Denver Pot Tourism Guide: Useful Info for Toking Travelers

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Social pot use: Issue heats up in Denver as competing initiatives turn in signatures

The Denver Elections Division still has to verify signatures, but if both groups have enough, voters will decide on social pot use in cannabis-specific clubs or regular businesses designated for consumption

By Jon Murray, The Denver Post

Published: Aug 12, 2016

Denver elections officials are reviewing petitions for two potential local ballot measures that would allow the social use of marijuana — one in private clubs and the other in regular businesses, such as bars or cafes or even yoga studios, under certain conditions.

Backers of the competing social pot use initiatives each turned in thousands of petition signatures this week, the latest on Friday.

Whether to allow more prominent use of marijuana — and where — is shaping up as the biggest local debate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. For Denver, it could solve a problem that emerged in the wake of Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana: Outside of their private property, there are few places for people to consume it.

The issue is particularly vexing for tourists, but one supporter said that’s not the only result of the lack of choices.

“We’ve seen public consumption citations and arrests increase dramatically here in Denver over the last couple of years,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief Consulting, which is the main backer of the proposed initiative that focuses on consumption areas in businesses.

“We’re seeing some of the highest disparities in arrests for people of color over white folks for public consumption of cannabis,” he said. “And it’s often not because of the tourist issue, and giving them a place, but for the residents of Denver.”

He was among supporters who say they filed 10,800 signatures Friday for the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Initiative, so-named because each business that applies for a consumption area permit would need support from a neighborhood organization. It takes 4,726 valid signatures to make the ballot, and the Denver Elections Division has more than three weeks to verify the signatures.


In this June 11, 2016 photo, a marijuana reform advocate with the group NORML holds a clipboard while waiting for passersby to sign a petition to get a pot club initiative on the ballot in the next election, in Denver.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Earlier this week, Denver chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said it filed more than 6,500 petition signatures for its Responsible Use Denver initiative, which would allow private marijuana clubs. That tally leaves less room for error, but chapter director Jordan Person said supporters were continuing to collect more signatures through Monday’s effective petition deadline.

“We’ve worked so hard, and now I’m happy that now it’s coming to a head,” she said.

Denver city officials haven’t acted on the social use issue, in part because some question if state law fully allows local laws allowing some form of public consumption. A few cities and towns in Colorado have allowed private clubs. Though Denver city attorneys raised some questions about both proposals as they were being drafted, officials have declined so far to weigh in on the potential initiatives.

Person and Khalatbari said either initiative would offer an improvement for Denver, though each argues their approach would be better. Each would require patrons to bring their own cannabis products.

“It’s going to be a personal preference for voters,” Person said. The campaign, which could involve radio ads and other outreach from both sides, “is going to be about education,” she said.

Conceivably, voters could approve both, though it’s unclear whether each would then take effect — since they don’t necessarily conflict — or if the higher vote-getter would.

NORML’s supporters argue voters may find private clubs more preferable since those would be less noticeable and would keep consumption private. Those places would not be able to sell prepared food or alcohol. The initiative also would create permits for special events that allow pot consumption.


Kayvan Khalatbari co-owns Denver Relief Consulting and the Sexy Pizza restaurant chain.

(Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file)

Khalatbari’s group includes some of Amendment 64’s original backers, who argue for a mainstreaming approach that would provide 21-and-older areas for marijuana use within existing businesses. They pulled a similar social-use initiative last year after city officials agreed to discuss potential solutions, but no action resulted.

This time, Khalatbari and activist Mason Tvert say their proposal is better, in part by requiring a business seeking annual or temporary permits to obtain support from a neighborhood group or business improvement district. Those groups could set conditions that city licensing officials would incorporate into the permit.

Their goal, they said, was for a handful of responsible businesses to lead the way in marijuana-friendly neighborhoods during a four-year pilot period. By the end of 2020, the initiative would give the council the ability to let the new ordinance expire, tweak it or make it permanent.

The indoor consumption areas couldn’t allow smoking under state law, and outdoor areas would have to be outside the view of public rights-of-way and places that draw children.

Since state law bars marijuana business licensees from allowing consumption on site, dispensaries wouldn’t be allowed to take advantage.

This story was first published on



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So much crap with what is such an easy problem.  Set it free.  Pot prices will drop thru the floor as they should be.  It's a plant fer chrissie's sake and should be sold at the farmer's market along with the friggin' tomatoes!


Big money will be made on all the spin-off.  Labs, gear, grow room design and hundreds of other ways that those with vision will profit from.  I just want to smoke a bowl of my own free pot and laugh at the circus.  :pass:


I'm in the BC Okanagan for the month of Aug. /16 now, (land of the Ogopogo) and in a couple days will be legal for holding and growing.  As a 61 yo man or any other adult why should I even have to deal with this shit?!


Thanks for keeping us updated Eddie!




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The days remaining in Colorado are definitely dwindling down. This is our last full day in Colorado Springs. Tomorrow we leave for Denver. It's been a great trip with more to come!

Something that I never thought I would see. Only in America can you get this. I guess it's only fair as you can buy beer and wine at most gas stations. There are three (3) of these Gas and Grass stations in Colorado Springs. Wifey and Eddie visited two (2) of them. Too bad all of the dispensaries in Colorado Springs are medical. All we could buy is gas.




Next up and off the beaten path is Starr Gideon Kempf's Metallic Sculptures.




These things are amazing being over 60 feet (19m) There used to be more of them here, but based on the complaints made by neighbors due to the volume of traffic coming through the area there are now fewer of them. I can't even imagine what creative process gave rise to these.

Our field trip for the day is out to Royal Gorge. It's about forty (40) miles or sixty-five (65) kilometers west of Colorado Springs. Up until 2001, this was the highest bridge in the world when measuring from the bridge to the Arkansas River below. Today the record is held by China.


A closer look at the bridge makes you appreciate that its 955 feet (291m) from the bridge to the river and the distance between the towers is 880 feet (270m). Interestingly much of what you see was destroyed in the wildfires that ravaged Colorado in 2013. The superstructure of the bridge survived, but all of the wooden planking did not.


Here's a picture of the gondola that travels across the chasm. Trust me when I say that given how I saw it swaying, it will be a cold day in August in Florida before this boy gets on. With age comes wisdom or maybe it's that discretion is the better part of valor.


There is also a zip line setup across the gorge. I tried to get a shot of those brave (foolish) enough to enjoy the ride, but failed due to the slowness of my camera and the speed at which they were travelling.

Well we are back in Colorado Springs and enjoying a nice Mexican restaurant, Arceo's. I loved the chairs as they would brighten anyone's day. A couple of Margarita's, some Fajitas, and Sopapillas for dessert and then it time to chill with edibles to finish off the day.


Next up Denver with lots to see and do


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36 Hours in Boulder, Colo.


AUG. 18, 2016

Who even needs the legal marijuana? Boulder is an exceptionally easygoing place to hang out.


View of Boulder from the First Flatiron.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

A crowd of 4,000 gathered at the base of Boulder’s Flatirons in July of 1898 to celebrate the opening of the Colorado Chautauqua, part of a national movement promoting “wholesome, pleasurable study in sylvan surroundings,” according to the brochure, as well as “abundant recreational opportunities.” These days, Boulder offers the same formula. It has a college-town base of 30,000 students at the University of Colorado Boulder, 45,000 acres of protected open space and 300-plus days that see the sun, with an outdoorsy populace of former Deadheads, many now business owners and endurance athletes. The resulting Boulder Bubble is an exceptionally easygoing place to hang out. Who even needs the legal marijuana?



Join the Bicycle Brigade, 3 p.m.

The bicycle is obligatory in the People’s Republic of Boulder. Students, C.E.O.s and the mayor all ride to school or work — even after cycling circuits up Flagstaff Mountain. The city has miles of routes. Check out the 5.5-mile Boulder Creek Path, a bike trail following the creek from Stazio Fields near 55th to the intersection of Four Mile and Boulder Canyons. Boulder B-cycle manages 40 bike-share stations — simply insert a credit card for 30-minute increments ($3) or daily, monthly and annual passes, and return to any station. Gear heads will prefer the wider range of frames at University Bicycles, based on Ninth and Pearl since 1985, for town, mountain, road or kids’ rentals ($20 to $90 a day). Your bike may become your best friend for the weekend, and using it will promote that Boulder glow.


Dinner at the Kitchens open community table.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times


Farm to Table on the Mall, 5 p.m.

Pearl Street Mall’s four blocks of brick walkway from 11th to 15th Streets and the surrounding area are the shopping, eating and drinking heart of town. Alfresco and farm-to-table dining can be found at the Kitchens, the hip nexus of three dining spots initiated in 2004 by Kimbal Musk, brother to the space-travel entrepreneur Elon Musk. The Kitchen is a community bistro with an urban crispness to the décor and locally sourced vegetable and meat dishes. Folksy touches include Monday’s Community Night, when strangers can share a four-course family meal ($35 a person). The Kitchen Next Door is the walk-in, pub-style option, with an equally tasty menu at pub prices — don’t miss the excellent organic kale and apple salad for $8.95. Return for lunch at either, or after hours for craft cocktails ($10) and an upscale night-life scene at the Kitchen Upstairs.


Peace, Love, Dessert, 6:45 p.m.

Grab a quickie for dessert at Piece, Love & Chocolate. Behind a kitschy, flower-bedecked storefront, this retail ode to the cocoa bean offers handmade truffles in over 50 flavors, sipping chocolate and extravagant wedding cakes. Chocolate lovers should return for a three-hour weekend workshop ($65 to $75) and learn to make truffles, soufflés, flourless chocolate cakes and macarons.


Music and More, 7:30 p.m.

Once described by Theodore Roosevelt as “the most American thing in America,” the Chautauqua Movement, a circuit of summer adult education camps with lodging and lectures, faded with the takeover of radio and film in the 1930s, but the Colorado Chautauqua at the top of town is one of the few still alive and well. Amenities include lodging, and a dining hall serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The big draw is the May to September schedule of music, film, theater, dance and lectures at the 1,300-seat Chautauqua Auditorium, a barn like structure built in 1898. William Jennings Bryan spoke here, as have Al Gore and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Look for the folk duo Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle in concert Aug. 30.


Tubing on beloved Boulder Creek.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times



Boulder’s Backyard, 8 a.m.

Emblematic of Boulder’s milieu are the burgundy rock formations of the five Flatiron Mountains, rising into the true-blue Colorado sky like back plates of a giant stegosaurus. The Mesa Trail forms the north-south spine of the interconnected trails that run along the base of these geologic features created by uplift and erosion. Consult the Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua for route possibilities. Fairly steep access trails aside, the well-worn paths are mostly horizontal and offer vistas as well as sheltered stretches of Ponderosa forest. You’ll encounter trail runners, rock climbers, tourists in flip-flops and lots of dogs.


Hike, Learn and Lunch, 11 a.m.

Here’s one way to combine recreation, learning and lunch in the Chautauqua spirit. Depart from the Enchanted Mesa Trail at Chautauqua to connect with the Mesa Trail to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trailhead on Table Mesa, about a four-mile hike. Then take a self-guided tour of the exhibit area inside NCAR’s Mesa Laboratory, the modernist I.M. Pei building above town where scientists study climate change and space weather. Next hike a few miles down the NCAR Road or get an Uber for a ride to Under the Sun Eatery & Pizzeria, in the Table Mesa Shopping Center beneath Southern Sun Pub & Brewery. The latest addition to the Mountain Sun brewery family features a 5,000-square-foot space and a casual menu designed around the central wood-fired oven. This means roast chicken and wood-fired pizzas, as well as Mountain Sun’s locally brewed beer.


