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High Country: The cannabis cuisine scene grows at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

The Grand Tasting Pavilion at the 38th Food & Wine Classic in Aspen held Sept. 10-12, 2021.
Rising Sun Photography/Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

After a historic 2019 debut at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, cannabis earned another seat at the culinary festival’s coveted table (Sept. 10-12, 2021).

The three-day outdoor event marked a triumphant return following the cancellation of the 2020 summer edition, rescheduled instead against an autumn alpine backdrop. Headliners from Martha Stewart, Guy Fieri and Andrew Zimmern to Bravo “Top Chefs” including Melissa King, Shota Nakajima and Kwame Onwauchi toasted to gathering again, leading a full slate of tastings and seminars. The sold-out crowd was smaller this year as organizers responded to the ongoing effects of the pandemic by hosting about half of its usual capacity (2,500 festivalgoers were required to confirm vaccination).

Since first embracing CBD-forward brands two years ago, the Meredith Corporation-owned media company has furthered its interest in cannabis as it relates to the food and wine worlds — in 2020, the magazine published its first in-depth report on the subject and has seen an increase in reader response for infused recipes and news items, according to Food & Wine editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis.

“We’ve worked to cover cannabis in a serious way for our readers — to inform and provide insight to help our audience better understand and navigate this emerging space. Consumer perceptions and consumption patterns have been changing in a major way,” shared Lewis. “Given the growing legalization and mainstreaming of cannabis culture in the country and Colorado’s presence as a leader in the industry, it’s only natural that you will continue to see CBD integrated in the magazine and at the Classic very organically.”

The three CBD companies who were invited to partake — CarryOn, Lord Jones and Red Belly Honey — were ultimately selected because they “are all high-end brands that support people’s wellness mission,” stated Food & Wine Classic in Aspen executive director Diella Allen. Beyond official participants, other cannabis brands hosted activations over the course of the weekend to capitalize on the captive audience of tastemakers in town.

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.


The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen returns to its regularly scheduled summer dates for next year (June 17-19, 2022). For more information about the festival, visit classic.foodandwine.com.

High Country: Red Belly Honey wowed the crowd at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Founder Joline Rivera with Red Belly Honey and a celebratory glass of rosé.
Courtesy Frank Lawlor

Two years ago, High Country formed an official content partnership with one of the pioneers of the cannabis cuisine scene, Kitchen Toke magazine. Not only was I inspired by its founder Joline Rivera, who had the foresight and courage to create a print publication about what was (and still is) a largely taboo subject when it debuted on newsstands in 2018, but also by what I was reading in Kitchen Toke’s pages each quarter.

When I entered the tents during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last Friday for the first Grand Tasting, I beelined it straight to the Red Belly Honey table where I met Rivera in person for the first time. Not only is she a woman in a male-dominated industry at the helm of the first-ever media company dedicated to teaching people about culinary cannabis for health and wellness, but also the founder of her own CBD-based product line — only one of three cannabis brands to be accepted into the mainstream event (more on that next week).

Launched in 2020 in partnership with PhytoPharma International, Red Belly Honey is the world’s only whole- plant hemp honey made by bees — in addition to collecting nectar from wildflowers and plants, they do the infusing, too, by dining on a ruby-red patented hemp nectar that utilizes full-spectrum, whole plant hemp. Seeing Rivera in action, alongside two “Chopped 420” cheftestants (Derek Simcik and Emily Oyer) she enlisted to assist her throughout the weekend, I exclaimed that it must have felt like a full-circle moment for her to be presenting Red Belly Honey at what is arguably the most prestigious stage for the culinary industry.

Team Red Belly Honey in the Grand Tasting Pavilion during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, (from left) Derek Simcik, Chef Emily Oyer and Joline Rivera.
Frank Lawlor

“It’s been very rewarding for both myself and the brand,” Rivera agreed. “As a person who’s been in food media for nearly 20 years, it’s pretty incredible to create my first CPG brand and have it recognized at this level. As with any startup, you make a lot of sacrifices … there are a lot of ups and downs. Being involved with and recognized by Food & Wine is something that validates all of our hard work — we know we’re on the right track.”

