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High Country: The best cannabis books to put in your quarantine queue

As we mentally prepare for a full month of COVID-19 quarantine ahead, cannabis and books are two go-to saviors (best enjoyed together) from social media screen time and the barrage of bad news. Whether you’re an industry insider reeling from conference cancellations, an entrepreneur looking to get into the business, or just want to learn more about legalization, I’ve curated a coronavirus cannabis reading list from my own library for these trying times. From two classics authored by pioneering activists to an Emily Post Institute-approved guide on marijuana manners, here are ten texts to take a casual cannabis consumer to an expert-level enthusiast. 

Note: Books are listed alphabetically, not ranked. Now stay home and stay high. 

Courtesy Harper Wave

‘Brave New Weed’

By Joe Dolce, 2016

Joe Dolce, former editor-in-chief of Details and Star, ventures into the “brave new world” of legal cannabis, traveling the globe to trace its history and plot its future. From Amsterdam and Israel to California and Colorado, Brave New Weed shares outlandish stories of murder trials where defendants claimed “insanity due to marijuana consumption” to groundbreaking success stories about the plant’s impressive medicinal benefits and all of the changing attitudes and cultural shifts in between. Since its debut, Dolce has also launched an eponymous podcast with new episodes produced bi-weekly. 

Courtesy Octopus Books

‘The Cannabis Dictionary’

By Alex Halperin, 2020

In this illustrated A-to-Z cannabis compendium, renowned cannabis journalist Alex Halperin guides you through every aspect of the magical marijuana plant. From facts and falsehoods to THC and CBD, hundreds of entries share a practical perspective behind the cannabis revolution and the culture that has unfolded around it. Also the founder and host of WeedWeek, Halperin’s handbook is intelligent, fresh and accessible for both new and experienced cannabis consumers alike.

Courtesy North Atlantic Books

‘The Cannabis Manifesto’

By Steve DeAngelo, 2015

Written by “the father of the legal cannabis industry” — according to the Hon. Willie L Brown, former Speaker of the California Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco — The Cannabis Manifestochronicles the unintended consequences of prohibition while imagining the future of cannabis as a consumer good. As founder and CEO of Harborside, one of the first six licensed dispensaries in the U.S. and now publicly traded, DeAngelo’s account is an essential primer into his life’s work as a warrior for reversing the War on Drugs and an entrepreneur who has shaped the legal cannabis landscape. Plus, he shares his unparalleled knowledge of the cannabis plant itself using science to shed light on its spiritual, biological, and mental effects and benefits.

Courtesy OSU Press

‘Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West’

By Nick Johnson, 2017

Former freelance journalist Nick Johnson traded news for history to uncover the controversial roots of the cannabis plant in the American West. Applying his environmental eye, Johnson looks at past growing practices in the region and how federal prohibition promoted unsustainable farming techniques, which have carried over into the legal era, making cannabis cultivation anything but green. Unregulated outdoor grows pollute ecosystems, high-powered indoor grows create an excessive carbon footprint, and an unprecedented water crisis is ahead. Grass Roots challenges the current cannabis industry to change its course. 

Courtesy Chronicle Books

‘GREEN: A Field Guide to Marijuana’

By Dan Michaels & Erik Christiansen, 2014

This eye-popping coffee-table textbook is required reading for those dedicated to studying cannabis strains and admiring their intricacies through hyper-detailed photography of individual buds. Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana explores the culture of this complex flower, while explaining the botany that makes each varietal unique through descriptions of lineage, flavor, and type of high.

Courtesy Ten Speed Press

‘Higher Etiquette’

By Lizzie Post, 2019

Amid the “post-prohibition” era, the stigma surrounding smoking pot is fading, and the conversation about how and why we get high is changing. In Higher Etiquette, Lizzie Post — great-great granddaughter of the Emily Post and current co-president of the institute bearing her name — celebrates cannabis culture’s long-established norms while exploring exactly what modern marijuana etiquette entails. This party-friendly guide asks and answers questions including: how to bring it to a dinner party or give it as a gift; why eating it is different from inhaling it; how to respectfully use it as a guest; how to be behave at a dispensary and more.

Courtesy Plume

‘How to Smoke Pot (Properly)’

By David Bienenstock, 2016

Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock charts a course from cannabis culture’s transformation from a once demonized to a now celebrated place in society. In How to Smoke Pot (Properly), the author instructs just that with pro-tips from his friends in “high places” paired with historical anecdotes and a lively Q&A section including common queries like: “How can I land a legal pot job”? and “Should I eat a weed cookie before boarding the plane?” This all-encompassing guide to the green life also maps out the marijuana plant’s natural lifecycle from farm to pipe, explores cannabis customs, culture and travel, and shares how to best utilize and appreciate the herbal remedy as a life-changing medicine and a useful industrial crop and renewable energy source.

Courtesy High Times

‘It’s NORML to Smoke Pot’

By Keith Stroup, 2013

Keith Strop has been fighting for marijuana legalization for four decades through NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), the pioneering nonprofit organization he founded in 1970. In the first-ever personal account of its tumultuous-turned-victorious history, It’s NORML to Smoke Pot will introduce you to the colorful cast of characters like Hunter S. Thompson and Willie Nelson who helped along the way and give you behind-the-scenes insight into how prohibition shaped political policy today. 