Tubin’ It, 1 p.m.

Boulder Creek is another beloved geologic feature. From its headwaters up Boulder Canyon to the confluence with the South Platte River, it’s a draw for wading, fishing and tubing. If you’ve never been tubing before, now is the time. Rent or take a tour from Whitewater Tube Co. for their know-how; ask about shuttle service. Starting near Eben G. Fine Park, you will shoot down gentle drops and frothy falls for up to seven miles afloat.


Beer O’Clock, 3 p.m.

Why should college students have all the fun? Beer o’clock begins anytime, but happy hour starts around the usual 3 to 4 p.m. Watering holes on the Mall include the roof deck at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant with views of the Flatirons. This year the restaurant’s 30th anniversary is being celebrated with the Triple, a margarita made with a limited-edition reposado tequila aged in Odell barrels in a complimentary engraved glass ($12). If you plan to sample the edible and smokable weed at the Native Roots Boulder marijuana dispensary, you must do so before Boulder’s legal closing time of 7 p.m. Stay out long enough and you may end up dancing with college students at Tahona Tequila Bistro’s no-cover D.J. Nights from 10 p.m. to closing.


Colorado Rock, 8 p.m.

Red Rocks Amphitheater is only 45 minutes away in Morrison, which means headline musicians often spill over to Boulder. The Fox Theater, a standup drink and dance club in the college hub of the Hill with a capacity of only 625, has hosted the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt. Whoever’s playing, the Fox is sure to rock late on weekend nights. The Art Deco Boulder Theater, a former opera and movie house presiding over the Mall, has seen the likes of Johnny Cash (“You Wild Colorado”), Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett. Highlights this fall include Donovan (Sept. 25) and Cake (Oct. 14 to 15).


The scene on the four-block Pearl Street Mall.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times



Finding Your Bliss, 10:30 a.m.

Boulder has been meditating and downward dogging long before the rest of us. The Boulder Shambhala Center was founded in 1973 by the Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to bring Buddhist teachings to the layperson. A free Sunday open house welcomes drop-ins from 10:30 a.m. to noon for meditation and instruction. Originating in nearby Denver, CorePower Yoga expanded to Boulder and beyond to become the Starbucks of namaste. Fresh-faced instructors guide you to bliss via postures designed to build strength and presence.


Brunch, Creole-Style, Noon

Ensconced in a homey yellow Victorian on 14th Street since 1980, Lucile’s Creole Cafe is often referred to as the best brunch in town (there’s even a song about it by the Little Women). The wait may be long, but the hostesses are friendly and life could be worse than hanging out on the Mall in the Colorado sun. Soon you’ll be enjoying New Orleans beignets covered in a blizzard of powdered sugar ($5.35) and the Cajun Breakfast with hollandaise sauce over eggs, red beans and grits ($9.55). Don’t forget a Bloody Mary, or two, garnished with Creole seasoning, pickled okra and shrimp ($7).


Tea in Tajikistan, 3 p.m.

The hand-painted Persian ceilings and ceramic panels of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse were created by Tajikistan artisans in Central Asia, shipped in crates and reconstructed near Boulder Creek in 1998. This intimate sanctuary with a sculptural pond is a gem of a restaurant run by Three Leaf Concepts. Tea Time ($22) is 3 to 5 p.m. every day (reservations required) with linen tablecloths, towers of cucumber sandwiches and lemon scones to accompany Dushanbe-selected teas and bright tea-infused cocktails. Return for a unique-to-Boulder lunch or dinner.


Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark, 900 Baseline Road;

No two alike, the 58 eclectic cottages built in the early 1900s for Chautauqua guests include studios and 1-3 bedrooms with full kitchens, screened porches, and Arts & Crafts fittings. Rooms are also available in the Columbine and Missions House lodges. Less about luxury and more about community, there’s easy access to the dining hall, Flatirons trails and events in the Auditorium. Year round rates, $89 to $295.

St. Julien Hotel & Spa, 900 Walnut Street;

St. Julien, the luxury option, arrived in 2005 with 201 smartly appointed rooms and 15 suites. Located downtown near the Pearl Street Mall, it includes the 10,000 square-foot Spa at St. Julien (open to non guests) with steam saunas, infinity pool and whirlpool, plus Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro and the T-Zero Lounge. Rates start at $260.



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Denver social marijuana use initiative qualifies for ballot after competing measure rejected

City voters will decide whether to allow permits for bars, other businesses that obtain neighborhood group OK

By Jon Murray | [email protected]

PUBLISHED: September 1, 2016


Marijuana activist Emmett Reistroffer, right, and cannabis consultant Kayvan Khalatbari hand deliver more than 10,800 signatures for a public cannabis use ballot initiative to Denver Elections Division officials in early August.

Vince Chandler, The Denver Post

Days after rejecting a competing measure for the November ballot, the Denver Elections Division on Thursday approved a proposed initiative that would allow social use of marijuana in some businesses.

City voters will decide whether regular businesses, such as bars or cafes or even yoga studios, should be able to create indoor or outdoor consumption areas for bring-your-own marijuana products, under certain conditions. The most significant condition would require that an application for an annual or temporary permit receive backing from a neighborhood group, such as a city-registered neighborhood organization or business improvement district.

That provision would give the neighborhood group the ability to suggest conditions on operation as city licensing officials consider a permit application.

In early August, backers including Kayvan Khalatbari of Denver Relief Consulting turned in ballot petitions containing what they said were 10,800 signatures in support of the initiative they’ve named the Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program. It takes 4,726 valid signatures from registered Denver voters to make the ballot.

Khalatbari said Thursday that backers soon would receive results from a poll they commissioned as they begin to campaign in favor of the initiative. They have signed up 50 businesses in support — with a goal of enlisting 500 — and will begin reaching out to neighborhood groups to discuss the measure and answer questions, he said.

“It’s going to be an effort of these businesses and a lot of the cannabis industry,” Khalatbari said. “We already have some of the bigger names of the cannabis industry” giving customers leaflets about the initiative. “We’re really looking forward to engaging every single stakeholder — pro, con or neutral on this.”

The Elections Division confirmed Thursday in a tweet that workers had verified enough signatures for the initiative to make the Nov. 8 ballot.

On Monday, the Elections Division said another social-use initiative, Denver NORML’s proposal to allow private marijuana clubs, failed to submit enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

Denver city officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock, had not taken a position yet on either measure. But city attorneys raised questions about both during the drafting process, including whether state law fully allows cities to sanction some form of public consumption. A few Colorado cities and towns have allowed private marijuana clubs.

City marijuana policy spokesman Dan Rowland wrote in an e-mail that the certification of the social-use initiative will prompt a detailed review looking at the potential implications for the city, including its impact on marijuana regulations and how it might be affected by state law. Officials will share their analysis with the City Council.

“We look forward to the opportunity to continue exploring this issue and to the large, broad-ranging community conversation that needs to happen around social consumption of marijuana,” Rowland said.

Both proposed initiatives had aimed to address what activists see as a lingering issue following Colorado voters’ legalization of recreational marijuana sales and possession in 2012.

Amendment 64 did not allow for public use of marijuana, and under state and local laws, Denver residents have few places to consume marijuana outside their homes. That also poses a particular problem for many tourists, since most hotels and other lodging don’t allow the use of marijuana, either.

The measure that’s headed for the ballot would make changes to city ordinance to create consumption area permits. Businesses still would have to comply with the state’s anti-smoking law indoors, and marijuana businesses would not be allowed to apply for the permits because of state license restrictions.

The initiative would set a four-year pilot period, requiring the city to study the measure’s effectiveness. By the end of 2020, the City Council could allow it to expire, make it permanent or tweak its provisions.

Khalatbari and other activists, including some of the most prominent backers of Amendment 64, say their goal is that a handful of responsible businesses will lead the way in marijuana-friendly neighborhoods.

Here is the wording of the ballot measure, which will appear under the title “City of Denver Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program”:

“Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt an ordinance that creates a cannabis consumption pilot program where: the City and County of Denver (the “City”) may permit a business or a person with evidence of support of an eligible neighborhood association or business improvement district to allow the consumption of marijuana (“cannabis”) in a designated consumption area; such associations or districts may set forth conditions on the operation of a designated consumption area, including permitting or restricting concurrent uses, consumptions, or services offered, if any; the designated consumption area is limited to those over the age of twenty-one, must comply with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, may overlap with any other type of business or licensed premise, and cannot be located within 1000 feet of a school; a designated consumption area that is located outside cannot be visible from a public right-of-way or a place where children congregate; the City shall create a task force to study the impacts of cannabis consumption permits on the city; the City may enact additional regulations and ordinances to further regulate designated consumption areas that are not in conflict with this ordinance; and the cannabis consumption pilot program expires on December 31, 2020 or earlier if the City passes comprehensive regulations governing cannabis consumption?”



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Marijuana Edibles: Blue Kudu Expanding Operations, Chocolate Line

By Kate McKee Simmons

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

img_2965.jpgMarijuana Edibles: Blue Kudu Expanding Operations, Chocolate Line

Kate McKee Simmons

Andrew Schrot, the CEO of Denver-based Blue Kudu, moved to Colorado from Tampa, Florida, with his brother in the summer of 2010, excited to get involved in the cannabis industry. "We thought about edibles, because at that time there wasn't a consistent, quality product that patients could rely upon," Schrot recalls.

When Schrot was growing up, his family used to visit the animals at Busch Gardens; a family favorite was the African kudu because of its unique coat and long spiral horns. When brainstorming names for the company, he decided to go with Blue Kudu, to "stand out in a sea of cannabis businesses with green in their name," he says.

From the start, Blue Kudu focused on chocolate edibles. The brothers did extensive research, going through fifteen to twenty chocolate vendors before choosing one. They keep the name of that vendor under wraps to ward off competition, but Schrot shares that the beans are grown in Europe and made from a family recipe carried down through five generations; in addition, the chocolate is fair trade and Rainforest Alliance-certified.

The company, which now produces about 3,000 edible bars a day — most of them made with dark chocolate — has its product in about 75 percent of dispensaries around the state, Schrot says.

"One thing about chocolate is, it's easily breakable," he adds. "So when we were looking at products, we wanted to make sure the consumer knew how much they were consuming at a time. That was extremely important to us."


Marijuana Edibles: Blue Kudu Expanding Operations, Chocolate Line

Kate McKee Simmons

Each bar contains 100 milligrams of THC and is divided into ten pieces marked with the THC symbol and "10 mg," because starting in October, the state will require that all THC-infused food be identifiable outside of its original packaging. The bars are also a little bigger than they used to be because of the new compliance regulations, which will affect all edibles manufacturers in Colorado.

Blue Kudu had to purchase 2,000 custom molds in order to comply with the new regulations, at a cost of $20,000 to 30,000, Schrot says. And that's just on the recreational side; the company is still working on updating the molds for the medical side of its operation.

Staffers also worked with pharmaceutical packaging companies to create a box that's compliant with safety regulations. Each container of THC-infused products must be child-safe. Ecobliss, the company that manufactures the cartons, is based in the Netherlands, and its design has won multiple awards.

