Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 18, 20173min2570

With an eye on fulfilling its promise to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, Denver has released new environmental best practices for indoor cannabis cultivators.

Through a Denver Department of Environmental Health cannabis sustainability working group, the city released the environmental guide for energy and water use reduction, waste minimization and pest control for the metro Denver cannabis cultivation industry.

The guide offers a picture of the industry’s impact on the local environment and advice on reducing that impact.

“Commercial buildings represent 35 percent of citywide emissions, and as cannabis businesses occupy an increasing amount of commercial building space, the industry plays an important role in helping the community meet its emissions targets,” the guide notes.

Denver is currently home to more than 591 active cultivation licenses, operating out of 295 locations.

To reduce its environmental footprint, the guide makes recommendations including using carbon filtration rather than reverse osmosis for solid waste minimization, water use optimization and energy efficiency; selecting packaging that is made from recycled material and is recyclable and/or compostable; combining heat and power systems, which can reduce emissions by 25 to 45 percent and serve as reliable source of power during outages; and incorporating water recapture and reuse into existing cultivation processes among other best practices.

Denver’s climate plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, setting lofty goals like a move to all clean, renewable energy by 2030 and requiring new buildings follow “net-zero” standards.

The guide was released ahead of the Cannabis Sustainability Symposium held Tuesday and Wednesday this week in downtown Denver. The event provides education on tools, techniques and technologies for efficient and safe cannabis production.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 7, 20176min4970
Chuck Smith

Colorado was the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, and being the first in anything poses both significant challenges and unique opportunities.

Consider that in just three and a half years, Colorado’s cannabis industry has evolved from opening the doors to the first marijuana retail store to becoming the fastest-growing business sector in the state, creating thousands of jobs and generating more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue. And as a truly local industry with an economic impact of $2.4 billion, the money generated in Colorado stays in Colorado.

Members of the cannabis industry are also an integral part of the community. We are entrepreneurs and small-business owners who create jobs and pay taxes.  Our employees and co-workers include laboratory technicians, farmers and security guards. It is estimated that over 18,000 Coloradans are employed in the industry. We are your neighbors, the parents sitting next to you at PTA meetings, and volunteers at the town fundraiser. And we are proud that marijuana tax revenue has helped fund school drop-out and bullying prevention programs, substance abuse and mental health services, college scholarships, homelessness programs and local road improvements.

The rapid growth of the industry has not come without challenges. By partnering with elected officials and regulators, law enforcement, public health leaders, and others, the cannabis industry has worked hard to help shape Colorado’s comprehensive regulatory framework that protects public health and safety while fostering a positive business climate.  When unforeseen or unintended consequences of legalization have surfaced, we worked side-by-side with those same state and community leaders to find solutions. In fact, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman recently co-wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling Colorado’s system “a model for other states and nations.”

As business owners, parents, concerned citizens, and proud Coloradans, we take our responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public seriously. We vehemently oppose driving while under the influence of marijuana. But voicing concerns is not enough, which is why industry members are part the Colorado Task Force for Drunk and Impaired Driving and work with the Colorado Department of Transportation on its public education campaign warning of the dangers of impaired driving.

It is also why the marijuana industry has proactively launched public service campaigns on safe and responsible marijuana consumption, including advising consumers not to take marijuana across state lines.  And perhaps most critically, the industry has undertaken numerous steps to ensure children and teenagers don’t have access to legal marijuana. Retail shops enforce stringent ID policies, and the industry has educated adults on ways to keep marijuana in their homes locked away from kids.  The industry has also worked with state regulators and elected officials to ensure edibles have childproof packaging and do not include forms appealing to children, such as animals, people or fruit.

We are encouraged that youth marijuana use in the state has not increased and that the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health actually shows a 12 percent reduction.  And while we are also encouraged to see the number of drivers the Colorado State Patrol considered impaired by marijuana drop 21 percent in the first half of 2017 as compared to same time period the year before, we support the development of reliable detection technology and data collection to make our roads safer.

People may think they know Colorado’s cannabis industry. But too often, it is the stereotypes and one-dimensional portrayals of the industry that shape public perception. As business leaders who believe that a responsible cannabis industry is an integral part of Colorado’s community, we aim to change that perception through public education and fact-based discussions.


