Tag Archives: Denver

420 bringing massive marijuana party to Denver for nation’s largest public light up

420 means big money: $1.1 billion in pot sales expected

Author: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY

Published: 2:01 PM EDT

DENVER — Marijuana stores across the country are expected to sell more than $1 billion worth of cannabis as pot enthusiasts celebrate the annual “420” holiday by lighting up in public across America.

April 20 has long been a day filled with civil disobedience by marijuana users, who gather in public to light up at 4:20 p.m. The phrase “420” is a code for marijuana users, who work it into dating profiles or post it on signs to show their shared interest.

While it used to be a celebration held with a certain level of furtiveness, the rapidly expanding legalization of cannabis means more and more Americans no longer face significant, if any, punishment for smoking pot.

More: Pot lore: The true story of 420, a marijuana tradition, told by the stoners who invented it

“It’s holiday season for cannabis retailers right now,” said Ryan Smith, the CEO of cannabis sales platform LeafLink. “Last year was the biggest day ever. This year will be the biggest day ever. And next year will be even bigger than this year.”

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Denver for what’s considered the world’s largest 420 celebration, filling hotel rooms and packing restaurants during what would otherwise be a quiet time of the year. In advance of the actual event, dozens of companies are offering tours and arranging visits to commercial growing operations, aimed at tourists who fly in to partake in state-legal weed.

Denver’s Mile High 420 Festival this year features performances by Lil Wayne and Lil Jon, along with dozens of food trucks.

“To us, this is a cultural celebration for a year in a life of cannabis,” said Kyle Speidell, the CEO of The Green Solution, a chain of 16 marijuana stores in Colorado. “It gives everybody the opportunity to unify at a time when we’re really ostracized as an industry.”

Speidell’s stores are sponsoring a separate cannabis festival in Denver over the 420 holiday. Called 420 on the Block, it’s a three-day music-centered festival featuring Action Bronson and Matisyahu that expects to draw up to 15,000 people.

Every year, April 20 is the single-biggest sales day, and the days leading up to it are a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Black Friday rolled into one. Since Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in January 2014, participation has risen nationally. Now, nine states and the District of Columbia permit recreational marijuana use, and 30 states permit some form of medical use.

LeafLink predicts retailers will sell about $1.17 billion worth of cannabis products for this year’s 420 celebrations, and sales are common. In Denver, Terrapin Care Station, for instance, is offering 1 gram joints for just $5— half off the usual price.

LeafLink’s analysis also shows a consistent shift away from loose “flower” marijuana and into branded products. When marijuana stores first opened, buyers flocked to purchase pieces of marijuana flowers, which they smoke. But there’s been a significant shift toward pre-packaged joints and, particularly, branded marijuana-infused foods like chocolate or candy.

A large reason for the shift toward products known as “edibles” has been driven by laws banning public marijuana consumption, although those are widely ignored during Denver’s 420 celebration at Civic Center Park, when the mass light up leaves a heavy cloud of pot smoke hanging over the crowd. Edibles are also far easier to travel with, especially for cannabis tourists willing to risk smuggling them back home.

At My 420 Tours in Denver, most slots for the company’s upcoming party bus trips are already sold out for the end of the week even through they’ve tripled the number of offerings, said company spokeswoman Cynthia Ord. Tour participants first visit a dispensary to buy marijuana, and then consume it on the bus before visiting grow houses.

“People are both wide-eyed and bleary-eyed at the same time,” she said with a laugh. “It can get pretty emotional for people.”

Ord said about 90% of the company’s customers are out-of-state tourists, largely from Texas and other southern states. The company also offers 420-friendly hotel rooms for people visiting during the celebration, but all 70 are sold out, she said. She said the company hasn’t seen much of a change since California began legal sales on Jan. 1.

“Business is as strong as ever,” Ord added.

The service Weedmaps, a Yelp for marijuana stores, sees its traffic triple on April 20 each year, with peak time coming from 8-10 a.m. as users “wake and bake,” according to the company. Search traffic normally peaks in the evening, she said.