Courtesy Mariner Books

‘Reefer Madness’

By Eric Schlosser, 2003

This is a pre-legalization look at the illicit market in the U.S., which then was much larger than most realized, and how it affected Americans’ lives whether they smoked pot or not. Journalist and author Eric Schlosser takes his award-winning, exacting eye into the underbelly of capitalism and examines the far-reaching influence of marijuana, porn, and immigrants on society. Reefer Madness also draws compelling comparisons between underground and overground: the rise and fall of tycoons and gangsters; how new technology shaped the market, why government intervention reinvigorated illegal activity; and how big business learned — and profited.

Courtesy Quarto Publishing Group

‘The Ultimate Guide to CBD’

By Jamie Evans, 2020

In a sea of misinformation in the evolving CBD wellness space, it’s refreshing to read an in-depth companion compiled by a true expert. Jamie Evans not only has pioneered the intersection of wine, gourmet cuisine, and cannabis, but has also experienced the healing benefits of the plant firsthand. First breaking down the history and science of cannabinoids, The Ultimate Guide to CBD is the perfect introduction to live an all-encompassing CBD lifestyle at every age. It’s also packed with pro tips for self-care along with recipes for infused oils, refreshing drinks, and light bites thanks to her extensive network of industry leaders.

High Country: The coronavirus dispensary download (updated)

*Editor’s note: the key and listings were created for the March 26 print issue of the Aspen Times Weekly. All dispensaries have resumed in-store sales and operating hours have been kept updated. 

With cannabis classified as an “essential service” per Gov. Jared Polis, the Roaring Fork Valley’s many dispensary businesses are open and thriving.

According to the marijuana research platform Headset, basket sizes (aka individual purchases) in Colorado grew substantially on March 16 compared to the trailing four Mondays as consumers stocked up. In Denver, the average adult-use cannabis basket before taxes was $58 (compared to $45 on an average Monday). This sales growth was seen in other cities as well with the average basket in other cities also up 29%. Overall, cannabis sales from March 16 to March 22 are up 40% in Colorado compared to an average week. 

On March 22, as part of Polis’ latest executive order, the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division sent out an industry-wide bulletin requiring the implementation of additional social-distancing measures in dispensaries. Pitkin County’s latest public health order issued March 23 also deemed marijuana dispensaries (alongside liquor stores) as an “essential service.”

Under the adopted emergency rules, marijuana retailers are prohibited from having customers in-store, but may now conduct online and phone sales transactions (medical-only* dispensaries are still able to accommodate customers inside). Businesses were forced to coordinate new curbside pickup plans — required to be in action by March 24.

In a March 30 industry-wide bulletin from the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), Colorado’s licensed dispensaries were alerted that they were permitted to reopen sales floors for customers, effective immediately. The new set of regulations enable cannabis companies to continue to service customers at dispensaries as long as extreme social distancing and stringent cleaning standards are maintained. With curbside-only operations serving customers for the past week, local dispensaries are still encouraging the use of advance ordering to minimize traffic in-store. 

With the situation changing so rapidly, it’s recommended to call ahead to confirm special services and operating hours before venturing out to your dispensary of choice. And remember, Colorado has asked citizens to limit all shopping trips to once a week at most (encourage others using the hashtag #DoingMyPartCO).

Here is High Country’s go-to guide to how to shop for cannabis in Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, and Carbondale with updated coronavirus business hours and procedures*


Best Day Ever

Hours: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

520 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, 970-429-8637, bestdayevercannabis.com, @bestdayevercannabis


Hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

710 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, 970-925-6468, eufloracolorado.com, @eufloraco

Green Dragon

Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

409 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, 970-429-4365, greendragon.com, @greendragonco

The Green Joint

Hours: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

720 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, 970-710-2657, thegreenjoint.com, @the_green_joint

The Green Solution

Hours: 9 a.m. – 9:45 p.m.

106 S. Mill St., Aspen, 970-760-0284, tsgcolorado.com, @my.greensolution

Native Roots

Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

308 S. Hunter St., Aspen,

970-429-4443, nativerootsdispensary.com, @nativerootsdispo

Roots Rx

Hours: 9 a.m. – 9:45 p.m.

400 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, 970-900-9333, rootsrxstores.com, @rootsrxco

Silverpeak Aspen

Hours: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

520 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, 970-925-4372, silverpeakcannabis.com, @silverpeakcannabis


High Q

Hours: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Snowmass Mall, Suite Upper Level (stairs near Fuel Café), Snowmass Village, 844-420-DANK, highqrockies.com, @rockymountainhighq



Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Monday – Saturday), 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Sunday)

175 Midland Ave., Basalt, 970-718-8102, goodpeoplemj.com, @goodpeoplemj

Roots Rx

Hours: 9 a.m. – 7:45 p.m.

