It’s been nearly a year since Colorado made recreational marijuana legal, and since then, pot has become a billion-dollar business in the state. And some growers have made it a mission to make it legitimate and mainstream.
“Change the face,” says pot entrepreneur Brooke Gehring. “But really, not to be the stereotype of what they think is stoner culture, but to realize they are true business people that are operating these companies.”
Gehring, smartly dressed in a business suit carrying an iPad and briefcase, runs two businesses, Patient’s Choice of Colorado and Live Green Cannabis, and they are about as transparent as they come.
Her marijuana is grown in a converted furniture warehouse in an industrial district in Denver. Tucked in with a Safeway distribution center and landscaping company, the growers here permeate the air. The smell of fresh marijuana is everywhere.
And you know you’ve gotten to Gehring’s grow house when you see a police station across the street.
“Where most people may have said, ‘No, we don’t want to grow marijuana around the police,’ for us it’s another security measure,” she says.
Gehring spent $3 million just to retrofit her warehouse.
There are about 5,000 plants in here — part of about 50,000 companywide. Gehring expects to reach $10 million in sales this year. So you can see why security is such a big deal. It should also be no surprise that this is a tightly regulated business.
“These are our RFID tags, and this essentially goes onto the plant once it goes into our tracking system. This is how the state monitors us to know our plant counts,” Gehring says.
Even the shake that falls on the floor gets scooped up, weighed and reported.
This is how Gehring wants it — she knows that tough regulations are the only way this industry will continue and even thrive. It’s one of the reasons why she has a key seat on a state advisory panel that’s helping write the regulations.
Headquartered at the Sky Hotel, November 14-16, 2014. Schedule to include sessions & entertainment at various venues around Aspen. Cannabis Grand Cru is a member’s only, private event.
The inaugural Cannabis Grand Cru is an upscale event that will appeal to cannabis enthusiasts worldwide with programming geared towards professionals, in and out of the Cannabis Industry. Cannabis Grand Cru’s intimate atmosphere will allow its guests to rub elbows with industry leaders and experts.
The weekend long event will host a series of panels, educational sessions, exhibitions and entertainment in a first-of-its-kind, sophisticated setting around cannabis culture and business.
Scheduled Guests to include:
• Mason Tvert (Director of Communication for the Marijuana Policy Project)
• Meg Collins (Cannabis Business Alliance Executive Director)
• Gerry Goldstein (former NACDL President (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers))
• Ryan Abernathy (Co-Founder of X-Tracted)
• Morgan Carr (Wellspring Collective Co-Founder, founding member of WSCC (Western States Compassionate Care))
• Jordan Lewis (Silverpeak Apothecary Proprietor)
• John Hunt (Grimey Gatsby & Cannabis Industry Maven)
• James Kennedy (Founder of Apothecanna)
• Jordan Psigoda (TerpX)
• Chef Chris Lanter (Executive Chef at Cache Cache Restaurant in Aspen, CO and pioneer in Cannabis
Check out the Official Schedule & Session Descriptions on our Website:
Guests will have an opportunity to socialize, engage with sponsor activations and enjoy entertainment from a stage built over the Sky Hotel pool. Highlights include the “Grand Cru Village”, an area exclusive to ticket holders that will host an intimate collection of Colorado’s best dispensaries & product manufacturers. Panel discussions and exhibitions to include: cooking demos, the future of cannabis in the United States, equipment and technological advances, cannabis safety & the future of edibles, cannabis law, regulation, politics & business.
The Sky Hotel is the place in Aspen to see and be “scene” Cannabis Grand Cru – Aspen, a cultural experience at 8000 feet Log onto www.cannabisgrandcru.com for member information/submission,
schedule/sponsor updates & ticket information.
DENVER – The Hancock administration has moved to limit extraction of marijuana concentrate (hash oil) to only water-based or food-based methods outside of a licensed business.
A proposed addition to the Denver Revised Municipal Code would prohibit the hazardous solvent-based extraction process by which individuals directly and indirectly involved are subjected to dangerous conditions. The proposal would maintain the option of making hash oil outside of a licensed facility using safer methods. Individuals also have the option of purchasing hash oil at a licensed medical or retail business.
“We are constantly tracking this evolving frontier, considering changes that will protect the health and safety of all our residents,” Ashley Kilroy said. “This is a thoughtful modification that will increase the level of safety in our neighborhoods.”
After considerable diligence, Denver safety officials have concluded that the solvent-based extraction method is too hazardous to allow outside of regulated facilities.
Not only does the solvent-based extraction process present dangerous conditions, but the storage of large amounts of the solvents used to extract hash oil has proven to be hazardous as well. Any type of ignition source or fire near stored butane can cause a significant explosion.
“An extremely dangerous “open blast” method has proliferated in recent months and public safety concerns require action now to control these extraction methods,” Denver Fire Chief Eric Tade said. “This code amendment will give explicit direction regarding the extraction of marijuana concentrate that will protect the public and also provide notice and guidance to citizens regarding safe and acceptable methods for marijuana extractions.”