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 19, 20175min1954

Colorado has received more than $500 million in marijuana-related revenue since recreational cannabis sales began in 2014, according to a new report.

Compiled by the Denver-based marijuana policy firm VS Strategies, the report looked at state data, which was released on Wednesday.

Pro-marijuana advocates are expected to hold a news conference at noon on Wednesday, where they will point to the value of marijuana tax revenue in Colorado.

Among those who will attend the news conference is Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who has taken a lead role on cannabis policy in Colorado. Singer has a background in youth counseling, and has advocated for cannabis revenue to be used for counseling services.

Also expected to attend the news conference is Lauren Arnold, executive director of the Aurora-based Adoption Exchange, which was recently awarded funding from the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, which has been allocated more than $3 million in marijuana tax revenue.

Colorado has recently begun to expand its use of marijuana tax revenue, with an initiative led by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who opposed marijuana legalization, but who has cautiously acknowledged that the “experiment” appears to be working in Colorado.

Hickenlooper’s office made marijuana money for homeless and housing a priority. The money was at first not included in the annual $26.8 billion state budget, but lawmakers later amended it. The original proposal called for $16.3 million for housing and homeless services, but budget writers lowered that to $15.3 million.

At the news conference planned for Wednesday afternoon, marijuana advocates will present Singer with a jumbo check for a half-billion dollars.

“Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adult use has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue for Colorado,” said Mason Tvert, who co-directed the successful 2012 campaign to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. “Marijuana tax money has been used to improve a wide range of programs and services.

“It is funding everything from school construction to substance abuse treatment to fighting homelessness. While it might not fix every school or help every person who needs it, it is having a significant and positive impact on our community.

“We hope lawmakers will continue to distribute these funds responsibly and not lose sight of what voters intended when they opted to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.”

In response to the study, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, a national anti-marijuana legalization group, said the cannabis industry is trying to protect its own self interests.

“Like the tobacco industry before it, the Colorado marijuana lobby is touting marijuana as the panacea for every contemporary challenge Colorado faces,” said Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “The truth is, the health and safety costs caused by the commercialization of marijuana far outweigh any revenues collected.”

Sabet went on to point out that Colorado’s budget needs are far greater than marijuana tax revenue can provide, despite the fact that marijuana taxes helped to close a budget hole this year as lawmakers struggled to pass a balanced budget. He also suggested that legal marijuana created loopholes that allow for an underground market to still exist.

“It’s time for the marijuana industry to face the truth – they lied to voters and have failed to live up to their promises,” Sabet said. “Waving around an oversized novelty check makes pot lobbyists feel good, but it does not help the families and communities who have to deal with the costs of marijuana commercialization.”


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 7, 20174min2404
Mason Tvert (Photo courtesy of MPP)

Colorado marijuana legalization leader Mason Tvert is leaving his role with the Marijuana Policy Project on Friday to join the well-known Denver-based cannabis consulting firm VS Strategies.

Tvert spent the last five years with MPP following the success of Amendment 64 in 2012, when Colorado voters approved legal retail marijuana with 55 percent of the vote. Tvert was a co-author and lead proponent of the measure.

Tvert will join VS Strategies as vice president of public relations and communications. He served as the director of communications for MPP, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, which is working on pushing legalization on the national level.

In addition to Colorado, Tvert worked on successful legalization initiatives in Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Tvert also worked on a handful of legalization efforts in legislatures.

It was in Colorado where Tvert gained national notoriety, fearlessly organizing legalization efforts on the local and statewide levels. He appeared unafraid to take on high-profile legalization opponents, often appearing in spirited debates with marijuana critics, including former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican who is now the mayor of Colorado Springs.

Tvert also found himself challenging Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pushing back against Hickenlooper’s hesitations over supporting marijuana legalization. Tvert helped push the coordinated campaign message that marijuana is safer than alcohol, repeatedly pointing to Hickenlooper’s business roots as a brewery owner.

Tvert in 2005 co-founded Colorado-based Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER, which helped launch legalization ballot efforts in Colorado. What began as efforts on college campuses was soon taken to Denver, where the group pushed successful marijuana decriminalization initiatives.

It was during his time at SAFER that Tvert helped cultivate the “Marijuana is safer: so why are we driving people to drink?” message.

