Cannabis, family values not mutually exclusive


This is my one-year anniversary writing this column, and I think I’ve just gotten the best news ever. You’ve probably heard about the Colorado Symphony’s announcement that it will hold three private, adultonly, BYOW (“bring your own weed”) fundraising concerts this summer. How could you not have? It’s been all over national television, NPR stations, Reuters and the Washington Post. All the headline clichés have been used already: Wolfgang and Weed; Orchestra Hits ‘High’ Note.

It’s a brilliant marketing coup for the symphony, which is seriously in need of new markets, followers and supporters, while the concerts are certainly indicative of the growing acceptance of cannabis in Colorado.

The series, “Classically Cannabis,” is being presented by the symphony and Edible Events Co., with shows scheduled for May 23, July 18 and August 15 at the Space Gallery in Denver, that will feature symphony ensembles, food and cannabis. All proceeds benefit the Colorado Symphony, and a final benefit is scheduled for September 13 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

This is exciting news on so many levels, and perhaps most importantly, yet another reminder that cannabis and family values are not incompatible terms. It’s fantastic that the symphony, which is in a serious struggle for funding, a home performance space and a new audience, is reaching out to a potentially lucrative support base.

“We’re not passing judgment on whether smoking marijuana is a good or bad thing,” symphony chief Jerome Kern told The Los Angeles Times. Good for them.

The symphony might be thinking forward, and tourists coming to Colorado are certainly coming to sample legal cannabis, but when I checked today, there is still no mention of cannabis on, the website of the Colorado Tourism office. This head-in-the-sand attitude amongst our tourist officials will change, too, though it may take some time.

But as more hotels, B&Bs and rentals opt for cannabis-friendly patrons who come to Colorado for the symphony, and the tourism folks finally notice that it’s not the Rainbow People who are in the stores, I think they’ll start coming around. The distinction I see is that cannabis isn’t bringing a new breed of tourist — though there will be those — but rather tourists who are thinking of coming here anyway and legal cannabis is the dealclincher. Once again, family values are not cannabis-exclusive, nor is cannabis use confined to single people. (This is something the prohibitionist groups completely forget.)

Throughout the year, I’ve met a lot of people in the industry — shop proprietors and employees, lawyers, ancillary business owners, lobbyists, bankers, real estate owners, tour guide operators — and I can’t tell you how impressed I have been with the degree of professionalism I find everywhere.

If there’s one thing that’s going to break down walls that have held strong for more than 40 years, it’s the kind of people, many of them young, who are trying to make it in an industry where an owner must pretty much open up her entire life history to the state government in order to operate. There is certainly opportunity to make a lot of money (and an equal chance to lose money, too), but only if you’re willing to open your checkbook, put up with endless regulation changes and have a mind for constant adaptation and innovation.

Interest in the cannabis business is at fever pitch. Would-be ganjapreneurs are looking for opportunities across the state. A local lawyer says that about a third of the people seeking his services are out-of-staters looking to get into the cannabis business, most wanting to make a lot of money as quickly as possible. That will happen to some, but if you aren’t the kind of person ready to pay federal income taxes in cash to a government that considers what you did to earn it a felony, you might want to look elsewhere for a pot of gold.

Sanjay Gupta’s two CNN “Weed” specials on medical cannabis certainly drew massive attention to our state over the last six months. The programs, both well-researched, documented and presented, alerted many Americans to what the heck was up with medical marijuana and cast a bright light on a high-CBD cannabis strain that eased symptoms of certain types of epilepsy in children. Today, people are relocating here to get the “Charlotte’s Web” strain.

But watching Gupta apologize for believing the government’s case for the War on Drugs was, along with the symphony’s announcement, a powerful moment for me and millions of others who have been watching the Drug War. Science, he found after carefully evaluating the government’s case, has had nothing to do with it, and he spoke for the millions of Americans, many who don’t use cannabis, who are voting for change in the madness that is the War on Drugs.

“I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a Schedule I substance because of sound scientific proof,” Gupta said. “Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have ‘no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.’ They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.”

Is it really any wonder millions of American voters have changed their minds about prohibition?