Rivera’s vision for her inaugural appearance in Aspen — one she’s been planning for the better part of the past year — included Red Belly Honey jars stacked high with custom floral arrangements featuring beautiful cannabis buds created by local Heather Listermann and Snap Pack swag.

Over the course of five Grand Tasting sessions, Simcik and Oyer served up two inventive dishes: venison lemongrass skewers with a Red Belly Honey nuoc cham emulsion and corvina ceviche topped with coconut Red Belly Honey snow.

“During the festival, we had hundreds of people seek us out after reading about us in The Aspen Times. I think over the next few weeks we’ll continue to see how effective the event was for our brand,” Rivera added. “And because Red Belly Honey is infused with CBD, we’re not able to promote our brand on social media (due to advertising restrictions around the plant), so this was an incredible opportunity for us to tell our story and see people’s reactions first hand. I loved seeing their faces light up — it’s so rewarding!”

As a toast to the Kitchen Toke team, and as we’ve done with every change of season since 2019, here is a Red Belly Honey recipe from the just-released fall issue for you to try at home. If you weren’t lucky enough to snag a Snap Pack sample during the Classic, you can order a box online ($19.95) or a full jar ($80) at redbellyhoney.com.

Autumn Joy Sweet Potato Toast

Kitchen Toke’s Autumn Joy Sweet Potato Toast.
Matt Armendariz


  • 4 slices sourdough bread or gluten-free option, grilled or toasted
  • ¼ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 Japanese sweet potato, roasted, peeled, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped radicchio
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • ¼ cup Red Belly Honey


  • Spread toasted or grilled bread with ricotta.
  • Top with sweet potato, radicchio, walnuts and drizzled Red Belly Honey.


  • Makes 4 servings.

Kitchen Toke’s fall issue cover. | Courtesy Kitchen Toke

Red Belly Honey is available online for $19.95 per five snap packs and $80 per jar — both shippable nationwide at redbellyhoney.com (@redbellyhoney).

Find the fall 2021 issue of Kitchen Toke magazine in select Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods and City Market locations and online at kitchentoke.com (@kitchentoke).

High Country: Talking food, wine and weed with Colorado’s highest podcast hosts

Co-hosts Chris Byard, right, and KIp Wilson half baked in the back of a party bus
Courtesy Stoned Appétit

“Stoned Appétit” is available for download now, with new episodes dropping on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week through December. Find “Stoned Appétit” socially @stoned_appetit and online at stoned-appetit.com.

There’s not a more perfect title for a podcast about food and weed than “Stoned Appétit.”

Co-hosted by friends Kip Wilson and Chris Byard, each episode is dedicated to the things they’re most passionate about: food, weed, booze and live music. Both Denverites who relocated to the Mile High City a decade ago from Mississippi and Alabama, respectively, they came together through their “close-knit jam band circle from a large swath of Southern folks who moved west.”

Wilson got his start in the world of podcasting through a side hustle as a sports blog contributor, ultimately launching his own show “Transplants & The Native” in 2018 and bringing Byard on board soon after when they rebranded as “Stoned Appétit.” Just dropping its third season in August, the podcast has gained a cult following for the duo’s hilarious banter and impressive guest list of local celebrity chefs (ChoLon’s chef and owner Lon Symensma), mainstream musicians (Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman), industry insiders (Veritas Fine Cannabis’ Mike Leibowitz) and hospitality heavyweights (Edible Beats’ Justin Cucci) while earning sponsorships from the likes of Live Nation Colorado, LivWell and Kyoto Botanicals.

In celebration of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this weekend, where CBD will be welcomed back into the Grand Tasting Pavilion (hey, it’s a start!), these best buds share their cannabis-infused musings about dream interviews, epic munchies and the social consumption conundrum.

KATIE SHAPIRO: Favorite interview so far?