Roots Rx, 65 Southside Dr., Basalt, 970-539-9333, rootsrxstores.com, @rootsrxco

Aspen Roaring Fork Wellness*

Hours: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

24505 CO-82 #2A, Basalt, 970-279-5072, aspenroaringforkwellnessmedical.com, @hollandhillstreehouse


High Q

Hours: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Monday – Tuesday), 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Wednesday – Saturday), 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Sunday)

922 CO-133, Carbondale, 844-420-DANK, highqrockies.com, @rockymountainhighq

Rocky Mountain High

Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

615 Buggy Circle, Carbondale, 970-963-4669, rockymountainhigh.co, @rockymountainhigh.co

Doctors Garden

Hours: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.

580 Main St., Carbondale,970-963-9323, coloradoproductservices.com, @drsgardendispensary


Hours: 9 a.m. – 6:50 p.m.

Tumbleweed, 304 CO-133, Carbondale, 970-510-3065, tumbleweed420.com, @tumbleweedcarbondale

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

High Country: ‘Cannabis is food. Food is medicine.’

Well, here we are…

As I write this on Monday, March 16, no one knows what will unfold next in the three days before this issue of the Aspen Times Weekly hits newsstands. One thing I do know for sure, though? Cannabis can help us through such a monumental shift in our lives—whether it’s as a vice to escape the reality of it all, a way to calm anxiety and stress, or even as an immunity booster. And in the coming weeks, High Country will continue to highlight ways how to incorporate cannabis into your “new normal” routines.

Experimenting in the kitchen is also a perfect way to pass the now seemingly endless amount of time we have on our hands, which is why we’re welcoming Kitchen Toke magazine — the first internationally distributed food journal dedicated to cooking with cannabis for health and wellness — back to our pages this week. But before we get to the seasonal recipe from its just-released spring issue (using canned chickpeas from the pantry and a bottle of CBD oil on-hand, for the win), I tapped founder and cannabis health expert Joline Rivera to share her top tips on how to stay safe, healthy and sane during quarantine.

Katie Shapiro: How did you discover and why do you promote the “cannabis is food; food is medicine” mantra?

Joline Rivera: In 2014 I wasn’t feeling well. I couldn’t pinpoint one thing but I could see my body was telling me something was wrong. I gained weight, suffered headaches and experienced overall body aches. It wasn’t normal for someone to be training for a triathlon to experience this. I should have been feeling healthy and fit. I saw at least five doctors, all who told me the same thing: Get some rest. I was frustrated. Then I found my health doctor, whose focus was integrated medicine. He conducted an in-depth blood test that told me everything I needed to know. My markers for certain conditions are dictated by my genetics. I learned I had insulin resistance. All the carbs I was eating to help me get through intense triathlon training were working against me. My body was overflowing with sugar and insulin and my body couldn’t break it down. That’s when my doctor wrote me a food prescription. He told me I could avoid diabetes by the food I ate and, instead of looking at food as energy, to see it as medicine. So I did just that and also started adding cannabinoids. I dropped the weight I gained and manage my insulin resistance without medication, using only healthy foods and cannabinoids.

Shapiro: What is the best alternative to smoking cannabis during quarantine? Should everyone consider a “smoking quarantine” during this outbreak or just those with compromised health?

Rivera: Edibles are the best for sure. Inhaling smoke isn’t something our bodies are made for. But I also understand people smoke for different reasons. Asking people to stop smoking during one of the most stressful times our country has ever faced isn’t realistic. The anxiety is palpable. If possible, replace cigarettes with CBD pre-rolls, which would provide cannabinoids to your endocannabinoid system. This helps reduce inflammation and actually produces a physiological response that will quell your anxiety and stress. If you don’t smoke cigarettes and you’re a cannabis smoker, it might be better to use cannabis edibles. You’ll also save money making your own.

Shapiro: Can consuming cannabis make us more hopeful?

Rivera: Cannabis is well-known for producing physiological effects on the body. If dosed properly, it can provide relief and a calming effect. It’s important to start with small doses; if you take too much it can have the opposite effect by causing more anxiety.

Shapiro: How can a diet rich in cannabinoids help with immunity?

Rivera: Without a doubt, we need to take care of our health, remain calm and get some rest. Cannabis (plants) feeds our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our ECS regulates our organs (see graphic), maintaining homeostasis (stability) and health. So if COVID-19 attacks our lungs, it makes sense to add cannabinoids in our food. We can only try our best to make sure we stay healthy and calm. It seems simple to me. Cannabis is food. Food is medicine.


Recipe courtesy of Laurie Wolf


• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 4 teaspoons CBD/hemp oil

• 1 tablespoon honey

• 2 teaspoons curry powder

• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

• ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

• ½ teaspoon ground cloves

• 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

• ½ medium bell pepper, deseeded and diced

• ½ medium red onion, diced

• ½ cup parsley, leaves only, chopped


• In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Stir and allow the flavors to marry at room temperature for 30 minutes.


• Makes 4 to 6 servings.


• If you have leftovers, make hummus. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and slowly add olive oil while the motor is running. The amount depends on the quantity of the salad, so just add the oil slowly until you reach the desired consistency. Serve as crudités or with toasted pita bread.

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

High Country: The 2020 aprés ski guide for cannabis enthusiasts

Editor’s Note: This story was filed on March 9, before countywide closures due to the coronavirus were announced. Dispensaries were deemed “essential services” as of March 16 and remain open for business. All listings under “Alternative Aprés” are now closed with Thug Yoga offering free classes via Instagram Live (@thugyoga) on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Whether it’s officially welcomed or not, weed has always been a part of the après-ski scene at most resorts in the Rocky Mountains.

