Ganja-preneurs create experiences that combine Colorado recreation and marijuana
The Summit Daily - 9/6/2016
When Joel Schneider first began doing business in Colorado, he wasn’t planning on entering the cannabis industry.
At the time, he was commuting back and forth from New York, managing several business ventures in Denver. Retail marijuana sales had recently been made legal in Colorado.
“I was living in a hotel, and I was blowing smoke — worried about getting in trouble — and realized that there was a disconnect,” he said. “You could purchase as much cannabis as you want, but there’s no place to enjoy it. I called my wife and said I have an idea for a new business.”
He and his wife, Lisa, launched their cannabis lodging business in April 2014 and, two years later, have four locations across the state. The group has Bud+Breakfast hotels in Silverthorne and Denver and ranch retreats in Colorado Springs and Grand County. All cater to folks wanting to make cannabis a part of their vacations while immersing themselves in mountain culture and enjoying the outdoors.
The Schneiders are among a small but dedicated group of ganja-preneurs looking to create an industry that is organic, high-end, customer-friendly and respectable in the same way other Colorado products, such as food and beer, have become.
“I see that there’s always going to be a need for canna-hospitality. There will be people traveling around who want to partake. But things could start changing. As other states open up, the tourism business will become diluted.”Joel Schneidercannabis lodging business owner
“We have the best agriculture in Colorado,” pointed out Philip Wolf, founder of Cultivating Spirits, a high-end cannabis event company based in Summit County. “That includes the farm-to-table movement, craft beer and why not pot tourism?”
A MAIN ATTRACTION
There are dozens of pot tourism companies in the state, most catering to younger crowds. Few offer high-end experiences or target an older crowd.
Schneider’s properties integrate luxury accommodations, outdoor activities — such as all-terrain vehicle riding, hiking, horseback riding and yoga at the ranches — and a general mountain getaway experience. And, lest anyone think guests are holed up in their rooms getting stoned, he makes it clear his properties promote the social aspect of marijuana. Smoking isn’t allowed in guest rooms — instead, guests are encouraged to smoke in community spaces and join daily events such as Wake and Bake Breakfast and 420 Happy Hour.
The appeal is broad, and guests come from all over the world, he said.
“We think of ourselves as a beautiful bar or smoking club that only offers top-line foods, beer and wine. This is not the stoner mentality with some music and an old couch to sit on. We want it to be classy and an amazing experience,” he said.
Cultivating Spirits offers a similar experience in the form of food, wine and cannabis tours, where gourmet food, a dispensary tour and wine tasting are all rolled into one educational evening. In Vail and Summit counties, the company offers cannabis parties, helping people integrate pot into a fancy dinner party, bachelorette weekend or even a wedding.
Wolf, the company’s founder, said people are surprised to find that cannabis events can be extremely social and sophisticated.
“The enlightened conversations, conscious consumption and attentive appreciation of what we put in our bodies is what these pairing dinners provide. It is not fast food sitting on our couch not remembering what happened five minutes ago,” he said.
PART OF THE WELLNESS INDUSTRY
Colorado is quickly becoming a destination for health and wellness, and Regina Wells, of Durango Artisanal Tours, thinks pot tourism can be part of that industry.
The company, which launched in 2015, offers tour guiding and cannabis concierge services. Some of its most popular tours include a walking tour of downtown Durango, visits to several dispensaries, shopping for local artisan goods and lunch in a mountain setting. One of its fastest-growing events is the wellness tour, which introduces smokers to the health benefits of cannabis, along with a massage and hot tub soak.
Wells’ interest in the industry came from personal experience. After a health scare in her 40s, she had to look for a less physical occupation and discovered pot tourism.
“After my cancer scare, I started taking an interest in learning about cannabis and health. I was spending long hours on the computer finding out everything I could about its therapeutic effects. It was an eye-opener just how many folks out there were helping themselves and their loved ones with this awesome plant,” she said. “Legalization happened at the same time, so it was a perfect time to jump on in.”
Durango Artisanal Tours attracts a number of unlikely canna-curious customers who are interested in learning about the medicinal side of pot. They include ex-military looking for relief from post-traumatic stress disorder, a woman dealing with grief after losing her college-aged son and even a couple who came out West to administer cannabis oil to their young child who suffered from seizures.