KIP WILSON: I don’t know if I have a favorite … they’ve all been enlightening in different ways. But (interviewing) chef Kelly Whitaker back in 2019 in the basement of The Wolf’s Tailor, right as they were opening up in Denver. We were sitting on the stacks of wood he would be burning in his big ass oven. Being able to continue enjoying his restaurants and Kelly’s friendship over the years is pretty high up there.

CHRIS BYARD: That’s an incredibly tough question. I can’t truthfully pick one as we have met so many fascinating people who are extremely talented at what they do and insanely passionate about the community they serve. But, since we are on the topic of Aspen, a great interview that comes to mind is when we met general manager Kevin Lind and executive chef Richard Lee of EMP Winter House at the St. Regis. We interviewed them in a yurt and had discussed “burger integrity” during a debate of Shake Shack versus In-N-Out. They showed us a lot of love (in the form of black truffles) when we dined with them later that night! P.S. We were so high at that dinner … it was amazing!

KS: Are you high for every episode?

CB: Cannabis plays a large role in both my personal and group creative process. We also toss around

ideas and try to come up with new segments or questions for guests when we’re stoned. Shit, we conduct most of our interviews high. I’m not talking stoned out our minds, just the casual creative buzz.

KS: And who’s your dream guest?

KW: Guy Fieri. Hands down. Back in the day (I loved) getting high and watch him eat gluttonous, dank food around the country. He’s an idol … he dresses like a clown and I love him for it. Lean into the Godfather of Garlic … embrace him!

Wilson with a fresh pie at Redeemer Pizza in Denver.
Courtesy Stoned Appétit

KS: What are your local haunts for the best munchies?

KW: We have a lot of friends from back home in the South who call the Aspen area home, so we come to visit a few times a year. White House Tavern’s crispy chicken sandwich is the size of your f–king head. Zane’s Tavern has sturdy wings and casual eats without going deep in pocket. The last time (I was in town), 7908 was delicious and chef Byron Gomez has been slaying it recently, so I need to come back and see what he’s up to. But one of the best things about Aspen is hanging out around town with friends at spots like D’Angelico Guitars, Aspen Hatter and late nights at Fat City Gallery — shit like that is more fun than going to Matsuhisa … no offense.

CB: I first visited Aspen in 2010 to catch one of my favorite bands, Wilco, play Jazz Aspen Snowmass. But my first time really diving into the city happened a few years later when I returned as a volunteer for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. During a break, I remember stumbling across White House Tavern and popped in … what a great spot … I had the fish sandwich and loved every bite. I’ve had lunch there every visit since. Grateful Deli is also one of my favorite spots … solid subs, but I am a bigger fan of the panini sandwiches. And last, but not least, Zane’s Tavern … great place to grab beers and fried goods.

KS: Go-to Colorado cannabis products?

KW: I’m probably a plain Jane in this aspect, but I love my vape pens. You can hit ’em casually in a public space without a big stink, you can fly with them wherever you go (shhh) and they’re inconspicuous in everyday scenarios. After work, I love to throw a little flower into some glass and get high and watch sports or romcoms. But seeing as I’m usually on the go, I love the Seed & Smith Dart vape pen right now … that thing pops.

CB: I love the flower at Callie’s Cannabis Shoppe, Wyld edibles and the Seed & Smith Dart for vaping, too.

Byard and Wilson with episode #56 guest Bobby Stuckey, a master sommelier and restaurateur who got his start in Colorado at The Little Nell in 1995.
Courtesy Stoned Appétit

KS: How do you think the intersection of the cannabis and food scenes in Colorado has evolved since legalization?

KW: I feel like it’s been a mutual boom since recreational (cannabis became) legal. (Denver’s) not just a steak town anymore. We talk with guests who are natives and they say how downtown was relatively dead in the early 2000s after work. Now there are 150 happy hours! With social consumption laws being passed, we’re starting to realize it might change. I’d love to start seeing more spots in town that are combined with restaurants … chicken wings and dab rigs! Burgers and bongs! A Stoned Appétit Café?! Tourists come to Colorado and buy our weed and basically still have nowhere to puff (legally) right now. Like, why are we making it so difficult for people to smoke the product we as a state embrace and benefit from its tax dollars? I hope to see cannabis lounges regulated like bars eventually … but good things take time.