Despite the fact that there are nine dispensaries downtown, there are still no legal options to partake in public. So revelers have to get creative in how they consume cannabis at any of Aspen-Snowmass’ notorious afternoon parties. If dancing in ski boots isn’t for you, cannabis-friendly friends can turn to other in-town options for a more chill outing or DIY with a self-care session at home.

And the best part of a cannabis-infused après-ski? You’ll beat everyone to the lift the next morning without a hangover! Here are 12 high-minded ways to unwind after a day on the slopes.


A go-to shopping list for the most discreet, party-friendly provisions—all available at your local dispensary of choice (visit brand websites for stockists):

Courtesy 1906

1906 GO Drops

Pop a pack of 1906’s new pills (officially “Drops”) into your pocket for the quickest post-ski pick-me-up. Pressed with 5 milligrams of THC and 5 milligrams of CBD, the GO formula activates in 20 minutes and provides a powerful blend of cannabis and caffeine to promote energy so you can micro dose your way through blaring EDM. $25, 1906newhighs.com

PHYX cannabis-infused sparkling water
Courtesy of PHYX

Phyx by Spherex

Hydrate while getting high with Spherex’s signature cannabis-infused sparkling water. Each mild, micro-dosed serving contains 2.5 milligrams of THC in a patented formula developed to have zero trace of a weedy taste with the effects felt in 10 minutes. Plus, it literally looks, feels and tastes like a bottle of Voss, so no one will even notice you’re imbibing. $24 (4-pack), getmyphyx.com

Pax Era portable vaporizer
Courtesy Pax

Pax Era Pro

There’s no better discreet, portable vaporizer than the Pax Era, which just unveiled an upgraded Pro model. Also compatible with its patented pods, each containing 500 milligrams of pure cannabis oil, the Pax Era Pro offers more technology, predictability, control and potency than ever before. And the new PodID addition to the PAX app addresses the cannabis industry’s transparency issues with batch number matching, lab test results and terpene profiles so you know exactly what you’re inhaling. $69.99 (pods sold separately), pax.com

Courtesy Willie’s Reserve

Willie’s Reserve High Five Pack

This branded tin from Willie Nelson’s eponymous cannabis collection comes with five whole-flower, no-trim, half-gram joints—perfect for smoking on the go with enough to go around for your group of friends. $30, williesreserve.com


Get your creative juices flowing or rejuvenate sore muscles at any one of these lower-key activities—perfect for popping an edible or having a quick smoke session beforehand:

Masterpiece Mine

The Red Brick Center for the Arts’ signature sip and paint series (Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m.) includes expert instruction, light appetizers and wine as you mimic the masters on your own canvas. All the art supplies you’ll need are also provided. $45, Red Center for the Arts, redbrickaspen.com

Courtney Smith, founder of Thug Yoga
Courtesy Seth Beckton

Thug Yoga

An Aspen original founded and led by longtime local yogi Courtney Smith, Thug Yoga spins hip hop beats while incorporating hilarious pose names—all while sipping Aspen Brewing Co. beer in between. Through a partnership with Sopris Health & Wellness, students can also sample its CBD products before class starts (Mondays and Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.) with Smith offering a Soothing Salve mini neck massage during final savasana. $10 (drop-in), Aspen Shakti, thugyoga.com

Aspen Art Museum

Take a leisurely stroll through the Aspen Art Museum, which presents rotating, innovative exhibitions from the international contemporary art scene. Afterward, grab a green matcha latte or a glass of wine at the art museum’s rooftop SO Café (Tuesdays through Saturdays until 6 p.m.), where you can take in epic views of Aspen Mountain. Free, aspenartmuseum.org

Remède Spa at the St. Regis

Expanding upon its extensive CBD-infused spa menu offerings, book the new “Rocky Mountain Vibes” treatment—a recovery massage intended to stimulate circulation, ease muscle tension, and improve flexibility for avid alpine and uphill skiers. The 90-minute session combines stretching, acupressure and vibrating massage, utilizing the healing properties of CBD to relieve muscle aches, inflammation and joint pain while incorporating the vibration therapy of the Hyperice Hypervolt. $425, stregisaspen.com


Pick up your favorite indica strain (High Country’s pick is Aspen OG from Best Day Ever) before heading home for a high hot tub (or bath) soak followed by a solo self-care session in your coziest sweats:

K. Haring Glass

Up your coffee table glass game with Higher Standards’ recently launched K. Haring Collection, featuring the famed artist’s most iconic works. The lineup includes every essential for an elevated smoking experience with each custom-designed piece adorned with a playful pop art pattern. From $30, haringglass.com

Courtesy Beboe Therapies

Beboe Therapies High-Potency CBD Sheet Mask

Soothe wind and/or sun-burned skin with Beboe Therapies’ do-everything sheet mask. Each treatment is infused with 50 milligrams of CBD along with vitamin C, vitamin E, aloe, algae extract and more all-natural ingredients to help stressed skin recover in just 30 minutes. $18, beboetherapies.com