Schrot recommends that first-time users take it slow with edibles: Start with 5 to 10 milligrams of THC and then consume no more than that every two hours. "We want the consumer to get the comfortable, relaxing experience they're looking for from our product," Schrot says. "Unfortunately, there are some overdoses, but I think the industry is continuing education with the "Start Low, Go Slow" [theme], especially when it comes to edibles."

The state requires that edibles test within 15 percent of their label, but Blue Kudu aims to keep that closer to 5 percent.

"We want them to have a good experience with our products. The first-time edible user, when they have a bad experience, never uses edibles again — and that's a customer we've lost for life. So if we can ease them into a really great experience, then they'll come back again and again — and that's what business is about," says Ben Kelso, an account manager at Blue Kudu.


Marijuana Edibles: Blue Kudu Expanding Operations, Chocolate Line

Kate McKee Simmons

In the coming months, Blue Kudu will be moving to a new, larger space. The kitchen will be almost ten times the size of the one the company uses now, allowing for the expansion of the product line to include brownies and gummies. "It's important for us to make the whole recipe in-house," Schrot says. "All the products we make, we come up with our own recipe and make the product from scratch."

Right now, meeting the growing demand requires keeping the operation going nights and weekends.

The company doesn't currently grow its own plants, but Schrot says it will start once Blue Kudu moves into the new facility, which has just over 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space.



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In Boulder, Where Inner Peace Meets Outer Beauty


AUG. 31, 2016


A gathering on the Royal Arch Trail, overlooking the city of Boulder.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

My cultural pilgrimage to the Rocky Mountains began more than 20 years ago, a few steps from my door in the East Village of Manhattan. The poet Allen Ginsberg was staging one of the regular readings at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, featuring his Buddhist-inspired verse. As he fielded queries after the reading, he mentioned that he was decamping to teach at something called the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in, of all places, Boulder, Colo.

Poetry in Boulder? Until then, I had envisioned the town as a high-altitude boot camp, where every resident dressed in colorful spandex and went hiking, biking and climbing with grim determination. When it came to culture, it was hard to imagine anything more profound than the “Mork and Mindy” house, whose exterior is featured in the TV series. But Ginsberg insisted that Boulder was actually brimming with progressive artists, writers and musicians. It used to be called “the Athens of the West,” he enthused.

So as an Amazonian heat wave descended on New York a year ago, I decided to finally make the expedition to the Rockies to answer a question: How does culture thrive in a world of free-climbers and triathletes, who one might think are more concerned with perfectly formed abs than deeper questions of the soul? Or has Boulder’s very intimacy with the great outdoors created a cultural scene all its own?

Arriving on a hot but blissfully dry July night was a disorienting experience, and not just because of the thin alpine air. At first glance, Boulder seemed dreamily pleasant, as clean and orderly as a Swiss resort, but not exactly in bohemian ferment.

On the tidy Pearl Street Mall, crowds were gathered by burbling fountains to watch buskers, jugglers and flame-swallowers. Uplifting mountain views framed every corner. The bike lanes were so perfectly drawn they qualified as site-specific sculptures. In fact, everyone was so cheerful, healthy and fresh-faced that I had to fight the urge to flee back to Manhattan.

Instead, I checked in to the Colorado Chautauqua, an enclave of cottages that opened in 1898 at the base of the Flatirons, the dramatic foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This was the Western outpost of a national adult education movement specifically created to combine culture and the great outdoors: Gilded Age travelers flocked here to meet visiting artists, listen to lectures by mutton-chopped philosophers or hear opera sung by visiting European divas, then go hiking in the idyllic natural setting. (One fan, Teddy Roosevelt, called the Chautauqua movement “the most American thing in America.”)


Dushanbe Teahouse.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

The Chautauqua’s once-austere teetotaling regimen has clearly loosened up. When I arrived, the historic concert hall had been taken over by Ziggy Marley and his band. The air vents had been opened for the warm summer night, so the strains of reggae wafted from the auditorium across the landscaped grounds, accompanied by a sweet miasma of legalized marijuana from hundreds of Boulderites picnicking and sipping wine beneath the stars.

In the spirit of improving both mind and body, I went hiking the next morning with Carol Taylor, a local historian, newspaper columnist and program manager for the Chautauqua. We followed a trail into the Flatirons, soaring triangular crags that were named for their resemblance to Victorian-era clothing irons. As sweat-soaked fitness devotees jogged past lugging backpacks filled with rocks, Ms. Taylor engaged me in a mobile history lecture, explaining that Boulder’s current status as a perpetual contender for “America’s most livable town” was the result of a century and a half’s worth of efforts to imbue its idyllic setting with intellectual cachet.

Boulderites gave land and cash in the 1870s to establish the University of Colorado, then donated Chautauqua’s choice site to lure creative celebrities. In 1908, they even hired the renowned landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of the designer of Central Park in New York, for aesthetic advice. He recommended they plant more trees — the mountains were barren then — and clean the refuse-strewn Boulder Creek.

Soon after, a boosterish collection of poems by William O. Wise, “Boulder the Beautiful,” complete with promotional photos of the area, anointed Boulder the “Athens of the West,” a cultural beacon for the Rockies. (The lofty title has also been claimed by several other cities, including Cleveland and Louisville, Ky.).

Ms. Taylor led me to Enchanted Mesa, a pine-clad expanse that is a sacred site for the conservation movement, which was inseparable from the vibrant intellectual and scientific community. In 1962, forward-thinking citizens banded together to stop a luxury hotel from being built here, purchasing the area’s 55 acres at risk instead.

They had already voted in 1959 to enact the famous Blue Line, which prohibits city water services from being built at higher elevations, effectively limiting development and protecting the pristine views of the lower Rocky Mountains. For good measure, Boulder in 1967 became America’s first town to tax itself to provide money to buy chunks of wilderness — an “open space” program that continues today.


Running the Enchanted Mesa trail.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

“Can you imagine if this place was concreted over?” Ms. Taylor mused as we took in the fairy-tale beauty of the valley, carpeted with colored wildflowers and exploding with clouds of butterflies.

I decided to settle into a regimen. Like genteel Edwardian travelers of a century ago, I cleared my city lungs every morning with a wilderness jaunt — one day mountain biking the Switzerland Trail, a 20-mile former railroad track through gold mining ghost towns; the next day inner-tubing down Boulder Creek. Then, in the heat of the afternoon, I sought out the cultural attractions, following the advice of writers who congregate here, creating their own literary enclave in the West.

Steps from the Farmers’ Market, I paid my respects to the Dushanbe Teahouse, a psychedelic edifice transported from Tajikistan — it looks like a jewel box from “Arabian Nights” — then dropped by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art next door. The entire museum was being transformed by a local celebrity chef, Michael Neff, for one of their regular “art dinners,” with culinary treats delivered to guests via a model electric train.

For avant-garde architecture, I headed to NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which looms like a western Stonehenge over the town. I. M. Pei’s masterpiece, completed in 1968, gained additional cultural cachet by being featured in Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi classic “Sleeper” as a futuristic “laboratory” (Mr. Allen infiltrates the building in a mock-athletic moment by awkwardly rappelling down a tower with computer tape).

It’s hard to remember that until the late 1960s, Boulder was still a sober, conservative and pious place. (It remained “dry” until 1967.) Its image changed almost overnight when university students became radicalized, hippies and antinuclear demonstrators arrived from around the country, and a progressive City Council voted in the town’s first (and last) African-American mayor. Suddenly, Boulder was a countercultural mecca.

To get a sense of how Boulder went from sober “Athens” to raucous “People’s Republic,” I headed to Naropa University, a pioneering Buddhist university in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1974 by a wealthy Tibetan exile named Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. It was Open Day when I visited, and a graduate was escorting three students around the leafy campus. We paused to admire Eastern shrines, a geodesic dome used as a greenhouse and the Consciousness Lab, where “the neuroscience of meditation” is researched, and poked our head in at a poetry conference, which was in full swing.


I.M. Pei’s structure at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, set against the Flatirons.

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

Allen Ginsberg was first invited to teach here in 1974, along with luminaries like John Cage and William Burroughs. He already knew Colorado well from his beat days with the Denver denizen Neal Cassady. By the ’70s, the creative ambience and radical politics in Boulder were so convivial that Ginsberg agreed to found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with another New York poet, Anne Waldman. “It was supposed to be a ‘hundred-year project’ at least,” Ms. Waldman recalled in an email. “That was the hook, to help found a school in this part of the country that had a spiritual context, that would go beyond our lifetimes. It was inspiring.”

Today, Naropa’s Allen Ginsberg Library remains as a modest homage, preserving many of the poet’s papers and films of his lectures on literature; a small black-and-white portrait hangs over the door.

But the most intimate shrine turned out to be Ginsberg’s long-term residence, which I tracked down in the quiet back blocks of the town. Stone steps led up from a sleepy lane to a quaint cottage with a “Bernie for President” sign in the window. The current owners, Steve and Jennifer Hendricks, welcomed me in for iced tea.

They admitted that they had known nothing of Ginsberg’s life here before moving in five years ago. “We do get a few poetry fans every year,” Mr. Hendricks said. “Not many.” The interior of the house had been renovated, they said, but its exterior has barely changed since the glory days. As proof, Mr. Hendricks pulled up on his laptop a snapshot of Ginsberg with friends gathered on the porch, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Peter Orlovsky and Burroughs.

“What worries us is that property prices are so high now in Boulder, the new arrivals are going to be more mainstream,” Ms. Hendricks mused. “It changes the atmosphere.”

“They won’t have ‘Bernie for President’ signs in their windows,” Mr. Hendricks added.

I.T. specialists, professionals and retirees are descending on the town, squeezing out the more chilled-out — and impecunious — population. Last year, Google broke ground on an office with room for 1,500 employees, which threatens to force even more locals out.


This house on Pine Street was used as the setting for the TV show “Mork and Mindy.”

Credit Caine Delacy for The New York Times

But reports of Boulder’s demise are premature, as I found on my last afternoon. First I visited the artist Rebecca DiDomenico, whose house was as open and airy as a Balinese villa and crowded with an extraordinary range of her creations, made from raw minerals and dead insects. From there, we went to her studio, Swoon Art House. Built from rammed earth and powered by geothermal and solar energy, it contains two basement “cave” installations made from brilliantly colored butterfly wings sealed in mica, which glittered like dragon scales in the half-light.

“Boulder is actually becoming more artistic every year,” Ms. DiDomenico said, as we clambered through one of the magical refuges. “Artists have been working here for decades, only now we’re getting some attention.”

As I was leaving, I heard music in the distance. “Oh, that will be the ‘bee party,’ ” Ms. DiDomenico shrugged casually. A backyard fund-raiser was in full swing for Bee Safe Boulder, a group dedicated to saving bees and other pollinators. Over Coloradan wine and cheese, a bevy of activists explained in detail that bees are a key indicator of environmental health, and that they are in radical decline.

By now the sun was sinking, so I drove up to the Flatirons and pulled on my hiking boots. Within an hour, I was up at a spectacular rock formation called the Arch with a cadre of sweaty fitness fans, watching the sun turn the mountains blood red. Allen Ginsberg would surely have been enraptured.


Colorado Chautauqua (900 Baseline Road; 303-442-3282; offers a regular diet of cultural events and concerts throughout the warmer months, and is also the starting point for spectacular hikes into the Flatirons.

Boulder History Museum (1206 Euclid Avenue; 303-449-3464;; admission, $6) is getting a new home in 2017, but modest interim exhibitions can be seen by appointment.

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (1750 13th Street; 303-443-2122; hosts “art dinners” three times a year.