High Country: Session Goods redefines the ‘stoner lifestyle’ through modern cannabis design

The Session Goods One Hitter was released in July and is already sold out; the Stash Jar will launch online in September.
Courtesy Lori Lee/Session Goods

Earlier this year, Vox proclaimed “Stoners just don’t need this much stuff.” Published a day before 4/20, the unofficial national holiday for cannabis enthusiasts, the headline continued, “Marijuana-related products are proliferating and expensive. Do weed smokers even want all this?”

Why, yes we do, I’d argue. I could make my point all day, and one company I’d put at the top of my list to prove it is Session Goods. The San Francisco-based lifestyle brand is known for creating cannabis accessories with smartphone-like simplicity, made from sturdier materials and designed with a sleek yet sophisticated look — each piece dedicated to the ritual of the session.

Founded in 2017, Session Goods was the result of an actual smoke session. Four friends, who originally met through mutuals who were on a Tinder date (that went nowhere), found themselves centered around a bong, deep in conversation. All boasting impressive industrial tech, fashion and graphic design backgrounds, they pondered:

“Why hadn’t smoking accessories been given the same level of design attention as any other product? The attitudes and perceptions around smoking were undoubtedly shifting, but the products used to enjoy cannabis seemed deeply rooted in the counterculture of the past.”

Together the co-founders — Esther LeNoir Ramirez (CEO), Vinh Pho (COO), Sam Bertain (CCO) and Camden Foley (CPO) — saw an opportunity to embrace the changing cannabis culture and challenged themselves during marathon nights-and-weekends work sessions to develop the brand.

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

High Country: The best new CBD skincare products of 2021 (so far)

Courtesy Botanika Life
Vitamin C + Squalane + CBD Skin Elixir

As the summer season winds down, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to streamline your skincare routine to keep that sun-kissed glow and stay protected from the elements all year long.

I might be biased (and, yes, I test cannabis products as part of my job) but over the past few years, I’ve transitioned to an all-CBD-based face and body regimen (with the exception of Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 and EltaMD sunscreen). The result? My clearest and healthiest complexion to date.

With BDSA’s recent trend report forecasting the CBD beauty segment of the market to reach $720 million this year alone — a 60% increase over 2020 and representing just 10% of the total CBD market — the number of new brands and product launches to consider buying — often at a high price tag — is overwhelming.

Whether you are looking to make a complete switch to CBD or want to try just one step at a time, here are the nine best cannabis beauty launches of 2021 (so far) to help narrow your search — each tried-and-tested in the challenging and drying environment of the high alpine.

Botanika Life

Vitamin C + Squalane + CBD Skin Elixir

This antioxidant-rich formula combines three superstar ingredients — vitamin C, squalane and CBD — to create a natural skin brightener, which targets dark spots and reduces signs of aging. Best used after moisturizer and under makeup in your morning routine, Botanika Life’s newest serum is infused with 1,000 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD extract, which helps with hydration and restore natural radiance. And don’t forget to layer with sunscreen after you apply to improve sun protection. $95, botanikalife.com

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

High Country: High Q’s parent company debuts Swedish-inspired, handcrafted hash

Äkta Live Rosin Gummies come in seven flavors: guava, white peach, passion fruit, prickly pear, papaya, hibiscus and blueberry lemonade.
Courtesy Äkta

Hello Äkta!

Swedish for “authentic, genuine, real and true,” it’s the latest venture for locally based cannabis conglomerate Plum Companies.

Best known for its chain of High Q retail stores in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond — it currently operates four dispensaries in Snowmass Village, Carbondale, Silt and Parachute — Plum Companies recently released its first line of cannabis edibles and concentrates.