“We even had a former police officer who really needed a chill break,” Wells said. “He was convinced that marijuana wasn’t the evil drug he was led to believe and wanted to learn more about it for health reasons. We were not sure what to expect from our guests at the beginning of this venture, but we have had the good fortune to really help people in need.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Some of these ventures are so successful that companies such as Cultivating Spirits are poised to expand. The company is set to move into other states that legalize marijuana, but Wolf also points out this means the Colorado pot scene will have some healthy competition.
“Canada and Nevada are likely going to come on board next year,” he said. “We’ll be approaching $1 billion in tourism this year, but we need to take ownership of that now because that money isn’t always going to be there.”
He wants to see the marijuana industry recognized as a driver for Colorado tourism and become part of the state’s official tourism strategy. That legitimacy will help consumers trust companies such as his own and help Colorado stay competitive when other states legalize marijuana.
Schneider agreed, saying he hopes more policies and authorities will become more friendly to pot tourism.
“I see that there’s always going to be a need for canna-hospitality,” he said. “There will be people traveling around who want to partake. But things could start changing. As other states open up, the tourism business will become diluted.”
Denver's housing market is on fire.
Home prices have shot up by double-digits, inventory has fallen dramatically and multiple offers with bidding wars have become common.
One factor driving the demand: pot. The budding industry has impacted home prices since the state legalized marijuana in 2012.
"There has been a huge bump in real estate prices due to the legalization of marijuana," according to James Paine, managing partner at West Realty Advisors. "It's massively pushed up raw land and industry prices."
In March, Denver experienced the second-largest jump in annual home prices at 10%, just behind San Francisco, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
While the legalization of marijuana isn't the only thing driving the market, it has contributed to job growth in the area that has people flocking to Denver.
"The pot industry is creating jobs we didn't have before," said Kelly Moye, a Re/Max real estate agent who has worked in the Denver area for 24 years. "It's brand new, it adds a whole new factor to the area; you have real estate needs, housing needs, job needs."
The industry has created jobs beyond growers and dispensaries. Legal marijuana has also been a boon for existing businesses like security and HVAC companies who service the new "green" businesses. "Electricians have grown from mom and pops to big-time electric companies," said J.P. Speers, an agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.
Denver and its surrounding areas have also become a hot spot for the tech industry, adding to the job rush.
"It's fairly affordable, at least for now," said Moye. "The quality of life is great and employers are bringing their employees here."
But it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what enticed a person to move to the state. "A lot of them try to hide it," said Speers, who has worked with clients moving to the state because of legalization. "They don't necessarily say they are coming out to be part of the marijuana industry."
He said he helped find a rental unit for a mom coming from out of state to access medicinal marijuana for her daughter.
He's also seen an increase in lease-to-purchase or home rentals for tenants looking to start growing operations. "They are not necessarily legal operations either," he said.
While the new law might be creating more jobs and adding to the housing market's strength, it can sometimes work against sellers. "I had a lot of trouble selling one property because one of the neighbors was growing so much that buyers were concerned," said Speers.
First-time buyers and anyone looking for a home at the lower-end of the market face stiff competition. "There are a lot of first-time buyers," said Toby Waters, a real estate agent with Vision Denver Homes. "The rental market is insane, you can save money by buying a house."
Inventory has been tight in the city. In a normal market, Denver typically has around 24,000 listings, according to Moye. But right now, she said there are only around 4,000.
But there is the nagging question of just how long the real estate buzz will last.
Moye said the market has room to run for five to seven years barring any major economic disasters.
If more states legalize marijuana, that could also take away some of the state's luster. "We are going to continue to see an increase in population growth based on marijuana until other states start picking up recreational laws," said Speers.
-VIA CNN Money
DENVER — In LoDo, the Nativ Hotel is set to open. Thursday through Saturday there will be a series of functions to welcome the boutique hotel that allows marijuana use.
“We have something for everyone here at Nativ,” said owner Mike Alexander. “We have door bells on rooms, living plant walls on our outdoor patios where guests can consume marijuana on their stays, the Stereo Lounge in the basement, and original art work throughout the hotel. We even have a coffee bar specializing in CBD infused lattes.”
The rooms have all glass showers, the champagne suites have self-cleaning hot tubs and there is a lunch/happy hours lounge called Pourtions. The cannabis friendly hotel is the first of its kind in Denver. Some of the rooms even have the Monsieur Bartenders … meaning no more mini-bars. This pour system allows for customers to make up to 800 combinations without ever leaving their room.