Prospective students at Naropa University (2130 Arapahoe Avenue; 303-444-0202; can apply online for open house tours in summer, although drop-ins seem welcome any time.

Dushanbe Teahouse (1770 13th Street; 303-442-4993;

Correction: September 1, 2016

A picture caption with an earlier version of this article described a house in Boulder incorrectly. The house was the setting of the “Mork and Mindy” TV show, not the residence of the poet Allen Ginsberg.


A version of this article appears in print on September 4, 2016, on page TR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Inner Peace Meets Outer Beauty.

Edited by notsofasteddie

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Today we leave Colorado Springs and head for Denver. Since "check-in" time at the hotel is 2:00 p.m., we've got a couple of hours to kill. A quick decision takes us back to the Garden of the Gods. It's spectacular and close to where we are staying.


The view from the gift shop. This time I remember to get a t-shirt souvenir for my grand niece.


We've made it to Denver, check in to the hotel, and now we are out exploring the 16th Street Mall.


Apt description


This proves that buffalo are migratory. The first time that I was on the mall the herd was about a block South and on the other side of the street


Interesting place if you're into money. You get to see a $100,000.00 bill, $30 million in cash. You get to take home a bag of shredded currency, and the museum is mostly photo-friendly. No picture to support counterfeiters, please!


Horse and buggy a great way to tour the area.


Clyfford Still - Abstract Impressionist and predecessor to Jackson Pollock.


From the 1940's


From the 1960's


Another great show at the Paramont. Gordon Lightfoot a.k.a., Don Quixote, the hottest thing in folk back around 1972.

More Denver to come...


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Still in Denver; Still having fun and seeing interesting things


Words to the wise; words to live by!


Time to take a break and stock up. It's only two (2) more days before we return to the land of prohibition so lets take advantage of the opportunity.





A "selfie" so if we're ever in Colorado, Vancouver, or Amsterdam at the same time, you'll recognize me


Shot from the hotel room. There's a party on the roof of the Denver Athletic Club. I wish I had been invited. Looks like a good time is being had by all!


Here comes the night

Tomorrow is the last day of the trip. We've got Denver Comic-con to check out and the Gay Pride Parade. Not to mention one last dispensary


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Gourmet ganja? Marijuana dining is growing up, slowly

Updated October 13, 2016


In this Oct. 2, 2016 photo, a menu shows the dishes paired with certain strains of pot during an evening of pairings of fine food and craft marijuana strains served to invited guests dining at Planet Bluegrass, an outdoor venue in Lyons, Colo.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)


In this Oct. 2, 2016 photo, diners smoke marijuana as they eat dishes prepared by chefs during an evening of pairings of fine food and craft marijuana strains served to invited guests dining at Planet Bluegrass, an outdoor venue in Lyons, Colo.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)


The Associated Press

LYONS, Colo. (AP) — How to set a tone of woodsy chic at a four-course candlelight dinner served under the stars in the Colorado foothills:

Live musicians and flowers, check.

Award-winning cuisine, check.

Beer and wine pairings with each course, check.

Marijuana pairings? Oh, yes.

The 100 diners at this $200-a-plate dinner smoked a citrus-smelling marijuana strain to go with a fall salad with apples, dates and bacon, followed by a darker, sweeter strain of pot to accompany a main course of slow-roasted pork shoulder in a mole sauce with charred root vegetables and rice.

And with dessert? Marijuana-infused chocolate, of course, grated over salted caramel ice cream and paired with coffee infused with non-intoxicating hemp oil.

The diners received small glass pieces and lighters to smoke the pairings, or they could have their marijuana rolled into joints by professional rollers set up next to a bartender pouring wine.

Welcome to fine dining in Weed Country.

The marijuana industry is trying to move away from its pizza-and-Doritos roots as folks explore how to safely serve marijuana and food. Chefs are working with marijuana growers to chart the still-very-unscientific world of pairing food and weed. And a proliferation of mass-market cheap pot is driving professional growers to develop distinctive flavors and aromas to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

“We talk with the (marijuana) grower to understand what traits they saw in the marijuana … whether it’s earthy notes, citrus notes, herbal notes, things that we could play off,” said Corey Buck, head of catering for Blackbelly Restaurant, a top-rated farm-to-table restaurant that provided the meal.

The grower of one of the pot strains served at the dinner, Alex Perry, said it won’t be long until marijuana’s flavors and effects are parsed as intently as wine profiles. But that’s in the future, he conceded.

“It’s still looked down upon as a not-very-sophisticated thing,” said Perry, who grew a strain called Black Cherry Soda for his company, Headquarters Cannabis.

Holding his nose to a small jar of marijuana, Perry said, “If I asked my mom or my dad what they smell, they’re going to say, ‘skunk,’ or, ‘It smells like marijuana.’ But it’s like wine or anything else. There’s more flavor profile there.”

But chefs and pot growers trying to explore fine dining with weed face a legal gauntlet to make pot dinners a reality, even where the drug is as legal as beer.

Colorado’s marijuana retailers can’t also sell food, so guests at this dinner had to buy a separate $25 “goodie bag” from a dispensary for the pot pairings.

The bags came with tiny graters for diners to shave the pot chocolate onto their ice cream themselves; the wait staff could not legally serve a dish containing pot, even though the event was private and limited to people over 21. Diners were shuttled to and from the event by private bus, to avoid potentially stoned drivers leaving the dinner.

Marijuana dining may become more accessible in coming months, though.

Denver voters this fall will consider a proposal to allow marijuana use at some bars and restaurants as long as the drug isn’t smoked, with the potential for new outdoor marijuana smoking areas.

And two of the five states considering recreational marijuana in November — California and Maine — would allow some “social use” of the drug, leaving the potential for pot clubs or cafes.

Currently, Alaska is the only legal weed state that allows on-site marijuana use, with “tasting rooms” possible in commercial dispensaries. But that state is still working on rules for how those consumption areas would work.

For now, marijuana dining is limited to folks who hire private chefs to craft infused foods for meals served in their homes, or to special events like this one, limited to adults and set outside to avoid violating smoke-free air laws.

Guests at the Colorado dinner were admittedly experimenting with pairing weed and food, many giggling as they toked between bites. It became apparent late in the evening that a rich meal doesn’t counteract marijuana’s effects.

“What was I just saying?” one diner wondered aloud before dessert. “Oh, yeah. About my dog. No, your dog. Somebody’s dog.”

The man trailed off, not finishing his thought. His neighbor patted him on the back and handed him a fresh spoon for the ice cream.

Diners seemed genuinely curious about how to properly pair marijuana and food without getting too intoxicated.

“I am not a savant with this,” said Tamara Haddad of Lyons, who was waiting to have one of her pot samples professionally rolled into a joint. “I enjoy (marijuana) occasionally. I enjoy it with friends. I’m learning more about it.”

She laughed when asked whether marijuana can really move beyond its association with junk-food cravings.

“I have also munched out after being at the bar and drinking martinis and thinking, ‘Taco Bell sounds great,'” she said.



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It’s all but official: Denver’s social marijuana use ballot measure passes

Initiative 300 allows businesses to seek pot-use permits if neighborhood or business group signs off

By Jon Murray | [email protected]

UPDATED: November 15, 2016


Beth Bice of Charlotte, N.C., smokes a joint on the bus during a marijuana tour hosted by My 420 Tours in Denver on Dec. 6, 2014.

Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

Denver’s ballot measure allowing social marijuana use at some businesses has passed, with updated results Tuesday morning leaving too few uncounted ballots to flip the result.

Initiative 300 has received support from 53.3 percent of the 302,505 Denver voters who weighed in on the issue, according to a results update that reflected 19,657 more ballots counted late Monday. Roughly 10,000 to 12,000 ballots remain to be counted in the main processing of mail and in-person ballots from the Nov. 8 election, Denver Elections spokesman Alton Dillard estimated.

That is less than Initiative 300’s current winning margin of 20,055 votes, or 6.6 percentage points.

“We are truly grateful to the people of Denver for approving this sensible measure to allow social cannabis use in the city,” lead proponent Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief Consulting, said in a statement issued Monday evening, when Initiative 300’s backers declared victory. “This is a victory for cannabis consumers who, like alcohol consumers, simply want the option to enjoy cannabis in social settings.”

The measure — which calls for the creation of a four-year pilot program — would allow businesses, from bars to cafes and even yoga studios, to seek city-issued permits to create “consumption areas.” They first would need to obtain backing from a single local neighborhood or business group.

One motivation behind the initiative was to provide more places for tourists to smoke or consume marijuana, as well as for residents whose landlords forbid it.

An opposition group, called Protect Denver’s Atmosphere, conceded defeat. But campaign manager Rachel O’Bryan urged city officials to implement Initiative 300 carefully and compared the result to Amendment 64, which won support from 66 percent of voters in Denver four years ago.

“Back in 2012, marijuana legalization passed with a strong majority in Denver. Four years later, Initiative 300 has passed by a much slimmer margin,” she said in a statement. “It appears that many Denver voters who originally supported marijuana legalization do not want to see marijuana consumption everywhere in Denver.

“They believed the promise in Amendment 64 that marijuana use would not be conducted ‘openly and publicly.’ They are rightly confused how Initiative 300 can let public establishments like restaurants, bars, art galleries, yoga studios — indeed any business — apply to permit marijuana use.”

The group argued that 300’s passage would encourage more public use of marijuana — which is banned by state law — and harm public safety. City officials similarly have raised some concerns and have said the initiative might conflict with state laws.

O’Bryan urged city officials to seek an opinion from Attorney General Cynthia Coffman about 300’s legality.

The ballot measure has performed well among voters in central and north Denver. Opposition to it has led in large pockets of southwest, southeast and northeast neighborhoods, which tend to be more suburban in character.


A map shows support (green) and opposition (gray) in each precinct for Initiative 300 as of Nov. 14, 2016.

Denver Elections Division

Supporters have said they expect just a handful of businesses in central Denver may seek consumption area permits early on, in areas such as East Colfax Avenue or the Santa Fe Arts District. Neighborhood considerations or insurance issues could dissuade other businesses.

Khalatbari called 300’s outcome “a victory for the city of Denver, its diverse neighborhoods and those who don’t consume cannabis, as it will reduce the likelihood that adults will resort to consuming in public.”

Dillard said most remaining ballots should be processed by Tuesday night. Military and overseas ballots must arrive by Wednesday to be counted, and that also is the deadline for voters whose signatures were flagged as not matching records to respond to notifications they were sent.

Denver’s count has gone slowly in large part because of a crush of last-minute ballots received during the final two days before polls closed.

The initiative is backed by some marijuana activists and business owners. It takes a different approach from the private cannabis clubs that have sprung up in some Colorado cities and towns by instead seeking to allow marijuana use at some regular businesses.

Interested businesses would seek annual or temporary permits for over-age-21 consumption areas, accommodating customers who bring their own marijuana products. Those areas could be indoors (allowing vaping and edibles, but not smoking) or outdoors (allowing smoking).

But applicants first would need backing from a local neighborhood group, such as a city-registered neighborhood organization or business improvement district. That would allow the outside group to set operating conditions in exchange for support.

A sunset clause would end the permits if the City Council does not decide to make the program permanent by the end of 2020.

Beginning in six months, the council would have the option of repealing the new voter-initiated ordinance or making changes with a two-thirds majority.

Updated Nov. 15, 2016, at 11:30 a.m.: Several edits were made after a Tuesday morning results update from the Denver Election Division showed Initiative 300’s margin of support outpacing uncounted ballots for the first time.



