By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – The operator of a Denver marijuana party bus that allows riders to smoke pot on board appears to be on a legal collision course with the City of Denver over whether the buses qualify as private or public spaces.
Danny Schaefer started “My 420 Tours” five years ago.
“This business is founded on the premise that these tourists come from these red states, or states where it’s illegal, and are going to need some assistance helping explore the cannabis industry in general,” said Schaefer.
His company says customers can tour Denver’s cannabis world “while consuming it responsibly and legally.”
He contends his limousine style bus is private, and therefore he believes it’s legal for patrons to light up while riding around town.
“It’s not open to the public. We don’t drive around like the RTD picking people up off the street and selling tickets to anyone that would like. While these people are consuming, they are in the back of a $300,000 private for-hire limo bus.”
Schaefer goes on to say the windows are tinted so people outside can’t see inside.
But this past summer, Denver police busted Schaefer’s tour bus, citing more than two dozen customers with public consumption, citing two of the company’s employees and arresting the driver, Matt LaPoehn, for driving under the influence of drugs.
The driver’s case was recently dismissed and most of the customers were allowed to plea bargain to lesser charges.
DPD had placed undercover officers on the bus so when they made the bust, they told the riders “people are publicly consuming marijuana on the vehicle. You can’t consume without a permit.”
Eric Escudero, spokesperson for Denver’s Excise and Licenses department, says it’s the city’s position that the pot tour bus is public and it’s against the law to smoke pot on public transportation.
“It comes down to the totality of circumstances,” said Escudero. “One thing we do know is if you push the envelope when it comes to public consumption you could stray into unlawful territory.”
Escudero pointed out that the city had warned Schaefer several months earlier that allowing pot smoking on the bus was illegal. He says its unlawful in Colorado for open and public consumption of marijuana and The Colorado Clean Indoor Act restricts any smoking inside, including public transportation.
Schaefer has promised to fight the city in court over its assessment that the buses are public, not private.