At VS Strategies, Tvert will lead a communications push around government relations and issue advocacy. The firm serves cannabis businesses, industry associations, ballot initiative campaigns, nonprofits, and others seeking to shape marijuana policy and opinion.

The lobbying and public affairs firm is affiliated with well-known Denver-based marijuana law firm Vicente Sederberg. Its consulting arm is directed by Steve Fox, along with Brian Vicente and Christian Sederberg, who all played leading roles in drafting Colorado’s historic Amendment 64. The principles also assisted in crafting rules and regulations that govern the burgeoning industry, which have become a national model.

“I am thrilled to be formally reuniting with Mason to continue our work to reshape the image of cannabis and advance marijuana policy reform,” Fox said. “To say that he is a cannabis communications expert is frankly understating his value.

“Whether he is educating the public about the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol, coordinating events to advance legislation, or managing communications during ballot initiative campaigns, he is relentlessly aggressive yet unfailingly professional. We are excited to be able to offer his talents to interested individuals, organizations, businesses, and associations.”


Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 9, 20174min5471

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday signed legislation that limits growing marijuana at home to 12 plants, a top agenda item for his administration this year.

The legislation was somewhat controversial, as a handful of lawmakers argued that it would negatively impact medical marijuana patients who have been granted the ability to grow more than 12 plants.

The bill was amended to allow medical cannabis patients and caregivers to cultivate up to 24 plants if they have a doctor’s recommendation, register with the state and have permission from their local jurisdiction.

But for the average recreational marijuana grower, the 12-plant limit will take effect in 2018.

“At a certain point we are no longer the Wild West,” Hickenlooper said at a bill signing ceremony at the Capitol. “I don’t think it’s a good thing for Colorado to have the loosest set of laws around part of the regulatory framework around marijuana.”

A first violation would be a petty offense subject to a $1,000 fine. Second or subsequent offenses would carry a misdemeanor penalty for an unregistered home-grow that is more than 12 plants up to 24. Second or subsequent offenses for more than 24 plants would carry a felony penalty.

Hickenlooper highlighted the issue as a priority agenda item because he has been afraid of inviting federal intervention. Black market growers have been using Colorado’s lenient marijuana laws to grow large amounts of plants and then illegally divert the product to other states.

Colorado law allows patients to grow up to 99 plants if their doctor determines that there is a medical necessity for more than six plants. A caregiver can grow medical marijuana for each of the patients they serve.

Hickenlooper also signed a separate bill that provides $6 million annually to local law enforcement agencies through grants to enforce the so-called “gray market.”

“These bills are a big step in eliminating the black market, tightening up our regulatory system to make sure that that kind of criminal behavior does not go forward,” the governor said.

There was a significant amount of compromise with the bill as it made its way through the legislative process. Lawmakers started by making any offense a felony, then lowered a first offense to a petty offense, and then reduced second or subsequent offenses from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Greg Duran, with the Cannabis Patients Alliance, said of the legislation, “We created something that is livable for everybody,” speaking on behalf of medical cannabis patients.

Colorado is more generous than other states that allow home grows. California, for example, limits home grows to six plants.

A Keating Research poll that was released during the legislative session found that there is broad support for limiting home grows to 12 plants. Colorado voters favor the 12-plant limit by 21 points, 57 percent to 36 percent, according to the survey.

“This is a kind of collaborative lawmaking that I’m proud of, that we expect from Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s the reason we’re able to respond effectively and efficiently.”


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinMay 12, 20178min84

The first of Denver’s marijuana social consumption permit applications are expected this summer, after proposed rules and regulations called for under Denver’s Initiative 300 are adopted. Ashley Kilroy, executive director of the city’s Department of Excise & Licenses, discussed the main provisions of the ordinance establishing the four-year pilot program and the proposed timeline for implementation at a recent City Council Special Issues Committee meeting.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMay 1, 20177min1080

Denver officials gave retail marijuana dispensaries the OK to operate for an extra three hours in the evening — a measure that would bring hours for city retail cannabis shop hours in line with neighboring communities. The City Council approved the bill 11-2 during a regular meeting April 24, which allows medical and/or recreational marijuana dispensaries to stay open until 10 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. The change is effective May 1.