For founder and CEO Renée Grossman, creating a new brand was the natural next step to honor the purest form of the cannabis plant for Plum Companies, which grows its own flower under the umbrella Hava Gardens — the largest living soil cultivation facility in the state, located just outside of Grand Junction in De Beque.

“Technology has enabled some companies to take shortcuts and use inferior-quality inputs in their products — then gloss over it with unsubstantiated claims of quality,” shared Grossman during an interview last month. “True to our name, we wanted to offer consumers an authentic, genuine product. Organically cultivated cannabis will always produce a more natural, pleasant and balanced high without harsh side effects. Products made from cannabis grown with synthetic nutrients and chemical pesticides can often create intense highs that cause headaches and hangovers. At Hava Gardens, we produce sun-kissed cannabis using a living soil method, which means it’s always free from pesticides or chemicals.”

Äkta’s array of strain-specific offerings debuted in December with Live Rosin Cartridges ($60 per 500 milligrams). They already received first-place (Best Solventless Vape) accolades from Rooster Magazine’s 2021 “710 Showdown” — an annual competition celebrating Colorado’s best concentrates. This spring, Äkta released Live Rosin Gummies ($22 per 20 pieces) and Cold-Cured Rosin Batter ($60 per gram) with the brand available in more than 100 cannabis retailers statewide and counting. All Äkta products are produced in Plum Companies’ state-of-the-art hash lab in Carbondale using cannabis sourced from Hava Gardens.

Äkta Live Rosin Cartridges was awarded first place for Best Solventless Vape in Rooster Magazine’s 2021 “710 Showdown.”
Courtesy Äkta

Äkta Live Rosin Gummies ($22) Live Rosin Cartridges ($60), Cold-Cured Rosin Batter ($60)

Find Äkta locally at High Q stores in Snowmass Village and Carbondale or in Aspen at Dalwhinnie Farms. For more information, visit aktacreations.com (@aktacreations).

“Live rosin, or hash as it’s most commonly known, celebrates the full expression of the cannabis plant. It’s highest in cannabinoids and terpenes, and because it’s solventless, it’s unadulterated,” Grossman added. “We wanted to preserve the time-honored tradition of handcrafted, artisanal hash to share the most optimal way to consume cannabis.”

Unlike most edibles and oils on the market, which are made using isolate oil (THC extract mixed

with chemicals such as butane and carbon dioxide) and distillate oil (THC is stripped from the plant) respectively, Äkta’s products stand out for their commitment to the cleanest cannabis experience possible. And not far off from the ancient hash-making way, Plum Companies only uses water, ice, heat and pressure throughout the oil extraction process.

Äkta Live Rosin Gummies are microdosed at five milligrams per piece and are available in packages of 20 pieces.
Courtesy Äkta

She explained in detail:

“With ice water as a carrier, we turn fresh frozen whole plant matter into ice water hash (we freeze cannabis for Äkta at the time of harvest to preserve all the natural trichomes on the plant), which is then pressed into a terpene-rich oil, which preserves the natural flavors and cannabinoids of the plant so it can express itself in its natural state. Synthetic products do not produce the same holistic high that naturally occurring, full- spectrum oil-based products offer consumers. The initial rush may be more intense, but that high dissipates more quickly.”

The end goal (and result) for Äkta? A tasty, uplifting and enduring effect that works more naturally and holistically with the body and mind.

High Country: New cannabis industry coalition launches ‘Stop Censoring CBD’ campaign

Image courtesy Stop Censoring CBD

Amid the ongoing battle between cannabis and social media, the industry is up against a new marketing challenge.


Aug. 8 marks National CBD Day, founded in 2018 by cbdMD and proclaimed by the registrar at National Day Calendar to bring awareness to the health and wellness benefits of cannabidiol. To learn more about cbdMD, visit www.cbdmd.com (@cbdmd.usa).

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), a non-profit trade organization that monitors S.H.A.F.T. (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco) content and reports violations, recently added CBD to its list of decidedly offensive letters. Under the new designation, CBD companies are no longer permitted to use SMS messaging to promote their products.