Mary’s Medicinals Muscle Freeze

This Icy Hot-like, light formula combines organic, hemp-sourced CBD with naturally cooling plant nutrients, which makes it work in an instant. Each 3.25 ounce bottle is packed with 50 milligrams of active cannabinoids, providing relief that lasts up to four hours per application to sore ski legs. $35, madebymarys.com

Daughter of the Land Cypress Cannabidiol Bath Soak

Born in Seattle, Daughter of the Land sources strictly organic and fair-trade, food-grade ingredients for its eco-conscious, CBD-based collection of bath and body products. Its best-selling Cypress blend was formulated for both the muscles and mind, with an earthy essence that will transport you back into the trees you skied all day. $28, daughteroftheland.com (also available locally at Local Coffee House)

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

From The French Laundry to cannabis, a master gardener moves on

The cannabis culinary movement is on a trajectory from marijuana farm-to-table, confirmed last year by milestones from the opening of a cannabis consumption-friendly restaurant in Los Angeles to Food & Wine magazine welcoming weed into the Grand Tasting tents at the Classic (and magazine pages). Signaling another significant step for the industry, Sonoma Hills Farm has appointed former French Laundry gardener Aaron Keefer as vice president of cultivation and production.

The craft cannabis farm and culinary garden has a storied Sonoma County history dating back to 1852 and was family-owned for nearly a century until it was acquired by Sam Magruder and other partners in 2017. They first tapped Keefer in 2018 to expand their own expertise in cannabis cultivation on the reborn Sonoma Hills Farm.

“We’ve always intended to be a beacon for the industry, and to lead in bringing craft cannabis to the farm-to-table lifestyle,” Sonoma Hills Farm partner Sam Magruder said in a statement. “Aaron has been a valued adviser and joins at the perfect time as we ready to build our cultivation facility and work toward our first harvest. Just as a highly tended garden produces the best crops, and a well-managed vineyard is crucial to crafting a fine wine, the best cannabis is reliant upon the people that nurture it from seed to shelf. There’s no better person to cultivate and produce this cannabis than Aaron.”

As the head culinary farmer for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group (TKRG), including overseeing the garden for The French Laundry, the inimitable 3-Michelin Star restaurant in Yountville, Keefer spent the past 10 years growing the most unusual and highest quality vegetables and an unparalleled professional level.

“Chef Keller’s relentless sourcing of the very best ingredients is where the magic begins,” Keefer told me via email. “Under his leadership, there is pressure to be the best and to exceed expectations — to never be satisfied. Accolades and successes are about what you did yesterday, but what are you doing today? I thrived on this and intend to apply that same attitude and ethic at Sonoma Hills Farm to source the best genetics and consistently create the best cannabis.”

Sonoma Hills Farm is situated on 40 acres of naturally farmed land in the Petaluma Gap, one of the world’s most renowned regions for wine terroir. Its cannabis cultivation operation will encompass a total of 1 acre split between a 28,560-square-foot outdoor cannabis garden and a 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art closed environment agriculture (CEA) greenhouse. An attached 5,000 square-foot facility will house indoor cultivation, plant propagation and strain development.

While Keefer mastered gardening during his TKRG tenure, his green thumb developed as a young child growing up on his grandfather’s farm in upstate New York. He grew his first cannabis plant at age 15 and started working restaurant kitchens at age 17, later graduating from the Culinary Institute of America.

“I’ve never lost the love for the first plant I fell in love with. At French Laundry, I fell in love with all plants and the soil that gives them life,” Keefer shared. “After years in kitchens (he honed his skills under notable Bay Area Chefs Julian Serrano and Michael Chiarello and at Marin Country Club), a new law passed in California, and that led to a side hobby.”

He started growing top-shelf medical marijuana in California for respected dispensaries including Apothecarium, Grassroots, and Peace in Medicine (now SPARC). And for the past two years, Keefer’s own garden has been licensed for the cannabis manufacturing space. He says he viewed his time at TKRG as a stepping stone for an official leap into the cannabis industry, though he rarely talked about it, he admits, due to the stigma.

“Craft cannabis cultivation has long been on my radar as a dream job, and with the plant becoming mainstream and more accepted, I know the time is right,” Keefer said. “We have an incredible opportunity here to showcase how cannabis can be incorporated into a traditional farm, so it’s equally important to create synergies. Our goal is to show the cannabis community, farm community, and culinary community — as well as the broader public — how this all can and should come together. And to cultivate the most sustainable, artisanal cannabis in California.”

In addition to cannabis, Sonoma Hills Farm will maintain a culinary garden and fruit orchard along with a host of cattle, chickens, pigs and owls. The team will mark the groundbreaking on the multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility this summer with Keefer’s first harvest planned for late 2020 and making its way onto licensed California dispensary shelves in 2021.

“Done right, cannabis cultivation is a true connoisseurship not seen in many businesses other than wine, whiskey, mescal and cigars. You can taste and smell the nuances,” Keefer added. “The shift is happening.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

High Country: From office burnout to mountains and motherhood, Two Cranes takes plant-based wellness beyond self-care

Throughout Asian culture, the crane is a symbol of longevity, happiness and good fortune. And when two of the birds are seen flying together, the meaning intensifies to combine love, cleanliness and purity.