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Denver officials detail next steps for implementing social marijuana measure

Initiative 300 requires a pilot program for businesses, but city attorney says new permits must comply with laws


Owner Jim Norris works behind the coffee counter at Mutiny Information Cafe on December 2, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Along with co-owner Matt Megyesi, Norris intends to apply for a social marijuana use permit once the city's Department of Excise and Licenses works out the particulars of how to implement Initiative 300.

Anya Semenoff, Special to The Denver Post

By Jon Murray | [email protected]

UPDATED: December 5, 2016

Denver licensing and legal officials told City Council members Monday that they still had plenty of work to do to implement the first-of-its-kind marijuana social-use law approved by city voters last month.

“Our plan is to implement the will of the voters within the confines of the law,” said Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. She’s also the longtime director of the Office of Marijuana Policy.

But figuring out the “confines of the law” may be the trickiest part in coming months as officials develop regulations for Initiative 300. The ballot measure, which passed with 53.6 percent support Nov. 8, mandates that the city make permits available for businesses to create bring-your-own-marijuana consumption areas, either for events or regular use, lasting up to a year. Those businesses first would need to obtain support from a local neighborhood or business organization.

City Attorney Kristin Bronson said state law, which bars consumption of marijuana “openly and publicly,” doesn’t define those terms clearly, leaving plenty for her office to interpret.

She said it would consult other laws defining “public places” to create further restrictions for the consumption areas as well as other safeguards to comply with Colorado’s Amendment 64.

The areas also would need to operate in keeping with objectives outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice to states with legalized marijuana, including preventing marijuana from getting into children’s hands, although she noted that federal guidance could change under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Monday afternoon’s meeting of the council’s marijuana special issue committee marked the first post-election briefing of council members by Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration.

The Denver Post reported Sunday that city licensing officials are aiming to invite supporters, opponents, community members, experts and business representatives to join an advisory committee soon. The Social Consumption Advisory Committee will help shape the regulations the city proposes, with an airing of those rules expected at a public hearing in April or May.


Matt Reames (L) and Nikoli Shaver play chess at Mutiny Information Cafe on December 2, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Mutiny Information Cafe owners Jim Norris and Matt Megyesi intend to apply for a social marijuana use permit once the city's Department of Excise and Licenses works out the particulars of how to implement Initiative 300.

Anya Semenoff, Special to The Denver Post

While Initiative 300 requires the city to make permit applications available by Jan. 21 — and officials plan to meet that deadline — applications likely won’t be accepted until next summer.

A draft timeline detailed by Kilroy said that may happen between June and August. The city then would begin issuing permits.

“We won’t begin accepting (applications) until we’ve gotten through the process and know what the rules will be,” she told nine council members who attended Monday’s briefing.

Initiative 300 set a four-year pilot period for the permit program and requires that the council establish a task force to analyze its impact. There are some big limitations from the start: Under state laws and regulations, the permits will be off-limits for marijuana businesses, including dispensaries, and for businesses with liquor licenses, including bars.

Councilman Paul Lopez suggested to Kilroy that policymakers strongly consider requiring public hearings for each permit, in addition to the required support from a local neighborhood group. “I think that’s going to be critical, because imagine there being bars without any kind of public hearing or anything like that,” he said.

“It will definitely be on our agenda,” Kilroy said.

Robin Kniech, an at-large council member, suggested that licensing officials make sure to choose members of the advisory committee who, even if they didn’t support Initiative 300, are geared toward implementing it in a practical way, and quickly. She expressed worry that some skeptics could try to take a wider view by focusing too much on health impacts or the effects of marijuana on children.

“I think we’re setting expectations for frustration if the community thinks they’re going to come in and have a debate about whether this is good or bad,” Kniech said. “That debate happened during that election.”


Payton Walsh, 8, looks through a book with her sister, Taylor Walsh, 18, at Mutiny Information Cafe on December 2, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Mutiny Information Cafe owners Jim Norris and Matt Megyesi intend to apply for a social marijuana use permit once the city's Department of Excise and Licenses works out the particulars of how to implement Initiative 300.

Anya Semenoff, Special to The Denver Post



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Best Buds – Episode 1 – Exploring Colorado’s Aspen Canyon Ranch Cannabis Resort

Published on Dec 7, 2016

In the series premiere, best buds Chris and Brian head to Aspen Canyon Ranch, a cannabis-friendly resort nestled in the idyllic Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They start off their recreational cannabis adventure by stocking up on some marijuana edibles at Colorado dispensary Native Roots. After that, they over to the ranch to experience trap shooting, fly fishing, hot tubbing, pie eating, and more.

About the series:

BFFs Chris Nester and Brian Sturgill are just two dudes exercising their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of cannabis. Join them as they travel the country in search of the best things to do while high.


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Denver City Council Members, Department Heads Discuss Social-Use Schedule

By Kate McKee Simmons

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Denver City Council Members, Department Heads Discuss Social-Use Schedule

Brandon Marshall

Denver may not see the social use of marijuana as soon as some people would like.

On December 5, Denver City Council members met with representatives from the City Attorney's Office and the Department of Excise and Licenses to discuss the process and timeline for implementation of Initiative 300, which Denver voters approved November 8. The city will have applications available by January 21 for businesses that want to apply for social-use licenses under I-300, but Ashley Kilroy, director of Excise and Licenses, warned that the city may not accept those applications for some time.

"We will make the applications available, but we won't begin accepting them until we've gotten through the process," Kilroy said, explaining that she doesn't think it's fair for the city to accept the application fee without having the rules finalized.

"We'd be holding on to that money for a period of time, and maybe we would have added some kind of criteria that they would no longer be eligible," Kilroy said. It's possible that rules won't be finalized until April or May. In the meantime, the initiative is "self-executing," meaning no immediate action by Denver City Council is required. The members will, however, need to form a task force "to study the impact of cannabis consumption permits on the city."

That task force will include stakeholders from the marijuana industry, opponents of 300, and some of the people who pushed for 300, among others. The wide range of people on the task force could be a challenge, warned one council rep.

"I am a little nervous about what the expectations of stakeholders are," said councilwoman-at-large Robin Kniech. "The voters have spoken and we can debate that choice, but I think to spend time on this task force debating the health effects of marijuana or the impact on children, I mean, you have a very tight timeline for implementation. So I guess what I would ask is if you're going to include that diversity of stakeholders, their lens needs to be as it pertains to this obligation. I just think we're setting expectations for frustration if (people think) they're going to come in and have a debate."

Councilmembers have been getting questions from constituents about the difference between public and private use; representatives from the Denver City Attorney's Office said they're hoping to balance the language of I-300 to clear up any confusion. Initiative 300 states that marijuana consumption can occur in a "designated consumption area," while the language of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana across the state, says that "nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others." State law prohibits "open and public" consumption of marijuana, and Denver law prohibits the display or consumption of marijuana that is done "openly and publicly."

Councilman Albus Brooks, who represents District 9, said it's important for the city to work alongside the state as it begins implementation efforts in order to avoid any issues down the line where city rules might conflict with the state's laws.

"It is a delicate balance and is partially why we are taking a very thoughtful and methodical approach to rolling this out," said Denver City Attorney Kristen Bronson.



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Let Loopr Take You On A Magical Mystery Tour Of Denver


By Julia Wright 
May 18, 2016




Loopr, the luxury, 420-friendly transportation service that made its first run around downtown Denver last week, is a party bus unlike any other.


Only soft drinks and snacks in the fridges line the limo seating of the 45' Freightliner luxury coach: booze is "discouraged," according to CEO Brian Spatz. That said, Loopr passengers are free - and of course encouraged - to smoke marijuana.




It works like this: download the app, buy a pass, and Loopr zips around a 45 to 60 minute-long circuit of partnering Denver restaurants, dispensaries, and night spots. You can either treat it like a pub crawl, or simply chill with 44 of your friends on the bus, enjoying the tunes, wall of video monitors, disco light show, and smoking gear.


The vibe is more "celebrity touring bus" than "municipal transit." Two booths on either side of the bus seat four passengers; the back features more limo-style seating, plus granite countertops throughout, and a glass screen and pocket door protecting the driver from secondhand smoke. Loopr is tailored specifically toward cannabis consumption.


"There a large bong and dab bar on the right side that you can stand at, and specially designed glass pieces that sit in the bar," Spatz tells Civilized, adding that Loopr riders supply their own herb and concentrates.


"My partner Hal is a glassblower and he designs a very clever design where they sit in a cupholder space, and the water is stored below the bar, and the water acts as a weight to keep the piece from sliding around."




If you really want a beer, just hop out, get your drink on, and hop back on. The app allowed you to geo-track the precise location of the bus, and catch up with your ride easily.


"The main thing that makes Loopr unique is this ability to "geolocate the vehicle in real time and display the routes," says Spatz. "When you go to the app, it shows you a map of Denver, the route, and you can buy your pass on the app, as well as food, drinks, and merch."


One day, three day, weekly, and monthly passes are available ranging from $25 for an unlimited day pass to $110 for one week.


"I'm really focused on trying to invent a convenient transportation loop that doesn't take too long to get around, and shooting for a 45-65 minute loop, which is the sweet spot," says Spatz. The bus runs from 4pm until midnight.


We asked Spatz if there are any plans to roll out Loopr buses in other legal jurisdictions like Seattle or Portland.


"Oregon has a comprehensive smoking ban, which is the main obstacle, no exemption for private vehicles," says Spatz. "Washington, they have similar language in their smoking ban."


But he doesn't rule out the smoking-hot luxury coach service coming to California, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Nevada - hopefully shortly after those states vote on legalization in November 




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Colorado Senate Passes First-in-Nation Cannabis Clubs Bill


The Associated Press
March 9, 2017


Colorado has a few dozen cannabis clubs, but they have no permits and sometimes operate underground. Colorado's Senate passed a first-in-the-nation bill expressly permitting marijuana clubs on Thursday. Gov. John Hickenlooper has hinted that he'll veto the measure unless it bans indoor smoking.
(Brennan Linsley/AP)

DENVER — The Colorado Senate on Thursday passed a first-in-the-nation bill expressly permitting marijuana clubs. But Gov. John Hickenlooper is hinting that he’ll veto the measure unless it bans indoor smoking.


The bill allows local jurisdictions to permit bring-your-own cannabis clubs, as long as those establishments don’t serve alcohol or any food beyond light snacks.


The bill doesn’t say whether those clubs could allow people to smoke indoors. That means it would be possible for a membership club that is closed to the public and has no more than three employees to permit indoor cannabis smoking.


Sponsors say the bill is necessary because Colorado already has a network of underground, unregulated clubs, and towns aren’t sure how to treat them.

Cannabis clubs could help alleviate complaints that Colorado’s sidewalks and public parks have been inundated with marijuana smoke since the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.


“We have a lot of problems throughout this state of people publicly using marijuana,” said Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican and sponsor of the club bill.


The measure sets up a showdown with the Democratic governor, who has told reporters that clubs could invite federal intervention in Colorado’s cannabis market.


“I do think given the uncertainty in Washington that this is not the year to be out there carving off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana,” Hickenlooper told reporters Wednesday.


Further, the governor seemed to chafe at the fact that the club bill doesn’t expressly ban indoor smoking. A separate cannabis-club measure going into effect in Denver limits smoking marijuana to special patios, meaning people could eat or vaporize pot indoors but not burn it.


