A new kind of mile-high club opens in Nederland


Amidst all the lunacy over the weekend — Snoop Dogg at Red Rocks on the evening before Easter services, the long lines at the High Times Cannabis Cup, the massive and orderly annual Denver 4/20 celebration and the now annual 4/20 lock-out at CU — another historic first took place. It happened quietly on Sunday at 4:20 p.m. (or thereabouts) in Nederland.

Club Ned, the first legal private club where you can use cannabis in the state, officially opened. It was an emotional moment. The ribbon was cut by Nicole, the 24-year-old daughter of owners Cheryl and David Fanelli, amid a small crowd of people who had come from as close as Boulder and as far away as Alabama to celebrate the occasion. Nicole, who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome almost two years ago, cut the ribbon while standing on crutches. And the opening marked the end of almost 15 months of family planning, revising, haggling, working out legal details and getting the building in shape for this moment.

Club Ned is small and cozy, a couple of rooms, some tables and chairs and a place where you can purchase coffee, tea and pastries. People just walk up and introduce themselves, and the atmosphere is as genial and warm as the wood stove in the middle. Club Ned feels like Nederland. The Fanellis see it as a place where people will be able to gather and meet, listen to intimate live music, play games or otherwise just enjoy the presence of other cannabis users without the stigma that has accompanied cannabis use during its prohibition.

The opening also brings into clearer focus a question for a state that has legalized cannabis. It’s great that no one will ever be arrested for possession in Colorado. But currently, though you can purchase and use it, there is literally nowhere to go to enjoy cannabis in public, or more importantly, with other people, in much the same way that taverns allow people to drink and congregate around liquor and beer. It’s one of the major differences between Colorado and Amsterdam, which has never legalized cannabis but allows it to be sold and consumed in sanctioned shops.

And let’s face it, it’s a question that Colorado and Washington will have to face up to sooner or later.

There are many good reasons for people to want to consume outside of their own or friend’s places, not the least of which are 1) tourists, who are pretty much shut out unless they stay with friends or find a cannabis-friendly hotel, motel or rental, and 2) responsible parents who don’t want their children exposed to cannabis or their use of it.

Several private clubs and collectives opened around the state soon after Amendment 64 passed, including the Hive Co-Op in Lafayette, but ran afoul of one regulation or another. There are private events for cannabis users — the Cannabis Cup was one — and Club 64 convenes in different venues around Denver. But Club Ned is the first club to open in one location.

Twenty-six-year residents of Nederland, the Fanellis owned and operated Ned Meds, a medical marijuana dispensary, in 2009 and 2010 before closing in the wake of the passage of HB 1284. “We’re just a mom-andpop business,” says Cheryl Fenelli. “We didn’t have investors when we decided this was what we wanted to to do. We went to the authorities, told them, ‘this is what we would like to do, and is there a way to make this happen?’ ” 

They’ve already been written up in Forbes magazine and contacted by 60 Minutes. They were approached to star in a reality show, a project for which they had no interest.

Boulder attorney Jeff Gard acts as legal counsel to the Fanellis. After consulting with them, he says they narrowed the problem down to two issues. He remembered being in an VFW lodge where everybody was smoking inside. Gard noted the exception to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act that allows for “a place of employment that is not open to the public and that is under control of an employer that employs three or fewer employees.”

There was some opposition to their plans in town, but in the end “everybody worked with us,” Fanelli says. “We’re very flexible, and we tried to make everybody happy. We talked with everybody, and Nederland was behind us. We talked to a lot of people to find what they would like to see and what they would not like to see.”

The second issue was that Nederland statutes didn’t allow private clubs in the zone where the building is located. So the Fanellis petitioned for a change, which was granted by the city Board of Trustees earlier this year. They’ve spent the last weeks getting everything ready for the opening.

Gard sees more clubs like this opening as the legal barriers fall. “All of the problems they’re having with public consumption and the complaints they’re getting,” Gard says. “We have a solution.”

Club Ned Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. Daily club fees vary, depending on time of day and entertainment at night. If you’re interested in visiting, “we’ll try to take people as they come,” Fanelli says. “But it doesn’t hurt to call first.”

Location and information on Club Ned on Facebook.

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