Twin sisters Susun Chung and Hanna Yi, born in Colorado to Korean immigrant parents, have taken this mythical metaphor to heart in their venture as co-founders of Two Cranes Botanicals. The Denver- and Seattle-based CBD wellness company’s initial lineup includes organically sourced, full-spectrum Attune tinctures and an adaptogenic Super Drinking Chocolate.

But with CBD upstarts launching seemingly every day, it’s their brand ethos, commitment to quality, and holistic lifestyle approach that makes Two Cranes Botanicals stand out among an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Beyond personally helping cultivate their CBD from a partner hemp farm in the Rocky Mountains and bringing their products online and in-store to carefully curated stockists (88% of which are women-owned) in California, Colorado and Washington, Chung and Yi have taken their debut a step further by hosting pop-ups and special soirées in-person with retailers from Rag & Bone to Sweaty Betty, at events from Winter X Games to Seattle Veg Fest, and in studios from O2 Aspen to Equinox.

As Two Cranes Botanicals nears its first anniversary in business, Chung and Yi are prepping for their biggest endeavor yet: a full weekend of wellness at the off-grid Red Mountain Alpine Lodge in central Colorado’s San Juan Mountains formally dubbed “The Bliss Point Retreat.” The sisters, both 500-hour certified yoga and Lagree Method instructors, will be joined by professional ski-mountaineer and AIARE-certified backcountry guide Madeline Dunn and professional big-mountain skier Cynthia Johnson to host three days of mountain-minded programming from April 10 to 12.

Designed for 24 women participants (ideally aged 25 to 45), the all-inclusive adventure ($1,299) includes: lodging, a private chef serving organic and locally sourced meals, CBD-infused food and drinks, in-depth workshops focused on education and practice with meditation, yoga, breathwork and how to effectively use CBD in your own wellness routine. An avalanche course certification is offered as an add-on for those interested in participating in backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. All participants will also receive custom swag bags from sponsors including Topo Designs, Stanley, Ortovox, Vitacoco, GT’s Living Foods, JUS Aspen and more.

This immersive approach is at the core of Two Cranes Botanicals, taking the notion of CBD for self-care to the next level as an all-encompassing tool to create a balanced life. A product of the personal office burnout Chung experienced climbing the corporate ladder at two Fortune 100 tech companies and a long stretch at a Lehman Brothers asset firm, Yi joined her sister in building Two Cranes Botanicals from a shared journey in search of their true best selves.

I recently had the chance to take a few turns with Chung on Aspen Mountain (and with Yi via email), where in between runs we talked about how skiing, yoga and family fuel their entrepreneurial spirit.

Katie Shapiro: How did you discover CBD initially?

Susun Chung: During my finance career, I started searching for more balance in my lifestyle and I found yoga. But as much as that helped to improve my overall health and lifestyle, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder onset by excessive inflammation and extreme exhaustion. My daily routine then was so extremely stressful, I was advised to leave my job and take a break, which just seemed impossible. I made some major changes, starting with relocating back to Denver (from San Francisco), where I knew I needed to be closer to my roots…the mountains and natural elements…to fully heal my body and mind. I addressed my gut health, drastically changed my diet to help reduce inflammation, and thankfully, discovered CBD.

Hanna Yi: After noticing the benefit my sister had with CBD, I really wanted to learn more. Susun introduced me to CBD about a year after my second child was born. I believe that to survive and thrive after the amount of change your mind, body and spirit goes through with pregnancy and motherhood is nothing less than a miracle. You can never fully predict where you’ll be mentally or physically in the healing process, or how long that it might take to rebound. I suffered a hip dysfunction in both of my pregnancies and birthed naturally. Although I didn’t fall into postpartum depression, the blues were constantly knocking on my door and my anxiety grew, so CBD helped manage my new life as a mom of two.

Shapiro: What is your overall perspective of the CBD industry in 2020?

Chung: It’s becoming more commoditized and will continue to grow exponentially. So many people are jumping into the space, and with regulations looming from the FDA, we know there will be a big shift. As a result, hopefully it will bring more transparency and protection for businesses and consumers. As individuals are becoming more curious and knowledgeable about CBD, the intention and dedication to the highest quality and standards of our products stands out.

Yi: We prioritize holistic wellness and like to think we set a very high bar. Through our community events and partnerships, we are on the ground meeting our customers face-to-face. We also are planning to launch a line of signature skincare products later this year that will include CBD blended with the Asian botanicals, remedies, and rituals we grew up with.

Shapiro: How did growing up in Colorado influence your vision and mission?

Chung: Our father immigrated here to pursue a degree in chemical engineering and fell in love with the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We grew up trekking around national parks, taking in the wilderness as a family. Much of our childhood was dedicated to discovering new areas to fish, hunt and forage mushrooms together. He was always motivated to find ways to explore the outdoors and take risks in life and in business. As the first person in his family to move to America, he felt pressure to succeed and wanted to make his own father, a successful entrepreneur in Korea, very proud.