The proposed penalty for a code violation would be criminal based on the serious threat to life and safety to those directly and indirectly involved in these dangerous extraction methods. Like all other criminal violations of the DRMC, penalties for this code violation include up to one year in jail and up to a $999 fine.
The proposed code change requires Denver City Council approval and will be presented for initial discussion at the Safety and Wellbeing Committee on Sept. 16. Public comment will be taken at the meeting.
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DENVER — The Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA) has launched its campaign to educate and advise novice consumers of marijuana edibles.
CBA’s postcard hand-outs will provide recommended THC amounts for novice, occasional and frequent consumers. The education campaign is in response to reports of individuals having unpleasant experiences after consuming too many milligrams of THC in edible products.
At a recent press event, Julie Berliner, Sweet Grass Kitchen, and Lindsay Jacobsen, Dixie Elixirs, spoke to CBA and the edibles industry’s commitment to consumer safety and education, particularly those consumers that may have never used cannabis before.
“We want first time consumers to have a safe and enjoyable experience with edibles and understand that consuming an edible product may take up to two hours before the person feels any effect from the product.” said Julie Berliner. “The industry’s message to consumers is to ‘Start Low. Go Slow.’”
Lindsay Jacobsen noted that the “Success of the edibles industry’s is dependent upon an educated consumer and we feel that it is important that we provide the retail shops with the information they need to be educated about the edible products they sell to consumers.”
CBA has printed 250,000 copies of the Edibles Education hand-out and are distributing the hand-outs to stores and dispensaries in Colorado free of charge.
As of Friday, anyone looking to get their hands on recreational pot and marijuana-infused edibles won’t even have to venture outside downtown Fort Collins.
Organic Alternatives, 346 E. Mountain Ave., will open its doors to retail sales Friday at 10 a.m., making it the first Fort Collins dispensary to venture into the growing market. The day will mark the culmination of years of campaigning for pro-pot regulation and public education efforts by the business’s owner, Steve Ackerman.
“We expect it to be popular. We’re not just inside the city limits of Fort Collins, but we’re in Old Town. We’re very central,” Ackerman said Tuesday.
The City of Fort Collins on Sept. 17, 2013 adopted a temporary ban on retail marijuana establishments within the city. While hundreds of retails shops have sprouted across Colorado since New Year’s Day – and only a few within Northern Colorado, primarily Garden City near Greeley – Fort Collins staffers took additional time to fine-tune a regulatory framework and conduct more public outreach.
That temporary ban on marijuana establishments lasted until March 31, 2014. Organic Alternatives jumped at the opportunity, and on Friday, Ackerman received the license from the city.
The caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar looked so innocent, like the Sky Bars I used to love as a child.
Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop.
What could go wrong with a bite or two?
Everything, as it turned out.
Not at first. For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.
But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.
I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.
I reckoned that the fact that I was not a regular marijuana smoker made me more vulnerable, and that I should have known better. But it turns out, five months in, that some kinks need to be ironed out with the intoxicating open bar at the Mile High Club.
Colorado raked in about $12.6 million the first three months after pot was legalized for adults 21 and over. Pot party planners are dreaming up classy events: the Colorado Symphony just had its first “Classically Cannabis” fund-raiser with joints and Debussy. But the state is also coming to grips with the darker side of unleashing a drug as potent as marijuana on a horde of tourists of all ages and tolerance levels seeking a mellow buzz.
In March, a 19-year-old Wyoming college student jumped off a Denver hotel balcony after eating a pot cookie with 65 milligrams of THC. In April, a Denver man ate pot-infused Karma Kandy and began talking like it was the end of the world, scaring his wife and three kids. Then he retrieved a handgun from a safe and killed his wife while she was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher.
As Jack Healy reported in The Times on Sunday, Colorado hospital officials “are treating growing numbers of children and adults sickened by potent doses of edible marijuana” and neighboring states are seeing more stoned drivers.
“We realized there was a problem because we’re watching everything with the urgency of the first people to regulate in this area,” said Andrew Freedman, the state’s director of marijuana coordination. “There are way too many stories of people not understanding how much they’re eating. With liquor, people understand what they’re getting themselves into. But that doesn’t exist right now for edibles for new users in the market. It would behoove the industry to create a more pleasant experience for people.
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The recreational marijuana business is in full bloom in Colorado. In just the first three months since marijuana was legalized, the state has raised $25 million from businesses for taxes, licenses, and fees, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Looking forward, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper predicts combined sales from recreational and medical cannabis (which has been legal for 14 years) will reach $1 billion by 2015, with $134 million going to the state. These numbers make clear that the nascent industry is not some Cheech and Chong joke; it’s a serious business with well-defined rules and laws.
To help startups and small businesses navigate regulatory issues, cannabis industry tech firm Surna held the first Colorado Cannabis Summit on Thursday in Denver, featuring panels on state and federal laws, taxes and banking, branding, and employee training and safety.