“Smoking is bad for you,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m not sure that’s a great thing to be encouraging.”


Lawmakers who support clubs disagree that the bill encourages indoor smoking.


“These marijuana membership clubs are so private that’s they’re more akin to being in your living room than to being in a restaurant,” Gardner said.


Ten Republicans voted against the cannabis club bill. Some of them said they fear it’ll be impossible to stop people from sharing or selling cannabis inside the clubs, even though marijuana sales in clubs are banned under the bill.


“How are we supposed to stop that?” asked Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley.


The bill passed on a 25-10 vote and now heads to the House, where its prospects are strong. One possible sticking point is that the bill bars food service in the clubs but allows them to sell light snacks that aren’t defined.


State liquor regulations already bar the sale of alcohol and marijuana at the same place, so the clubs would look more like Amsterdam coffeeshops than cannabis bars.


“I’m sure you can drink coffee and smoke marijuana, you just can’t drink whiskey and smoke marijuana,” Gardner said.




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Colorado countdown to 4/20: Your guide to what’s happening when



The Front Range is gearing up for April 20: Here's a calendar of events scheduled so far
By The Cannabist Staff
Published: Mar 20, 2017


We’re just a few short weeks away from 4/20, a.k.a. the stoner’s rite of spring.


Here in Colorado, 4/20 has been a big deal since well before the state legalized adult-use cannabis three years ago. And given that this year’s 4/20 happens on a Thursday — two days after the federal income tax deadline and two days ahead of Earth Day — there should be all sorts of reasons to celebrate.


Trivia time: “420” reportedly became slang for cannabis-related activities decades ago, when a group of high school students in California used the term to describe their regular meet-up time after classes: 4:20 p.m., when they relaxed following what was presumably a hard day of academia.


Here’s a calendar of events currently scheduled to take place in and around the 4/20 festivities. We’ll be updating this list all the way up to the big day.

Got an event you’d like us to add? Send the details, including the name of the event, date, time, address, cost and a website or public phone contact to: [email protected]

April 9: GoPuff Presents The Fourth Annual Denver Stoner Awards
 A Cannabis and Comedy Extravaganza
 7:00 p.m.
 $20 online/$25 at the door. You must be 21 years of age to attend.
 The Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., Denver


 April 14: High Holiday (420) Kickoff #SensiNight
 Hosted by Sensi Mag, entertainment and cannabis networking
 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
 RSVP for Free tickets
 City Hall, 1144 Broadway, Denver

April 19: 420 Eve on the Rocks
 Scheduled to perform: Method Man & Redman, Flatbush ZOMBiES
 with Curren$y, $uicideBoy$, Futuristic, RDGLDGRN, Afroman, ProbCause
 Doors open at 4:00 p.m., General admission tickets $45.00 online, $50.00 at the door
 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway Morrison

 April 20: Denver 420 Rally – Civic Center Park
 Grammy award-winning rapper 2 Chainz scheduled to headline.
 A free event that bills itself as the world’s first and largest 420 marijuana rally and cultural festival returns to Civic Center Park, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

April 20: 420 HEAD RUSH
 Music, Arts and Culture Festival
 2:00 p.m – 2:00 a.m. $10-$20
 Lincoln Station Bar, 776 Lincoln St., Denver

April 20: LITTY LIT 420 Celebration
 4:20 p.m. – 11:59 p.m., Tickets: $10
 An entire day of fun and festivities.
 Speakeasy Vape Lounge and Cannabis Club
 2508 E Bijou St, Colorado Springs

April 20: 420 On The Block
 A multi-venue event featuring music, art, comedy, speakers and other festivities.
 4:20 p.m. – 2:00 a.m., Tickets: March Price: $33 (limited number available)
 April Price: $42, Day of Show: $50
 Multiple Locations, Denver

April 20: Denver 420 After Party
 Sponsored by Club 64, 1 Blunt Radio and 710 Radio
 6:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m., Tickets: $10 – $100
 Spectra Art Space, 1836 South Broadway, Denver

April 20: The Expendables – 4/20 Celebration
 Also scheduled to perform: RDGLDGRN, Tribal Theory
 Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM, Tickets: $20 – $65
 Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street, Boulder

April 20: DeadPhish Orchestra with Dead Floyd
 Doors: 8:00 p.m./Show: 9:00 p.m. 21 and over.
 Tickets: $10 – $30
 Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, 1215 20th Street , Denver

April 20: Gucci Mane
 Doors open: 7:00/Show: 8:00 p.m.Ages 16 and over
 Tickets: $65 online, $75 door
 Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, Denver

April 20: Freaky’s 4/20 Celebration
 7pm: Uncalled Four comedy game show
 9pm: Ying Yang Twins
 Tickets: $15-25
 The Oriental Theater (4335 W. 44th Ave. Denver)

April 20 to April 23: 420 Weekend At Studio420
 Stoner activities, raffles and giveaways. Ages 21+ only.
 Noon to Midnight, $20 per day per person, all day access.
 Daily VIP $100 per person.
 Studio420, 3995 S. Broadway, Englewood

April 23: Snoop Dogg / Wiz Khalifa with special guest Cypress Hill and Berner
 Doors open: 6:30 p.m./Show: 7:30 p.m.
 Tickets: $64.95 online, $70 Door
 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison



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Crowds (and clouds) roll in for annual 4/20 smoke-in at Denver’s Civic Center


Celebrants traveled from as far as Texas, Missouri, Minnesota and Philadelphia for the rally


By Danika Worthington,  The Denver Post
Published: Apr 20, 2017



Jose Alcala, of Denver supports his marijuana tie-dye shirt during the 4/20 event at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
Adam Solto, of La Veta, takes a hit as he relaxes in the sun during the 4/20 event at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)


Marijuana themed clothing is popular during the 4/20 event at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)


DENVER, CO - APRIL 20: Dustin Creasy, of Denver, takes a hit during the 4/20 event at Civic Center Park on April 20, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
(Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Hours before 4:20 p.m. — the moment at which a cloud of smoke would rise above Civic Center Thursday afternoon — lines persisted down West Colfax Avenue as hundreds of people waited to enter the annual 4/20 event that has evolved from a quick and simple protest rally into a full-fledged festival.


Rain sent some of the rally goers scattering in the early afternoon but the pot-enthusiasts returned to the booths and concert area once it subsided. People in the security lines stood sheltered by big umbrellas and rain ponchos.


With Bob Marley and Wiz Khalifa booming and the smell of weed wafting, people who had passed through security checkpoints meandered through vendors, which ranged from the corporates, such as Uber, to the bong sellers. Some participants were from Denver while others traveled from Texas, Missouri, Minnesota and Philadelphia for the rally.

“It’s a peaceful day to get your mind off all the nonsense that’s going on in the world,” Paulette Cordova said, a 59-year-old breast cancer survivor wearing marijuana-themed socks and a Cheech and Chong “Up in Smoke” T-shirt.


The Denver native had tent and chair on the lawn. Though she said she’s used marijuana since she was 13 — as an alternative to liquor and harder drugs — last year was the first time she attended the event.



Some people weary of waiting in the slow-moving lines to get to the festival grounds pushed down fencing on the east side of Civic Center, allowing about 100 people to rush into the park. Others scaled the 6-foot chain-link barrier, although police sent at least one man back out of the park the way he entered it.


A police spokeswoman said she didn’t have information on arrests as of 1 p.m.


As of 2 p.m., the Department of Excise and Licenses had cited two people for handing out flyers for Euflora and Kinds Meds, which violates marijuana advertising laws, spokesman Dan Rowland said. At least 10 booths and food trucks have been closed for reasons ranging from health hazards to lacking an operating license.


This year’s rally has the potential to be both a celebration and a political rally. There has been plenty to light up to as Colorado’s marijuana industry is booming, pot legalization is spreading across the U.S. and Canada, and public support is at an all-time high. But at the same time, the White House has brought back hostility to legal marijuana.


Denver’s annual 4/20 rally has grown over the years. In 2006, about 2,000 people — mostly teenagers and 20-somethings — gathered in Civic Center Park to light up at the stroke of 4:20 p.m. This year, tens of thousands of people are expected to roll into the park. Additionally, there are 250 vendor booths and rapper 2 Chainz is scheduled for a free concert from 2-6 p.m.


360 video from Civic Center:


Although the rally has been largely positive throughout the years, it did have a dark spot in 2013, when three people were shot after an argument unfolded between rival gang members.


The origins of “420” have been clouded, some claiming the term references a police code for marijuana possession. But recent consensus attributes it to a group of high school students who regularly met after school at 4:20 p.m. to smoke a joint.




This story was first published on


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Denver 4/20 in the Trump era: Marijuana celebration or political rally? 


Annual pro-marijuana rally could spur activism in era of Donald Trump

A cloud of smoke covers the crowd at 4:20 PM at the Annual Denver 4/20 Rally in Civic Center Park.


Kristen Aaland dons her event glasses as thousands gather at Civic Center Park in Denver for the annual 4/20 Pot Rally


Garrett Kramer smokes marijuana during the 4/20 event on Norlin Quad at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, April 20, 2010.


Malia Knapp of Denver, center, is celebrating Denver 4/20 Rally with her friends at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colo., on Friday, April 20, 2012. Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post


Colorado University Senior Gabriel Kuettel is arrested trespassing on the Norlin Quad that is closed to crackdown on pro-marijuana protesters at the school in Boulder, Colorado, Friday, April 20, 2012.


Colorado University Boulder students and protesters get to the first line of defense at the closed the Norlin Quad on it's campus to crackdown on pro-marijuana protesters at the school in Boulder, Colorado, Friday, April 20, 2012.


Colorado University Boulder campus is closed to all but students. The Norlin Quad on the campus is closed to crackdown on pro-marijuana protesters at the school in Boulder, Colorado, Friday, April 20, 2012.


A cloud of smoke rises up above the crowd at the annual 4/20 rally in Civic Center in downtown Denver on Friday, April 20, 2012. Hundreds turned out for the annual day celebrating marijuana.


Amy McBain of Evergreen, left, and Kim Logsdon of Denver celebrate 4/20 at Civic Center Park in Denver. A crowd of marijuana smokers gathered at the park to mark the counterculture holiday known as 4/20 on the first celebration since Colorado and Washington made pot legal for recreation use.


The annual 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver April 20, 2013.


Hundreds of people lit up joints, bongs, pipes and marijuana cigarettes at exactly 4:20 pm during the Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Co on April 20, 2014.


Thousands of people lit up and smoked marijuana to celebrate the now legal use of marijuana in the state of Colorado.


The smoke out at the 4/20 celebration at the Denver 4/20 Rally in Civic Center Park April 20, 2014.


By John Ingold and Alicia Wallace The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2017


There was a time — before the vendor booths, before the concerts with famous headliners, before the documentary crews and before the cannabis tour groups — when 4/20 in Denver meant a simple protest rally.


Eleven years ago, only a couple thousand people gathered in Civic Center park for the annual marijuana smokeout in defiance of state and federal laws. The rally planned for Thursday could hardly look different — 250 vendor booths, tens of thousands expected to attend and the rapper 2 Chainz scheduled to perform.


But organizers also hope that this year, especially, will bring a renewed commitment to activism.


“The rally is by definition a coming together for the common good,” said Miguel Lopez, who holds the permit for the rally and has been its most vocal advocate for years. “But we can’t be that effective if we’re not engaging a little more.”


Even by the standards of marijuana festivals, these are strange days.