Yi: While working a full-time job as an engineer, our dad started a second business harvesting and distributing velvet elk antlers to be used for medicinal purposes. In the Asian culture, and like CBD, they’re known to improve the health of your immune system, counter the effects of stress, and promote rapid recovery from illness. We remember frequent visits to elk farms and looking back, we appreciate the process from ranch to sale. These real-life, firsthand lessons have certainly had an impact on how we created and choose to operate Two Cranes Botanicals.

Shapiro: How has your family supported and inspired this endeavor?

Chung: Although we are a self-funded business, our family supports our entrepreneurial journey completely. They were apprehensive about CBD at first due to the lack of understanding, but have come to believe in the power of hemp and what we are putting out in the world. Our father and brother studied chemistry and in my brother’s case, continues to work in the science and medical fields. They’re our unofficial R&D team and two of our biggest supporters. Our mother has also been an entrepreneur in the past with her own boutique and has even helped us to package and ship our products.

Yi: And a meaningful side note: we actually found out after we launched our company that our grandfather had originally owned a rice wine (makkoli) distillery business in Korea, called Two Cranes (Korean translation ee-hahk). So, of course, we felt like this was a blessing of our past and our future.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

Basalt police seek help identifying man who broke into pot shop

Basalt police are seeking help identifying a man who broke into the Roots Rx marijuana shop Tuesday night.

Police believe the suspect hid outside the business in the Southside neighborhood until employees closed and departed, according to Sgt. Aaron Munch. The shop closed at 8 p.m. The burglary occurred at about 8:30 p.m. He was able to gain access in a way police didn’t want to discuss.

“The alarms went off,” Munch said. “By watching surveillance video, he just got scared and took off.”

The man unlocked a deadbolt on the front door and ran off without taking any product or cash. Munch said Roots Rx had complied with state law and kept all products locked.

The pot shot’s alarm company got an instant notification that the on-premise alarm was triggered and called police. Two officers from Basalt and a Pitkin County deputy sheriff arrived on the scene shortly and checked the store for an intruder.

Munch said the cameras captured images of a clean-cut man approximately 30 years of age. While the images are in black and white, he was wearing a green jacket and black pants with a Sorrell-type pair of boots.

Store employees didn’t recognize the man as a regular customer. Munch said if anyone has information about the suspect, they are urged to call Basalt Police Department at 970-927-4316.


High Country: Roadside CDOT Censorship

Earlier this month, The Aspen Times’ Jason Auslander reported on Pitkin County officials’ concern about the 10-plus Dalwhinnie Colorado Cannabis signs dotting Highway 82. County Manager Jon Peacock formalized the government’s worries in a letter to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on Dec. 18. In it, he wrote that the county is “trying to discourage use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs among our youth and youth who are visiting” and argued “this appears to be a partnership that was rolled out hastily and as a result will vex local communities (I’m sure we’re not the only one complaining).”

As it turns out, Pitkin County is the only one in the state complaining, according to CDOT Northwest region communications manager Elise Thatcher.

“This is the first time a county has complained about the program,” Thatcher shared with me.

And for what it’s worth, I doubt many backseat passengers who fall into the “youth” category are paying more attention to the “Colorado Cannabis” fine print on the signage than what’s streaming on the screens of their handheld devices. I personally noticed the signs in September and promptly sent an email to Dalwhinnie, excited to learn about a new, presumably local cannabis company in our city, which to my longtime local knowledge, was the first to take up real estate along Aspen’s only state thoroughfare (a fact also confirmed by Thatcher).

Curious about what specific complaints county officials have received pertaining to the signs, I inquired with Peacock, to which he replied, “Many of the complaints have been informal and directly to board (of county commissioners) members, so we do not have an exact count. However, this has been an issue board members have been hearing about for several months, and complaints continue to roll in.”

For Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper, the subject matter is less of an issue than the size and frequency of the actual signage and the fact that Dalwhinnie hasn’t personally cleaned up its section of Highway 82 since the campaign began.

“The signs do not appear to be in compliance with CDOT’s rules and regulations for signage along state highways,” Clapper told me during a phone interview. “We never saw anybody out there putting up these new signs, they just suddenly appeared.”

Clapper added: “We only received a few (complaints) and it was a while ago … not significant numbers. The main thing is that when you drive the highway you can’t help but notice (the signs). They are just too big and in your face. The board is concerned as a whole as to if they are legal and are they (Dalwhinnie) going to clean up the highway?”

Thatcher confirmed the signs do follow program requirements. And it’s not Dalwhinnie’s responsibility to clean the road as a sign sponsor, which were bought under the Clean Colorado program — not the better-known Adopt a Highway. As such, when businesses enlist in the Clean Colorado sponsorship program, they pay a fee to cover the cost of a cleanup crew for their designated stretch of highway. It’s an increasingly popular marketing workaround for the cannabis industry, which faces a multitude of restrictions when it comes to advertising on TV, radio, billboards and social media.

Peacock says Pitkin County is still awaiting a formal response from CDOT as to how the program is being implemented and overseen.

“We have seen no evidence of cleanups. We want to know how many times sections of Highway 82 with these signs have actually been cleaned by the company receiving (Dalwhinnie’s) advertising revenues,” Peacock added. “It appears there was more responsiveness to The Aspen Times than the county. The board has requested that we pursue further scrutiny of the program.”