Meg Collins, the executive director of Colorado-based trade group Cannabis Business Alliance, says about 500 companies have launched around the recreational marijuana industry since the law changed in January, including growers, dispensaries, and tech firms providing seed-to-sale tracking software.
The summit ”gave people a good view of how committed this state is to regulating this industry, how committed the industry is to being regulated, and the partnership of the two to work together to create lasting businesses,” Collins, who moderated the taxes and regulations panel, tells Inc.
Below, read a Q&A with Collins about the evolution of the industry, the challenges of marijuana still being illegal at the federal level, and what companies are doing to be taken seriously.
Inc.: What do you need to do to get into the recreational marijuana business?
Meg Collins: At the statute level, you need to already be a medical marijuana licensee [until July 1, when that rule disappears] in order to apply for a recreational license. It’s a good idea to be well capitalized. You need to pass a background check, you have to be a two-year Colorado resident, you have to have a real estate location already–whether you want to be a cultivator, a store, or an edibles manufacturer–and you need to have the seed-to-sale tracking system. On the cultivation side, you need to have a system that tracks every plant from the moment it’s a clone and gets tagged. That tag number stays with the plant all the way through the process, whether it’s turned into a joint, made into oil, or used in the manufacture of an edible product. This makes sure there’s no diversion.
Pueblo County is evolving into the place to be for pot growers, a distinction that is creating concerns among some residents and at least one law enforcement official who says such operations are attractive to drug cartels.
The Pueblo County Commission, however, sees the grow operations as an impetus for revenue and jobs.
The commission has approved about 20 so far, Commissioner Sal Pace said, and more are coming.
“We put a cap on the number of retail stores in Pueblo – 10 – but no cap on the grows,” he said.
Road to Legalization
While county officials see grow operations as a potential economic driver, not everybody is buying in. Some residents in Pueblo West, a sprawling residential area of about 28,000 where many of the marijuana operations are just starting to fight back.
On May 20, the county commissioners approved five licenses, but not without opposition from Pueblo West residents.
The commissioners “are changing the fabric of our community without asking what we want,” said Paula McPheeters, who has lived there for about 17 years.
McPheeters is at the vanguard of a groundswell of opposition to the marijuana industry’s growing impact in her community. She presented a petition to the commissioners signed by about 40 Pueblo West residents against approval of any more pot businesses in their area during the May 20 meeting.
The commissioners approved all applications unanimously.
There is an emerging trend in the marijuana industry in Colorado.
An influx of women are running these businesses—whether it’s retail pot shops, manufacturing edible products infused with cannabis or working in testing labs.
At this week’s first-ever Colorado Cannabis Summit in Denver, the entire panel of local experts on safety and technology was made up of women.
“I like to call them the marijuana mavens,” said Brooke Gehring, a former mortgage banker who now owns four pot stores in Colorado.
“It blows my mind, the incredible women I’ve met in this industry,” said Genifer Murray, founder and CEO of CannLabs, a state-certified lab that tests the potency and safety of recreational pot products.
Murray said so many women have come into the industry that even though they often compete against each other, they’re starting a group called Women Grow to mentor the next generation of female cannabis entrepreneurs.
“My lab director’s a woman, the director of my micro department is a woman, I have a couple other women lab techs, and I was so excited when I looked through resumes and there were a lot of women!”
During just the first two months of 2014, the state of Colorado has pulled in more than $6 million in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana.
On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any resident of the state 21 years old and up can buy marijuana and marijuana derived products.
And business is booming.
Business at Medicine Man Denver, one the state’s largest marijuana dispensaries, has tripled since January, according to employee Elan Nelson.
“We have a serious case of plant overload right now,” Nelson said. “We’re actually expanding onto the other side of this building to an additional 20,000 square feet.”
Nelson said a lot of benefits have come from the legalization of marijuana in Colorado like tax revenues, job creation and insularly businesses.
But it is not a free-for-all. The state government has put strict rules into effect that go along with the growing and selling of marijuana. The law requires extensive tracking of each plant grown.
In Medicine Man Denver’s vegetative grow room, each plant is tagged and tracked by the state. Plants are even color coded to indicate whether it is to be used for recreational or medicinal purposes.
Taylor West with the National Cannabis Industry Association said marijuana shouldn’t be openly sold to just anyone.
“What we’re saying is that it is a product that can be and should be regulated and taxed in a way similar to how we handle alcohol,” West said.
To West, the legalization of marijuana makes sense.
“We’re talking billions and billions of dollars that are currently on an underground market with nobody checking IDs, nobody verifying the product purity, or that it’s free of contaminants,” West said.
In North Carolina, Ignacio Almazan, Raleigh chapter coordinator of N.C. Normal, said the Tar Heel State is missing out on $250 million in tax revenue a year.
“Just look at Colorado. They’re pulling in money left and right,” Almazan said.
Some North Carolina lawmakers believe the legalization of marijuana is too dangerous.
“Just because people are doing it and violating the law, doesn’t mean we should make something legal,” said Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
Moore believes marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to other addictions.