On one side of the law, Colorado’s marijuana industry is booming, more states and countries are legalizing, and public support has never been stronger. On the other side, the new administration in the White House has signaled a hostility toward legal marijuana and a desire to do something to blunt its rise, meaning that legalization supporters could soon face their greatest challenge yet.


And that leaves Lopez and others in the marijuana movement with something of a problem this time around. Should they view the pot-smoker’s holiday as a chance to show strength? Or should they lie relatively low in the hopes of not attracting unwanted attention that could spur a crackdown?


“I think both sides are going to get something out of the 4/20 rallies,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on marijuana policy.


For the cannabis movement, Hudak said rallygoers may decide to emphasize the event’s political roots and tap into the broader protests against President Donald Trump.

“This resistance movement that has really taken off … is something that’s really going to motivate a lot of people to come out and make this a pretty significantly sized rally,” Hudak said.


For anti-marijuana groups, the 4/20 rallies will probably provide an opportunity to criticize the excesses of marijuana legalization.


“It’s something that the (U.S.) attorney general can point to and say, ‘Look at this, the state can’t even control public use,'” Hudak said.


Both approaches could have their drawbacks. Talk of a crackdown could be confronted by the sheer number of people at the rally, demonstrating just how much money and energy the federal government would have to spend to push back against legalization. Meanwhile, a raucous rally could undermine the mainstream credibility that marijuana supporters have tried to build over the past several years.


This is a tightrope that the cannabis industry is particularly familiar with. While individual stores and product companies have embraced the glamour of 4/20, the National Cannabis Industry Association, one of the industry’s lobbying groups, has traditionally shied away from the events, even as it has expressed support for marijuana consumers. Taylor West, the NCIA’s deputy director, spoke of the 4/20 events as similar to the Great American Beer Festival in producing both positive and negative images.


“In the larger context of 4/20, it’s always been a little bit of a mix, and I think it will be the same this year,” West said. “There will be some things that come out that maybe aren’t as good for the image of responsible use. But there will also be a tremendous amount of political activism.”


West said the NCIA prefers to save its own major activism push until May, when it holds annual lobbying events in Washington, D.C.


Lopez, too, said Denver 4/20 rally might not be the best place for marijuana supporters to fight the feds. For those who wish to battle Washington, Lopez had another suggestion: an annual Fourth of July “smoke-in” at the White House that he helps organize.


This year’s 4/20 rally in Denver, meanwhile, will mark the launch of a new group he is calling 420 Revolution. The group will be focused on local issues and on trying to strip away social stigma around cannabis use by encouraging one-on-one conversations in the community, Lopez said.


“I don’t see us particularly focusing on Trump,” he said. “We would be focusing more on a self-pride issue and on self-preservation as a group.”



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Don’t Get Too Excited About America’s First-Ever Marijuana Cafés


Denver is preparing to open the country’s first cannabis cafés, but people in the bud business say overly strict rules could kill the city’s — and the nation’s — pot lounges before they ever get a chance to thrive.


Alyson Martin  BuzzFeed News Reporter
Posted on June 29, 2017


Denver, Colorado


Picture this: a pub in Colorado where you can go with friends after a long hike, where they blast killer live music, serve your favorite grub, and always have a couple of hoppy IPAs on draft. After you order, you lean back on a stool, crowd around a high table, and pass a joint, all while hollering over SportsCenter in the background.


City officials in Denver are preparing to launch the country’s first legal cannabis cafés — but you should probably adjust your expectations. That scene in the tavern with the beer, the food, and the joint isn’t happening anytime soon. Voters passed Initiative 300 in November, which created a four-year pilot program that will allow Denver to experiment with pot cafés starting as soon as this summer. Under the current plan, a license would cost $1,000. But the compromises made during the rule-making process have changed what the lounges will look like and how they’ll operate, and some pot-business owners wonder if bureaucracy will bury the budding industry before it gets a chance to launch.


In passionate debates at public hearings, neighborhood leaders have expressed fears that cafés will help weed find its way into kids’ hands, or that residents will smell stinky pot from their porches instead of the fragrance of their prized roses. On the other side, marijuana entrepreneurs worry about how they’ll make money since they won’t be allowed to sell weed at cafés: Instead, the spaces will be bring-your-own, and businesses that serve alcohol will be banned from having cannabis on the premises.


Still, all eyes are on Denver, the first US city to open cannabis cafés. There’s a sense that if things go well here, legal public cannabis consumption will spread elsewhere in the country. But if Denver fails to craft a successful blueprint for public pot consumption, that could spell trouble for cannabis business owners hoping for cafés in other states. With tight restrictions strangling this first swing at public consumption, are US cannabis cafés doomed to fail?


Jim Norris, co-owner of Mutiny Information Cafe.
Dougal Brownlie for BuzzFeed News


Jim Norris is the co-owner of the Mutiny Information Cafe, a used-book store and coffee shop, and he hopes to be one of the first people to get a cannabis café license, known officially as a public consumption permit, when it becomes available. That’s expected to happen in July. Norris’s shop is a weirdo’s delight that Denver’s most hardcore punks and nerds call home. Boxes of Frosted Flakes and Cap’n Crunch sit on the coffee bar — customers can buy a bowl for $2.50 — to draw in locals and tourists already high after visiting one of the city’s retail cannabis shops. Mutiny smells like a comforting mix of coffee and decades-old books. By the end of the summer, Norris hopes it’ll also smell like weed.


On a recent June afternoon, Norris, who has a graying and neatly trimmed beard and two ear gauges, talked about how he has mapped out what legal social use will look like at Mutiny. On one Friday a month, he’ll invite academics, politicians, artists, business owners, and musicians to the 3,000-square-foot space to get stoned and discuss politics, music, and art.


Then, on one Saturday night a month, Norris wants to move his tired tables and chairs out of the way, bring out the fog machine and laser lights, and transform the quiet space into a “dance party/comedy deal.” In other words, a night of “things more directed right at being high, things that make it fun.” Norris is better positioned than many in Denver’s marijuana scene to open a cannabis café because he doesn’t have a liquor license — which would make Mutiny ineligible — and because cannabis customers won’t be Mutiny’s only source of income.


A "Tasting Notes for Cannabis" journal at Mutiny Information Cafe.
Alyson Martin / BuzzFeed News


“We’re going to have people come in and just smoke weed and hang out. They’re going to buy a book, they’re going to play pinball, they’re going to have some coffee, maybe get a comic or a record. So basically, it’s already the same thing I’ve got going, except we can smoke weed,” Norris said. “Caffeine and cannabis is the perfect combination. It inspires talk, it inspires creativity.”


Norris is in the minority with his overwhelmingly positive attitude. At a strategy meeting at a Starbucks, just before the last hearing on how the café rules would play out, a dozen or so proponents of Initiative 300, also known as the Social Pot Use Initiative or I-300, huddled to talk about how they could persuade the city to loosen regulations before the permit-application process opens. One of the rules they find most troubling would prevent cafés from selling both marijuana and alcohol. That would force bars, art galleries, concert halls, and other places with a liquor license to choose between booze and bud. Another controversial rule would require customers to sign a waiver before entering a cannabis café, something industry advocates say would drive away people worried about privacy issues. Businesses with more than three employees would find themselves bumping up against Colorado’s Clean Air Act, which bans indoor smoking and would limit them to vaping and edibles. And restrictions on where cafés can operate — they must be 1,000 feet from schools, child care centers, city pools and recreational facilities, and rehab centers, for instance — will push them to the edge of the sprawling city, discouraging business, some permit seekers said.
“This is what I would expect out of Jeff Sessions’ office, if he had to come up with a permitting program for social cannabis.”


Tim Morgen, who does community relations for the Denver-based marijuana company BGood, said the biggest problem is that nobody in the pot business will be able to make any money off of public consumption.


“The industry, as a whole, has nothing to win on this,” Morgen said, at a Starbucks with other opponents of the rules. “It’s not worth the fight.” Sitting nearby, Nick Armogida, a Denver resident and marketing consultant, said the regulations are far stricter than voters intended. “This is what I would expect out of Jeff Sessions’ office if he had to come up with a permitting program for social cannabis,” he said.


Emmett Reistroffer, campaign director for I-300, warned that Denver's cannabis café industry might fail before it ever gets off the ground if the pilot program sets such restrictive rules. "Too many of us have invested too much in this to let that happen," he said before opening the door, turning left, and walking a couple of blocks to make his case to local lawmakers.


Mutiny Information Cafe.
Dougal Brownlie for BuzzFeed News


Cannabis cafés are, in some ways, the final frontier in the mainstreaming of legalization, because they take marijuana out of people’s homes and into public life. But they are jarring symbols for leaders who might not be ready to accept just how drastically pot has changed American culture. Legalization has gained momentum, especially over the past decade, and today eight states and Washington, DC, permit some form of recreational cannabis use, while 29 states and DC permit medical marijuana. Nationally, though, policies around public consumption of cannabis have faced some tough opposition. Alaskan regulators, who were the first in the country to propose pot cafés, dropped their plan to open lounges after Donald Trump was elected president, figuring that such a visual display of marijuana use, which remains a federally prohibited drug, was a bad idea with a new, conservative administration occupying the White House.


“We don’t want to be waving a red flag in front of federal law enforcement, at least not now,” Alaska marijuana control board member Mark Springer said after the vote in February to shelve the program, the Juneau Empire reported. The state is due to reconsider the issue next month.


Nevada State Sen. Tick Segerblom (left) tours a grow operations for marijuana, April 2015.
David Zalubowski / AP


Democratic Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom pushed hard for cannabis cafés in his state, especially in Clark County, home to Las Vegas and its huge tourist industry. But the bill died before it could reach the governor’s desk, infuriating Segerblom.


“You can’t expect 40 million people to come here and buy marijuana, and then say, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s nowhere to use it.’ We’re a tourism capital. We have gambling. We have prostitution. We have everything you can imagine. So marijuana, to me, fits in perfectly,” Segerblom told BuzzFeed News.


In Colorado, recreational marijuana use has been legal since 2012, but in the absence of cafés or lounges to smoke, places like Denver’s bustling 16th Street Mall have become go-to spots for the marijuana crowd. The mall, a long corridor lined with restaurants, bars, and a couple of retail cannabis shops, is where you can follow your nose to find a good burger or an illegally lit bowl on the sidewalk. Until cafés open, marijuana consumption is legal in Denver only in private residences, and the people who light up at the mall might have landlords who forbid smoking or perhaps children or people who have asthma at home. Some live in public or federally subsidized housing, where marijuana is banned, and some are tourists whose hotels ban smoking cannabis in their rooms.


Because of the limitations on public consumption, marijuana advocates pushed for I-300 in November, and more than 53% of voters approved the initiative. For the next six months, the city lawmakers, industry reps, parents, residents, and business owners hammered out the rules that would govern the pilot cannabis cafés. The disagreement over those rules shows how difficult it is to take the industry mainstream.


On June 13, the city held its final public hearing on the issue. More than 100 people packed the room, and during the three-hour meeting the dividing line quickly became clear: Those who favored the rules as written also supported a conservative approach to marijuana or opposed it altogether; those who opposed the restrictions were, generally, individuals and businesses tied to the cannabis industry. The latter group included Reistroffer, the I-300 campaigner, who sounded frustrated as he addressed the gathering.


Alyson Martin / BuzzFeed News


“What we’re approving today is far from what the voters approved six months ago,” Reistroffer said. “I would say 99% of the businesses that expressed interest in these permits are no longer eligible or interested because of the burdens.”