In response to this classification, a coalition of cannabis companies has formed to spark change through the campaign “Stop Censoring CBD.” Led by the B-Corp status CBD brand Prima, its first course of action is through a Change.org petition with a goal of 10,000 signatures to #freeCBD by the end of August.

“The classification of CBD as S.H.A.F.T content is not only inaccurate, but it’s unjust,” shared “Stop Censoring CBD” founder and Prima co-founder, Jessica Assaf. “As CBD activists and brand leaders, we have created this campaign to bring awareness to this discriminatory policy and the overarching issue of CBD being poorly regulated. It’s time for the FDA. and FCC to take action and acknowledge the therapeutic nature of this legal plant compound.”

Though cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound found in hemp that is celebrated as a natural remedy — known for aiding better sleep and reducing stress to helping keep skin healthy — the FDA has yet to develop any clear guidelines or policies regarding hemp-derived CBD, despite its relatively widespread availability and the fact that congress legalized hemp and hemp-derived products in 2018.

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

Black Coloradans still twice as likely to get busted for pot

Different marijuana strains sit on the counter for patients to examine Monday at the Sweet Leaf Pioneer dispensery in Eagle.
Dominique Taylor / Vail Daily file photo

Seven years after the first recreational pot shops opened for business in Colorado, youth aren’t smoking more weed, older adults are blazing more and marijuana-related arrests are way down — but Black Coloradans are still much more likely to get in trouble for cannabis offenses, according to a state report released Monday.

The biennial report — “Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” commissioned by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice — is the most extensive look since 2018 at marijuana’s impact across public safety, health, driving and youth consumption.

Overall, the authors highlight a few notable trends in the way cannabis is being consumed in Colorado: People are moving away from smoking and instead are consuming cannabis through vapes and edibles at higher rates.

But even as fewer people across the board are being arrested on marijuana possession and other weed-related crimes, the marijuana arrest rate for Black individuals (160 per 100,000 people) is more than double that of white residents (76 per 100,000) in Colorado.

Click here to read the full story from The Denver Post.


Here are highlights from the Colorado report across various sectors:

Public safety

Marijuana-related arrests have plummeted since legalization, dropping 68% between 2012 and 2019 (13,225 to 4,290). That steep decline has come across all races and ethnicities, though not uniformly — 72% for white individuals, 55% among Hispanics, and a 63% decrease for Black Coloradans.

Court case filings related to pot declined 55% between 2012 and 2019

Plant seizures on public lands — one indicator of the illicit weed market — have fluctuated wildly since 2012. That year, authorities seized 46,662 pot plants. In 2017, that number rocketed to 80,826, but has since dropped back to a low of 1,502 in 2018.


Men (22.9%) are using marijuana significantly more than women (15.1%)

Treatment admissions for those reporting marijuana as their primary substance have gone down to 182 admissions per 100,000 people in 2019 from 222 admissions in 2012

The number of calls to poison control mentioning marijuana exposure has jumped to 276 in 2019 from 41 calls in 2006

Youth impacts

A 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found no significant change in youth marijuana usage between 2013 and 2019, mirroring similar findings in a national survey on drug use

Marijuana use increased as teens aged — with 12th graders (27%) using cannabis at more than double the rate of ninth graders (13.3%)

Nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of youth ages 10 to 17 in treatment for substance use reported marijuana as their primary substance of use

Marijuana infractions accounted for 30% of all school expulsions and 34% of all law enforcement referrals in Colorado public schools, 2019-2020 school discipline data shows


Authors included the caveat that law enforcement officers trained in recognizing drug use jumped to 221 in 2020, up from 129 in 2012, which “can increase drug detection rates apart from any changes in driver behavior”

DUI summonses issued by the Colorado State Patrol in which marijuana was recorded increased by 120% between 2014 and 2020 (684 to 1,504)

High Country: Cannabis-friendly weddings are trending, but not yet in Aspen

Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in San Francisco.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

Believe it or not, I still have yet to attend an official cannabis wedding — one where the couple consciously plans their event to incorporate a different kind of flower into the celebration. I have, however, partaken in plenty of secret smoke sessions with fellow cannabis- friendly guests that usually involve sneaking off somewhere out of sight.

