pollution. Second-hand marijuana smoke impacts cardiovascular function and it contains thousands of chemicals and at least 33 carcinogens. 

In short, there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and everyone should have the right to breathe smoke-free air in public places and workplaces.

While we’re currently combating COVID-19, a deadly virus that attacks the lungs, opening public places like restaurants and bars where the public and workers are exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke or electronic cigarette aerosols is a bad idea. 

The last thing we need is to create a new class of workers that would have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.

The national and statewide public health organizations we represent have come together to raise the alarm against this attack on clean indoor air protections and worker health.

We strongly urge the Denver City Council to take a stand for community health by not opting in to Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver. 

Do not roll back hard-won local public health protections by allowing for marijuana smoking and vaping indoors. Let us all stand strong behind the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. There is no need for people to smoke or vape in ways that harm other people including workers.


Char Day is program and training specialist, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. RJ Ours is Colorado government relations director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Fernando Pineda-Reyes is chief executive officer, CREA Results. JoAnna Strother is regional senior director for advocacy, American Lung Association.

Also signing this letter: Sarah Belstock, behavioral health planner, Community Health Promotion Division, Denver Public Health; Tracey Richers Maruyama, chronic disease tobacco program planner, Community Health Promotion Division, Denver Public Health; Pete Bialick, president, Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution (GASP) of Colorado;  and Christopher Roller, vice president of advocacy; American Heart Association.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com.

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