How, he asked, could investors be expected to pay for the fancy ventilation systems and full-time security mandated for cannabis cafés? Why should the rules require these things if they just want to sell coffee to customers bringing in their own marijuana? The audience erupted into loud applause.


“It is far too restrictive, and I am eager to see who is going to be able to pull off a permit,” Reistroffer said.


Michael Heyward, a law clerk at Vicente Sederberg, a firm that represents cannabis business owners, agreed. One goal of the pilot program is to collect data, he said. “If our regulations are too tight,” he said, “then we’re not going to have data to know how to make better regulations going forward.”


Ashley Kilroy, who is the city's executive director of marijuana policy, led the meeting and said later that opponents of the rules had been given months to discuss their concerns with city officials. "None of this was a surprise, and they weren't pulled out of thin air,” she said of the restrictions. Kilroy added that the cafés were never intended as another revenue generator for marijuana businesses.


“This is just to provide a place for like-minded people to consume marijuana, and they're hoping it will also alleviate people consuming in public. It was never to be moneymaking,” she told BuzzFeed News.


Proponents of restrictions included Gertrude Grant, a member of the West Washington Park neighborhood board, who said residents’ rights were “under siege” in areas that abut commercial zones with a lot of cannabis activity. Grant was concerned that patio permits for some cafés could send pungent smoke wafting over residential neighborhoods, and she asked the city to consider requiring buffer zones between outdoor smoking areas and private homes. “Please don’t let Denver become even more of a skunk city,” she said, to applause from neighborhood advocates.


Smoke fills the air during the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver's downtown Civic Center Park.
Brennan Linsley / AP


Rachel O'Bryan, an attorney who has been a vocal opponent of cannabis cafés, said no industry should be allowed to craft its own regulations, and that goes for marijuana, too. O’Bryan heads Protect Denver’s Atmosphere, a coalition opposed to cafés for varying reasons. It includes representatives from several anti-tobacco organizations, the American Lung Association Colorado chapter, the parents’ group Smart Colorado, and the Colorado Restaurant Association, among others.

O'Bryan, the mother of a teenager, is concerned about how public consumption will play out, especially among minors.
“Please don’t let Denver become even more of a skunk city.”


Because of the proposed rules, Denver residents and tourists could see high yoga classes, high art-gallery viewings, or even cannabis-infused laundromats, she said.

O’Bryan argued that allowing public consumption in so many areas of everyday life could make young people think it’s okay to be high all the time. “300 goes beyond destigmatizing,” she said.


Regardless of the obstacles facing cannabis cafés, the push for them isn’t likely to let up given the pace of legalization in the United States. Last November alone, voters approved marijuana initiatives in eight out of nine states where the issue was on the ballot. In Nevada, where recreational cannabis sales begin in July, Segerblom isn’t giving up on his effort to open Vegas cafés. “I don’t think the issue, just because my bill died, is going to die,” he said. “We just need to encourage the local elected officials to have some balls and try to see if there’s a way to do it. You don’t have to license 100 places, but try one and just see how it works. But the fact is you’re just asking for trouble by not offering tourists a place to legally use it.”


The Bulldog Amsterdam, where marijuana is sold legally.
Paul Brown / Paul Brown / REX / Shutterstock


There’s a chance that Americans might never see a pot clubs like those in Amsterdam, where anyone can kick back with a book and light a pre-rolled joint. The most well-known one is probably the Bulldog Amsterdam, which opened in 1975, claims to be the first such café, and is now housed in a former police station. The presence of weed and other soft drugs like hallucinogenic mushrooms seem to coexist mostly without incident in Amsterdam, alongside some of the best museums in the world; tourists from all over get off the Leidseplein Square tram stop, find a place to buy some bud or hash, and smoke it before exploring the city. Cannabis cafés in the US are a new spin on this idea, but they’re hampered by various indoor air acts, which prohibit most indoor smoking. US smoking rules were a response to death and illness related to tobacco, not cannabis, but they’re adding to the obstacles facing prospective cannabis café operations.

Some cannabis fans have gone underground to get around the limitations on consumption, opening a handful of quasi-legal clubs across Colorado that are open to people willing to seek them out and pay admission; Puff, Pass & Paint classes, for example, can cost $40 and often sell out. The clubs have quietly existed under a loose interpretation of the law that that limits consumption to “private” spaces, but they’ve been subject to occasional police raids.


My 420 Tours could be shut out of a consumption permit due to Initiative 300's strict rules.
Rick Wilking / Reuters

Norris has occasionally used his space to test this concept with “Atomic Doobie Saturdays” at Mutiny, which involve rolling “the biggest, baddest joints” possible, sealing the doors, blacking out the windows, and gathering some good friends to smoke weed, listen to music, and enjoy one another’s company.


The proposed pot regulations work perfectly for Norris, who said it's as if they were "handcrafted" for him and Mutiny. But not so much for JJ Walker, co-owner of My 420 Tours, which attracts cannabis tourists seeking pot-friendly hotels and close-up looks at the marijuana industry. Walker said My 420 has catered to about 40,000 people since pot became legal in Colorado, and its offerings include cannabis cooking classes, visits to one of Denver's soccer field–sized marijuana gardens, and transport in buses that serve as “private” spaces so visitors can consume cannabis while on tours. For $69, you can even learn to roll sushi while also learning how to roll joints.


My 420 Tours seems ripe for one of the consumption permits in Denver, but its office might be too close to a school and park. At the public hearing, Walker said the café licenses should be decided on a case-by-case basis so that legitimate businesses don’t get shut out on technicalities, such as being a few feet short of the 1,000-foot buffer zone requirement. If the rules stay as they are, Walker warned, businesses will be forced to work around them, even if that means violating them.


"We're going to continue to run our business,” even if the rules prove too restrictive for My 420 to score a café license, Walker said.




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Denver finalizes first-in-nation marijuana social use rules, dropping some restrictions


City officials back off on waiver and ventilation plan requirements; permit applications will be available by the end of August

By Jon Murray,  The Denver Post
Published: Jun 30, 2017

Denver’s plan to allow people to use marijuana at some businesses drew a step closer to reality Friday, when the city’s top licensing official unveiled final rules for the pilot program that is set to launch in coming months.


Big questions remain: Will the newly adopted regulations for the first-in-the-nation “social use” program provide measured protection for patrons and neighbors of businesses that take part, as city officials say? Or are the rules for consumption areas so restrictive that few businesses and event organizers will want to bother?


The exuberance that greeted the Nov. 8 passage of Initiative 300 — in which 54 percent of city voters directed officials to create a four-year pilot of the social marijuana consumption program — is now tempered among its chief supporters. Their protest of several draft rules released on May 11 resulted in only a couple changes by city officials, including the nixing of a proposed requirement that patrons sign waivers upon entry to a business’ consumption area.


“I still have questions that I need answered. We still have concerns about many of the rules,” said I-300 campaign leader Emmett Reistroffer, from Denver Relief Consulting. “However, I recognize some improvements and I’m hopeful that there still are opportunities for businesses and nonprofits to allow cannabis consumption.”


The city will begin accepting applications by the end of August to permit social consumption areas on an annual basis or for events.


As required by the ballot measure, applicants must obtain backing from a registered neighborhood organization, a business improvement district’s board or other area group. That gives those groups the power to set operating conditions for the set-off, 21-and-over areas indoors or outdoors where customers could consume their own cannabis; indoor areas would have to follow the state’s smoking ban.
Yoga studios, coffee shops could take part


Interested businesses so far have included yoga studios, coffee shops with back-door patios, and bars or restaurants — though liquor license-holders must be willing to meet strict alcohol exclusion rules for regular or one-off events, since state liquor licensing rules bar the mixture of alcohol and marijuana.


Businesses that grow or sell marijuana in Denver won’t be eligible to apply for consumption area permits. Fees for successful permit applications will total $2,000.


Officials say they need to update licensing systems to process the applications, so that likely will push back the acceptance of requests from an original late-July target. Reistroffer called that delay a big disappointment because backers were hoping for summer events to be among the first to take advantage of the program.


“We have had a very aggressive timeline, and we’re right on time” in finalizing the rules, said Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the Department of Excise and Licenses, adding: “Building any structure from the ground up takes time.”


Owner Jim Norris works behind the coffee counter at Mutiny Information Cafe on December 2, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Along with co-owner Matt Megyesi, Norris intends to apply for a social marijuana use permit once the city’s Department of Excise and Licenses works out the particulars of how to implement Initiative 300.
(Denver Post file)


An advisory committee including both supporters and opponents of I-300 helped shape the regulations. The committee found broad consensus on some issues but disagreed on a handful of the most contentious.


“We are grateful that many of our concerns were heard,” said Rachel O’Bryan, who managed the anti-Initiative 300 campaign and took part in the committee, in a statement. “These final rules released by Denver Excise & Licenses fairly balance the desires of marijuana consumers and potential social consumption permit-seekers with the needs of all Denver citizens and visitors alike.”


But she cited worries about the message that would be sent to children who saw the consumption areas in businesses and about patrons’ use of edibles. “Denver citizens and visitors should be vigilant around the increased risks of marijuana-impaired driving,” O’Bryan said.


Initiative 300 provided some restrictions for businesses, and the city’s new regulations flesh those out while adding detailed rules, often drawing from the city’s prior regulations of the marijuana and liquor industries. They focus on operating restrictions and location restrictions — purely residential zoning districts, public property, and properties within 1,000 feet of places such as schools and child-care centers are off-limits — and provide numerous permit conditions, including public hearings for business applications.


What changed between the draft and final rules?


Kilroy did bow to the initiative backers’ concerns on some issues.


The licensing department won’t require patrons to sign waivers as they enter a consumption area. Instead, the businesses must post a visible notice advising patrons they are responsible for their own actions, must consume marijuana responsibly, should not drive impaired and cannot share marijuana in exchange for money.


The other major change drops a requirement for a business to create and follow a ventilation plan if it allows the use of vaping devices indoors. Kilroy said that ultimately was deemed unnecessary since city requirements currently provide adequate ventilation and applicants already need an odor-control plan.


I-300 supporters argued the change would cut down on public pot-smoking by providing places to use marijuana for tourists and for some residents who can’t smoke or vape at home, as well as people who want to do it socially.


Among I-300 backers’ most pressing concerns about the new rules, Reistroffer said, are proximity and location restrictions that might keep too many businesses from applying, advertising rules that bar promotion by permitted businesses and a prohibition of events that allow marijuana on public property.


“The city is largely overlooking what’s going on at Red Rocks,” he said, calling that a prime opportunity for occasional events with designated marijuana-consumption areas, since pot use frequently occurs unsanctioned among concert-goers. “I think they should work with us to create designated consumption areas. I think the people want that and think it makes sense.”


He said the city’s rules could persuade those interested in permits to revert to hosting private, invite-only events if that would be easier.


The new rules may not be the final word. State legislators could tweak laws on the public consumption issue — a similar effort failed in the recent session — and I-300 requires the Denver City Council to oversee an evaluation of the program before it expires at the end of 2020.


The council also could make changes to the voter-passed ordinance with a two-thirds majority. If the new regulations prove unworkable, Reistroffer said, I-300’s supporters could appeal to the council for help.


But in the meantime, he says, the campaign committee also recognizes what its members see as a big step forward.


By the fall, Reistroffer said, he hopes to pin down a venue, line up the required community support and host one of the first cannabis-friendly events under the program for I-300 campaign supporters.






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