The term “cannabis wedding” surfaced early on in the post- legalization era with the launch of the Cannabis Wedding Expo (CWE) in 2015. Co-founded by Colorado-based cannabis hospitality pioneer Philip Wolf, CWE kicked off its business-to-consumer showcase in Denver and has expanded over the past six years to also include annual events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and Toronto.


Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 in San Francisco. | Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

Save the dates for CWE’s 2021 schedule of showcases. To learn more about CWE, visit cannabisweddingexpo.com (@cannabis_wedding_expo).

• Sunday, Aug. 29, Las Vegas

• Sunday, Oct. 10, Denver

• Sunday, Nov. 7, Boston

*Dates for San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto are TBA.

As the first-of-its-kind convention dedicated to cannabis weddings, CWE offers an all-encompassing environment for cannabis-centric couples, event producers and industry professionals to discover how to elegantly plan nuptials around a love for the plant.

Making headlines in the likes of Brides, The Guardian, Fortune, The New York Times and Vogue ever since, the popularity of cannabis weddings has continued to rise — especially as more states legalize marijuana for adult use. But one place where the trend still hasn’t caught on? Aspen.

With a busier-than-ever return of summer weddings, I set out to inquire if any area wedding planners had ever received requests from couples who wanted cannabis to be a part of their big day and how they included it into the ceremony and/or soirée. A polite “no” from each of the powerhouse party producers at EKS Events, Bluebird Productions, Gold Leaf Events and J.Lemons Events genuinely surprised me. This is Aspen, after all, where weed literally flows like wine.

“We’ve never been asked to do one, so we’ve never planned (around) cannabis,” shared EKS Events owner and founder Elizabeth Slossberg. “But we are obviously open to it — we would be happy to explore anything unique, unusual and special for our brides and grooms as long as it’s legal, of course.”

Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in San Francisco.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

Despite the legality of cannabis in Colorado since 2014, little progress has been made when it comes to legislation surrounding social use (plus, it’s illegal to consume in public in Pitkin County), so finding a venue that allows it is a challenge. As with any cannabis-friendly event (think unaffiliated festivities during X Games and Food & Wine), the standard workaround is through a full buyout or by booking a private home. And arguably the most coveted venue of all — atop Aspen Mountain — is completely off limits due to the fact that the Sundeck occupies federal land as part of the White River National Forest.

“When cannabis is legalized federally, we will obviously see an even bigger boom in cannabis weddings because every state — depending on the state’s adaptation of the laws — will suddenly be open to them,” explained Wolf, who secured The Knot as a CWE sponsor in 2020. “One barrier that will be broken down and will accelerate this trend is that venues will (have to be) OK with permitting cannabis on site. But until then, even in legal states, venues are hesitant to allow cannabis because of federal law and strict insurance policies.”

I was able to track down one event planner who does have experience in planning cannabis events. Allison Welch, principal of As You Wish Colorado, works with “canna couples” to incorporate everything from weed bars to curated cannabis gift bags to bud bouquets into destination wedding weekends.


Scenes from the last Cannabis Wedding Expo on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in San Francisco. | Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

As You Wish Colorado principal Allison Welch shares her top three tips to keep in mind when planning a cannabis-friendly wedding of your own. To learn more about the services her company offers (including personal assistant and concierge programs) visit, asyouwishcolorado.com (@asyouwishco).

1.Hire a professional “budtender” and have them prepared to explain what is offered and the amounts of THC that is acceptable. Our weddings in Colorado are often considered “destination weddings,” so educating your guests will keep them the safest and reduce the risk of anyone over-consuming.

2.Incorporate the plant itself as décor and even in attire (i.e. groomsmen can add a bud or two to their boutonnieres, have the florist work with pot leaves for bouquets or even tablescapes). Create a dedicated consumption lounge with clear signage and offer joint bowls and ashtrays with custom lighters or matches.