Commissioner Clapper agreed: “The responses that Jason reported in the newspaper are of concern to us as far as public safety. We are not letting it go at this point until we have answers to our questions.”

According to a Feb. 14 news story in the Denver Post, “Cannabis companies are the leading sponsors of Colorado highways, accounting for cleanup on two-thirds of the roads maintained by Clean Colorado — a program the industry has leveraged as a loophole in the state’s strict limits on marijuana advertising.” Currently, 50 cannabis-related businesses (including dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers and edible producers) sponsor highway miles throughout the state, accounting for 48% (versus the 66% reported in The Denver Post, clarified by Thatcher) of all sponsored roadways part of the Clean Colorado program.

In addition to cultivating the cannabis industry’s support for its Clean Colorado initiative, CDOT is also dedicated to impaired driving awareness. The state agency, which manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges in Colorado, recently wrapped a Valentine’s Day “Nip It In The Bud” promotion in partnership with Lightshade dispensaries across metro Denver to give customers cannabis-themed bouquets adorned with safety messages and cards with reminders of driving laws.

The holiday effort is part of CDOT’s ongoing “Cannabis Conversation” campaign, a two-year initiative that researched cannabis driving behaviors and perspectives from more than 18,000 Coloradans. CDOT results found that dispensaries and budtenders are among the most trusted messengers when it comes to information about cannabis safety, laws and regulations.

Dalwhinnie embarked on the Clean Colorado campaign as a prelude to the grand opening of its flagship location, which will be downtown Aspen’s ninth cannabis dispensary when it opens this spring (the final step is getting approval from the Historic Preservation Commission for its nearly-finished home on the corner of Mill and Main Street).

With its cultivation operation more than three hours away in Ridgway, Dalwhinnie thought a Clean Colorado campaign was the best possible way to participate without having any staff yet on the ground in Aspen.

“Because cannabis is so regulated, I think we’re just getting extra scrutiny on top of it,” said Dalwhinnie Group chief strategy and brand officer Jenny Diggles, who recently relocated from Portland, Oregon, to Aspen proper full time. “It’s a shame to get caught in the crosshairs of this confusion between CDOT and the city, but here we are. We really were trying to do something good and support the community before we could even open officially. We were very thoughtful about where we wanted to place our brand and look at Aspen as our home. We want the community to see us as a company that cares about their community.”

Don’t worry, Dalwhinnie, there are a lot of locals that appreciate your support of keeping Highway 82 clean are ready to welcome your store with open arms.

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

Colorado marijuana sales hit record $1.75 billion in 2019

Last year was the most lucrative 12 months for cannabis sales in Colorado since the state’s voters legalized recreational marijuana.

Medical and recreational cannabis sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019, up 13% from 2018, according to data from the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. Marijuana tax collections also hit an all-time high, at more than $302 million in 2019.

December closed out the year with strong sales totaling more than $144 million, up 6.7% compared to the previous year. But that wasn’t the biggest month of 2019; instead, August topped the calendar year with $173 million in sales.

All told, Colorado marijuana sales now have hit $7.79 billion since recreational sales began in 2014.

Read the full story about Colorado marijuana sales from The Denver Post.

Former Aspen businessman found guilty on marijuana trafficking charges, faces 32 years in prison

A former Aspen businessman faces up to 32 years in prison after he was found guilty Friday of six felonies in connection with a marijuana trafficking organization that duped investors and shipped pot out of Colorado.

Scott Pack, 41, was convicted by an Arapahoe County jury of two counts under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act — pattern of racketeering and conspiracy; a first-class drug felony; and conspiracy to cultivate marijuana, according to a news release from the 18th Judicial District. He was also found guilty of two counts of securities fraud.

Pack, who now lives in California, was indicted in June 2017 along with 19 others after an investigation that started in August 2016. At that time law enforcement found an illegal marijuana operation at a site in Elizabeth, which is southeast of Denver.

Investigators discovered 845 marijuana plants weighing 2,535 pounds worth more than $5 million.

“Coloradans did not pass Amendment 64 to become the Wild West of Weed. Despite the perception that marijuana is completely legal, it is not,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in the news release. “Colorado created a regulatory framework that we defend by aggressively prosecuting those, including the rich, who choose greed over our laws.”

Pack was at the top of the drug enterprise, according to the news release, and played a pivotal role, taking the proceeds of black market marijuana as well as soliciting investors to back the enterprise through fraudulent statements and empty promises. None of the pot was sold legally in Colorado.

That was the beginning of an investigation that uncovered a major drug trafficking organization that was involved in illegally cultivating, processing and distributing marijuana and marijuana products to at least five states, according to the release.

“This defendant thought he could avoid prosecution by having subordinates do all the dirty work. He thought he left no trail.  He told them, ‘If anything happens to you, I have the money to hire the attorneys. So none of this can touch me,’” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Darcy Kofol, who tried the case with Senior Deputy District Attorney Laura Wilson. “He was wrong. I am grateful to the jurors for seeing the truth and holding him accountable.”

The drug felony carries a mandatory prison term of 8-32 years in prison. Other counts have presumptive ranges but prison time is not mandatory and sentences are at the discretion of the judge, officials said in the release.

Pack’s sentencing is set for April 6 at 8:30 a.m.