The Colorado State Patrol is planning enhanced patrols around the 420 events; troopers have written more than 3,000 marijuana-related driving citations since 2014, the agency said.

Mason Tvert, who led Colorado’s legalization initiative, said marijuana consumers are no different than drinkers who can attend beer festivals and wine tastings: “Adults are able to go out and openly consume alcohol all the time, but 4/20 is the one day of the year that many feel comfortable being open about their cannabis use.”

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Rand Paul set to raise money from marijuana industry

By Sam Youngman

syoungman@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2015 Updated 2 hours ago

GOP 2016 Rand

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is looking for big green from the marijuana industry.

Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to attend a fundraising reception next week at the National Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Denver.

An invitation to the event says it is being hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association’s political action committee, and a spokeswoman for the group confirmed that Paul will be the only presidential candidate in attendance.

However, Paul campaign spokesman Sergio Gor said Friday that the campaign is hosting the event.

"It’s open to anyone willing to support Senator Rand Paul in Denver," Gor said. "Some of the attendees at NCIA agree with Senator Paul’s legislation of medicinal cannabis reform and hemp cultivation reform and we anticipate will join our event."

Paul has not called for the legalization of marijuana, but he has joined Democratic senators in proposing legislation that would end the threat of prosecution for patients who use medical marijuana, a move that won the acclaim of pro-marijuana groups.

Paul thinks the issue of marijuana legalization "is best left to the states," Gor said Friday. "He’s spoken multiple times that Washington should not get in the way of voters who have passed various types of legislation dealing with cannabis."

Paul has said little publicly about whether he has used marijuana, but he did tell WHAS-TV in Louisville that he "wasn’t a choir boy when I was in college."

"And that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid," Paul told the Louisville television station.

But the senator has stopped short of calling for full legalization, as has been done in Colorado, telling the Hoover Institution in 2013 that he isn’t "willing to go all the way to say it is a good idea."

"I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points," Paul said. "I think they lose their drive to show up for work."

The fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/06/26/3919180/rand-paul-set-to-raise-money-from.html#storylink=cpy

Old mining town turns to marijuana after prison, factory close

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WALSENBURG, Colo. – A developer’s plan to build hundreds of cannabis greenhouses could make this tiny southern Colorado town one of the nation’s largest producers of legal marijuana.

The town sold 330 acres of municipal land for more than $1 million to create a campus for growing, processing and distribution, with the marijuana to be trucked 160 miles north to consumers in metro Denver. Walsenburg is a former coal mining town that never recovered when the mines closed by the 1960s, and its population has dropped to fewer than 3,000 residents. In Huerfano County, which is home to Walsenburg, 20% of the population lives below poverty level.

Today, the town’s main street is filled with vacant buildings offered at cheap rent. Most people drive through the historic downtown without stopping, often headed west to Great Sand Dunes National Park or Wolf Creek Ski Area. The marijuana project envisions pumping $1 million monthly into the local economy, giving town officials funds for road and infrastructure repairs, and also offering as many as a 1,000 direct and related jobs.

"The only export we really had was smart kids. Now hopefully this will be able to retain those kids in this community," said Walsenburg Mayor James Eccher.

The Martra Development project proposes having about 500 people working on the site, with each greenhouse rented out separately. That will allow smaller growers to get started while giving them room to expand. Martra officials visited 17 counties in Colorado searching for the right combination of land, water and a business-friendly climate.

"There’s people who are saying, ‘hey, embrace this. And then there are CAVE people – citizens against virtually everything. You’re not going to satisfy everybody. What you have to do is try to do is at least not anger the majority," said county administrator John Galusha.

Today, most marijuana grown in Colorado is grown indoors in warehouses stuffed with high-powered lights to mimic the sun. Industry experts say warehouses in urban areas were simply the easiest place for growers to set up shop, especially for those accustomed to hiding their work.

Indoor marijuana cultivation uses so much energy that Boulder County, Colo., enacted a special fee to offset the power demands by growers running lights for 12 hours a day. With marijuana legal in Colorado, a growing number of developers are erecting special-purpose cannabis greenhouses in traditionally agricultural areas to take advantage of abundant natural sunlight and a long growing season.