Co-owner Richmond Meyer said, “We chose the name Nativ because we want everyone—no matter where they are from—to feel as if they are a native Coloradan while they are here. Our goal is to allow everyone to have an awesome time for however long they stay with us.”
The Nativ is staging three days of understanding between Thursday and Saturday. Grand Opening is Thursday night. Expect a big crowd as the new cannabis hotel is going to be the spot to be.
2016 RNC bid: Is legal marijuana Denver's elephant in the room?
Colorado continues riding high in the wake of marijuana legalization.
Image Credit: Marijuana
According to government data released this week, the city- and countywide murder rate has dropped 52.9% since recreational marijuana use was legalized in January. This is compared to the same period last year, a time frame encompassing Jan. 1 through April 30.
The shift accompanies a dip in violent crime overall, as sexual assault fell 13.6% and robbery and aggravated assault fell 4.8% and 3.7%, respectively.
The data pool's size is important to note, as eight murders compared to 17 in the same time frame last year may seem a blip on the radar. On the other hand, a full quarter of the year has passed. It may be too soon to definitively attribute these changes to marijuana legalization, but the possibility of a correlative pattern is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Background: All told, the first few months of legalization have been a boon to Colorado's economy.
In March 2014 alone, taxed and legal recreational marijuana sales generated nearly $19 million, up from $14 million in February. The first three months of the year have also earned the state $7.3 million in tax revenue — $12.6 million, if you include funds generated by medical marijuana. Legal cannabis sales are projected to reach up to $2.57 billion nationwide this year.
As a direct result, the Colorado state legislature has expressed plans to spend $33 million of these funds on school nurses and public education around marijuana. Ten percent to 15% is also expected to be distributed among the state's police departments, allegedly to be used on DUI enforcement. All this despite countless efforts on Mayor Michael Hancock's part to restrict the parameters around legalization:
Time will tell who gets the last laugh.
Also: As PolicyMic's Tom McKay points out, the fallout from legalization has been far from the crime-fuelled societal collapse critics warned about. Not only is violent crime down across the board statewide, the legislation's effects can be seen in a much wider array of spaces — one being the shifting priorities of Mexican drug cartels and the marijuana growers they employ.
"I wish Americans would stop with this legalization," Mexican grower Rodrigo Silla told the Washington Post last month. According to him, the financial burden placed on growers by the legal industry in the U.S. has made cultivating cannabis "not worth it anymore."
Consequently — and unfortunately — more growers are moving into the heroin industry to compensate for lost business.
But: Amid all these developments, the legalization wave shows few signs of dissipating. According to a High Times report, nine states are currently exploring legislative changes around marijuana use, yet another indication of the plant's expanding national prioritization.
A medical marijuana legalization bill was recently introduced in North Carolina. New York and Illinois have recently seen major steps forward toward permission for medical use. In California, law enforcement agencies may soon be required to return marijuana and related items seized from people whose cases were dismissed or acquitted.
And a recent Gallup poll indicates that 60% of Americans favor "eliminating [marijuana] prohibition," a number expected to reach 75% by 2023. Put simply, we may be nearing the end of a particularly grim chapter in American legal history.
The freeways surrounding MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. are about to be plastered with five billboards advocating the use of marijuana, and, in some cases, attacking football just miles from the game’s biggest stage.
Washington and Colorado are the only two states to have legalized marijuana, so theMarijuana Policy Project, an organization based in Washington D.C., decided this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos would be an opportune time to get their message out.
This isn’t the first time MPP has tried to steal the NFL’s stage. The group posted a billboard outside of Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in September telling the league to “Stop Driving Players to Drink,” and, as a football leaned against a foaming beer glass advised: “A safer choice is now legal here.”
Tvert is in New York City this week and says he is heading to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s office Wednesday to drop off a petition calling on the NFL to stop punishing players for using marijuana. He said that, as of Monday afternoon, the petition has over 12,000 signatures.
“It’s simply that people want the freedom to be stoned,” he said. “That’s all it is. And there’s a great deal of risk.”
“In my 37 years as a physician, the number of patients I’ve admitted to the hospital with complications from marijuana use is zero,” he said. “The number I’ve admitted due to alcohol use is profound.”
As far as using marijuana for medical reasons, last week Goodell didn’t waver from his message about use in the NFL.
