Aspen recently hosted the first Cannabis Grand Cru (CGC) promoted as a premier conference representing the cannabis culture, lifestyle, business and community. Cannabis has a long history in and around Aspen. So it's only natural that Aspen would participate in the "green rush" and be the site of the first Cannabis Grand Cru. Plus, Aspen is generally considered one of the most progressive towns in Colorado and Pitkin County is known as the most liberal County in the State.
Cannabis Grand Cru ( click 4 schedule and speaker bios) took over the entire Sky Hotel in Aspen and created an intimate and private environment for leaders in the cannabis world to convene, network and share ideas about the future of the cannabis universe. The entire pool deck at Sky was converted into a two story cannabis village complete with sponsor booths, a dance floor and mood lighting. I was told that some attendees even partook in a wide variety of cannabis products.
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I learned that those in the industry consider monikers such as pot, weed, reefer, ganja, cheeba, chronic, herb, skunk and so on to be passe and almost derogatory. Even Marijuana is considered to be a "racist" term by some cannabis aficionados, due to the theory that use of the Spanish name was picked up because Latin folks were prime customers early in the 20th century. So Cannabis is the politically correct phraseology for those in the business.
The slate of meetings and speakers covered almost all aspects of the cannabis industry, both medical and recreational. Dispensary owners, growers, lawyers, marketers, scientists, law enforcement professionals, edible purveyors, political activists and enthusiasts all had a chance to address the conference. Aspen's own chef deluxe Chris Lanter from Cache Cache prepared a cannabis infused meal on the stage at Belly Up. Shhhhhh. Due to local arrangements...the meal could not be prepared with real cannabis or shared with the audience. Jordan Lewis founder and owner of Aspen's Silver Peak Apothecary and Morgan Carr of Wellspring Collective in Denver were on hand to provide insight into the day to day operations and the trials and tribulations of a thriving cannabis business. Both men were quite professional and well spoken and seem to be successful business owners. They each stressed the importance of working with State regulatory agencies and abiding by all the rules and regulations set forth by the Government. Interesting thoughts were shared by Mason Tvert a well known political force who helped draft and push through Amendment 64 which made recreational cannabis possible in Colorado. Pitkin County Sherrif Joe DiSalvo was on hand to share his methodology about law enforcement relating to marijuana. DiSalvo is known to swing a "velvet sword" relating to pot. He stressed that public safety was his "main concern". DiSalvo made it clear that he was not promoting the use of cannabis, but if you do ...do so responsibly. Former Sheriff Bob Braudis shared wild tales about the 70's the DEA, the FBI and the counter-culture movement in Aspen.
CGC was quite mellow. The crowd was a combination of visitors and locals. Specific rooms at The Sky Hotel were set aside for guests who wanted to indulge. An extremely wide variety of delivery methods were shared amongst festival guests. Bowls were passed, edibles consumed, vapor cigs puffed and dabs were dabbed, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits throughout. One incident put a small damper on the fun for a promotional group from L.A. Y5RX an event sponsor and maker of upscale and disposable cannabis vapor e-cig. style dispensers misunderstood the local law enforsement's decision that sharing in public was not permisable They allowed sampling of their product in a public area...and were warned by local police and a liquor board agent and then shut down by CGC officials. It was really "no big deal, a slap on the wrist" said a Y5RX staffer. Sources tell us that Y5RX's transgression almost shut down the entire event. Luckily that did not happen.
AspenSpin has been known to blow a doobie on the ganj-dola once in a while but we are complete outsiders to the cannabis business. Listed below are a few of our observations.
*The cannabis business is maturing quickly, but not as fast as the industry leaders want it to. There is still a stigma associated with the marijuana business. In many circles its not yet considered a "legitimate" business. Traditional banking and financing operations have yet to embrace the cannabis operators.
*Some of the counter-culture, life-style advocates still revert back to their black market roots. They want to be taken seriously, but they make it difficult for that to occur . Many early movers in the green rush claim to be interested in helping patients, providing compassionate care and embracing a natural solution for pain relief...yet they can't wait to get a lunch break so they can dab. (see dabbing). I personally lost a little respect for a few of the speakers who felt the need to share their own consumption habits as an indicator of their passion. Bragging that you just ate a 250 mg edible prior to your speaking session is not something to be proud of...in my opinion. Double digit dabs? Good for you, mon.
*Edibles have created their own set of problems. Marketing and packaging issues have arrisen because of the risk to children and unsuspecting adults. Dosing is crucial. It was made very clear that each person reacts differently to eidbles...and its best to start slow.
*Education is perhaps the most important factor moving forward for the green biz. All the most successful operators seem to be very strong on the education front. Law enforcement echoed the thought that the more information on products the better. Testing and labeling is crucial.
*When big money is involved...people get VERY, VERY serious. As the industry attempts to mature, I think we will see more professional people, with real life credentials getting involved with medical and recreational MJ. See Mr. Lewis and Mr. Carr for examples. I dont think bankers and venture capitalists can relate to a poncho wearing , dred-lock sporting bro-brah pretending to be a CEO. Financing and investment capital are vital for continued growth in the cannabis business.
*Cannabis, is a centuries old product, but its in its infancy as a legal, main stream business. It's exciting to witness the growth from the ground up here in Colorado. I get the impression that some of the original pioneers of cannabis are in over their heads when it comes to real business issues...like accounting, human resources and financing. Professionalism and outside experience will only help the industry to achieve smart growth.
*The States love the tax revenues generated by MJ. States are taking the business very seriously. Regulatory and compliance aspects of the biz and the taxation are being watched with eagle eyes.
*Some of the speakers made continued references to the "life-style" and the "culture". I agree it's important to embrace your core customers and those passionate about your products, but the true growth of the cannabis business will occur when it becomes a more mainstream product. Coca Cola is not catering only to hard core soda drinkers or Hersheys is not looking to connect with just those living the chocolate lifestyle. It was pointed out that there are over 700 dispensaries in Denver allegedly more than the number of McDonald's and Starbucks combined. At some point in the near future only the strong will survive...and those that offer the best products at the best prices with the best service will succeed.
In conclusion, Cannabis Grand Cru was informative, interesting, fun and entertaining. It was a well produced event. Both the panel discussions and off-stage networking sessions seemed to produce a wealth of ideas and knowledge sharing. Relationships within the industry were created. The growth of the cannabis business is inevitable as more and more States approve medical and recreational marijuana. We, here in Colorado are at ground zero. We have a chance to help establish the industry and prove that cannabis deserves to be taken seriously. The people who came to Aspen for Cannabis Grand Cru are leaders in their field. Cannabis is one of the world's oldest products, but the legalization of the business is just starting. It should be an interesting trip.
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