USA TODAY

Power to the pot: Marijuana growers face electric fee

"A cannabis operator, who’s been operating up there (in Denver) with the boot on his neck, just choking to death on his overhead, looks at this model and says ‘when can I have it?" said Brian Trani, Martra’s CEO.

The answer, Trani says, is as soon as October. County officials say the project has been met with some skepticism by locals who say Walsenburg has had its hoped dashed before, including when a nearby privately-run prison and a manufactured-home factory closed.

Count Maria Cocchiarelli-Berger among the skeptics. The curator of the town’s contemporary art museum, she worries Walsenburg is pinning too many hopes on a single project. Still, she admits, the town needs to do something.

"I like to be optimistic, but having lived here for 10 years now, I’ve seen a number of ideas come through that were going to save us. We’ve pinned our hopes on these things … but lots of people just last six months or a year. I do hope it works, but until I see it working, I really am not sure that that’s going to be the key out of the mess we’re in."

A marijuana-growing supply store opened in downtown Walsenburg a few months ago, and co-founder Luara Tank says she’s struggling to keep lights, potting soil and other equipment in stock. On the store counter sits a dish of replacement springs for marijuana-trimming shears, and while the store has been welcomed, some customers still park around back or up the street, she said. Tank moved to Walsenburg to grow, and got tired of making the two-hour round-trip drive to buy supplies.

USA TODAY

Patchwork of pot rules hampers marijuana business expansion

"People were guerrilla-growing anyway," Tank said. "It’s pretty perfect here for growing. There’s no jobs here, so you have to make your own job."

Four states have legalized recreational marijuana, along with the District of Columbia, and 23 states and the District have legalized some form of medical marijuana. In many cases, officials levy taxes on the marijuana products to help move the marketplace from the black market to a legitimate business. Colorado reported collecting $10.6 million in legal marijuana taxes and fees in May, twice the amount it collected a year ago, with $91 million collected in the nearly-finished fiscal year.

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At least one owner of a Colorado medical marijuana business raided by federal agents last year has been arrested and another has been indicted.

Thumbnail image for kid in handcuffs.jpg

 

 

DENVER — At least one owner of a Colorado medical marijuana business raided by federal agents last year has been arrested and another has been indicted.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and Diplomatic Security Service carried out several arrests on Friday, said a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver. But prosecutors wouldn’t release their names or describe the nature of the case, saying that was part of a sealed indictment that could become public Monday.

Federal authorities in November raided more than a dozen sites, many of them in medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver and Boulder, confiscating piles of marijuana plants and cartons of cannabis-infused drinks and edibles. Although prosecutors still haven’t disclosed the reasons for them, the raids sent a strong message to Colorado’s marijuana industry in the weeks before the state legalized recreational sales of the drug.

The arrests included that of Denver attorney and dispensary owner David Furtado, who on Friday was seen in video taken by KUSA-TV being led away by agents with his arms behind his back. Neither Furtado nor his lawyer returned calls seeking comment.

An attorney for another targeted dispensary owner, Gerardo Uribe, said his client had been indicted but it wasn’t immediately clear if he was arrested.

Attorney Sean McAllister said he did not know what charges Uribe could face.

“My client continues to assert he conducted his business in a way that was consistent with Colorado marijuana laws,” McAllister said. “He intends to vigorously defend himself.”

Court filings related to the case of Hector Diaz, a Colombian man arrested on a weapons charge during the raids, describe both Uribe and Furtado as “targets in a long-term investigation into marijuana distribution, money laundering and other offenses.” Uribe is further described in the documents as “the head of a marijuana drug distribution organization.”

Diaz had been staying at Uribe’s home in an upscale Denver suburb when he was arrested. Prosecutors said Uribe’s father, Gerardo Uribe Sr., confronted agents at the door “holding a firearm he was slow to relinquish.”

Investigators who searched the younger Uribe’s email found a photo they said shows Diaz posing with two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns while wearing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency cap, according to the court filings. Diaz’s attorney has asked a judge to dismiss the case against him, saying among other arguments that prosecutors violated his Second Amendment rights.

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