“I’m not a medical expert,” he said. “We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”
Via USA Today
Central City [Colorado] is used to making history. The Rush to the Rockies got its start in May 1859, when John Gregory made the first lode discovery on Clear Creek. The town sprang up right above that find and grew so fast that it almost became the state capitol; today it's home to the historic Teller Opera House, Victorian buildings and casinos made possible by Colorado voters. And now Central City has made more history, as home to the first business granted a recreational marijuana retail sales license not just in Colorado, but the world.
Annie's, the recipient of the license, is housed in a historic building at 135 Nevada Street that dates back to 1864, was gutted by the fire of 1874, then was rebuilt. Over the years, it's been everything from a saloon to a garage to a tourist-trap jail exhibit. In 1992, it became the first place to be granted a casino license in Colorado: for Annie Oakley's Casino. (There's no evidence that the famous sharpshooter ever set foot in the structure, although her mentor, Buffalo Bill, did put on a show in the Teller Opera House -- so it's possible that Annie Oakley at least saw Central City.)
Like so many of the mom-and-pop casinos that opened at the start of gambling, Annie Oakley's closed when bigger casinos moved into town. The spot then reopened as Annie Oakley's Emporium, a convenience store. And it became a lot more convenient a few years ago, when it started stocking medical marijuana along with groceries and liquor.
This past April, the business was sold to Strainwise, which now has eight dispensaries in Colorado, with locations in Denver, Idaho Springs and Wheat Ridge as well as Annie's. The plan is for all eight to get retail licenses, so that they can sell recreational marijuana as well as medical marijuana starting January 1, explains Strainwises's Erin Phillips.One of the Denver dispensaries, the Grove, was the first to have a recreational-sales hearing in Denver, she notes. (Under Colorado rules, a local hearing comes after the state has signed off on a recreational sales license application -- for which only approved MMJ facilities can currently apply.) And yesterday, three of the five Strainwise centers in Denver were all approved for their recreational sales licenses.
But by then, the Annie's already had its license. Central City had nabbed another historic first by "processing it through a lot faster," says Phillips.
Then again, the Central City chief of police, who delivered that first recreational marijuana sales license, didn't have far to go: The police station shares a wall with Annie's.
"It's the same old bureaucratic piece of paper," Phillips says of this first license. "But we might put it in a fancy frame."
Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin made history last weekend by harvesting the nation's first commercial hemp crop in 56 years.
Hemp advocates said Loflin's harvest is a landmark event that could one day lead to larger-scale domestic farming of hemp for industrial uses such as food additives, cosmetics and building materials.
Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive substance that gets marijuana users high.
Loflin's 55-acre crop in southeastern Colorado's Baca County won't yield large amounts of hemp-seed oil and other by-products but is "quite significant symbolically," said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for advocacy group Vote Hemp.
The sale of hemp products in the U.S. reached an estimated $500 million last year, according to the Hemp Industries Association. Yet all of the hemp used for the products was imported because federal law prohibits its cultivation in the U.S. under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The last known commercial crop was harvested in Wisconsin in 1957.
Colorado's passage of Amendment 64 paved the way for legal cultivation of hemp, but Loflin chose to plant his crop earlier this year before implementation of the state's hemp-growing regulations, which are scheduled to take effect next year.
Loflin used social media to line up about 45 volunteers to hand-harvest his crop on Saturday and Sunday. Use of a mechanical combine, he said, would have harmed the plants' stalks, which can be used in construction materials and for animal bedding.
Loflin said some of his hemp seed will be pressed for oil and subsequently purchased by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a major user of hemp oil.
"We're very excited that Ryan has done this," said David Bronner, president of the company. "Ryan has kind of busted it open and taken this necessary step to make hemp a viable crop."
More than 1000 drug policy reformers came to Denver, Colorado to discuss an exit strategy from the war on drugs. The filming crew of the Drugreporter (http://drugreporter.net) produced a short video to feature the best moments of the conference.
Legal Weed Draws Tourists To Colorado, Washington, For 4/20 Marijuana Holiday
DENVER -- Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.
More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.
Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.
One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.
The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking – tobacco or reefer – is permitted on room patios.
Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.
Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado – meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries.
Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well.
"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."
The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities. The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend.
"4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."
The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago.
A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 .
After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday.
Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.
The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" – an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies.
"It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it."
Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup.
"It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."