3.Confirm everything with your venue far in advance and be sure to designate the consumption lounge in an outdoor area … not all your guests will want to partake or inhale secondhand smoke!

Her Denver-based company, the preferred wedding planner for the Viceroy Snowmass, among other local partners, has planned close to a dozen cannabis-friendly events across the state so far.

The post-COVID Cannabis Wedding Expo schedule of events resumes next month in Las Vegas.
Courtesy Cannabis Wedding Expo

“It’s much more of a commonality than I ever thought it would be,” said Welch, who includes cannabis on her standard checklist of vendor offerings for new clients. “I classify it as entertainment, like a photo booth or cigar rolling station — instead maybe it’s for joints. And I would say (cannabis) is a much better alternative for a lot of people than doing shots all night at a wedding at elevation, which can clearly cause quite the hangover the next day. It’s very exciting to see (cannabis) becoming normalized.”

Welch also credits cannabis for contributing to “a more chill, laid-back vibe” compared to only offering alcohol. As legalization and acceptance spreads, it’s inevitable that a cannabis bar will become just as commonplace as an open bar with a curated selection of pre-rolls, edibles and disposable vaporizers.

“One of the biggest evolutions I’ve seen over the past six years is the beautification of the plant and consumption methods,” Wolf added. “The rise of cannabis beverages and devices has given people more options that feel approachable for new consumers. Also, artists and brands have done an amazing job creating stunning accouterments, making the pot leaf look more like a high-end fashion statement as opposed to a scary drug, which means having cannabis present at a wedding can be done tastefully and beautifully.”

Colorado releases report on impacts of marijuana legalization

Recreational pot for sale at an Aspen marijuana shop. (Aspen Times file photo)

The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice released its biennial report on the Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado this week, a comprehensive study meant to determine how the legalization of recreational marijuana has affected crime rates, traffic safety, usage rates, hospitalizations and other topics related to the substance.

In 2013, the state Legislature passed a bill requiring the Division of Criminal Justice to conduct a study on the impacts of Amendment 64, a 2012 voter-approved measure that legalized recreational marijuana use in the state beginning in 2014. Of note, the report says that the data provided should be interpreted with caution, as a majority of the data sources included vary in terms of historical baselines and reliability.

“Consequently, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization and commercialization on public safety, public health or youth outcomes, and this may always be the case due to the lack of historical data,” the report reads.

The number of marijuana users among Colorado residents and visitors continues to grow. Marijuana sales in the state summited the $2 billion mark for the first time last year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, a more than 220% increase from the near $684 million in sales in 2014.

The report published this week supports the increased use, as well. According to the Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a statewide telephone survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment included in the study, marijuana use remained stable between 2014 and 2016 with about 13.5% of adults reporting using marijuana in the past 30 days. That number grew to 17.5% in 2017 and to 19% in 2019.

In 2019, the last year data is available, men (22.9%) reported greater use in the past 30 days than women (15.1%). Individuals ages 26-34 reported the highest use rate in the past 30 days (29.4%), followed by the 18-25 age group (28.8%), 35-64 age group (17.3%) and individuals 65 and older (9.3%).

Public safety

Legalization has obviously had dramatic impacts on arrests related to marijuana. As expected, the total number of marijuana-related arrests dropped 68% between 2012 and 2019, from 12,225 to just 4,290. While the arrest totals and rates for all races have decreased since legalization, the report does note that Black and Hispanic individuals are still being arrested at a disproportionate rate.

“The 2019 marijuana arrest rates for whites (76 per 100,000), Hispanics (107 per 100,000) and Blacks (160 per 100,000) show that there is still disparity by race,” the report reads. “… This disparity has not changed in any meaningful way since legalization.”

The arrest rate for men in 2019 (125 per 100,000) also was almost three times that of women (44 per 100,000).

One major concern with legalization was the fear that there would be more impaired drivers on the road, and the report shows that there has indeed been an increase in marijuana-related DUIs or DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) in recent years. Though, how big the increase has been is difficult to say for a number of reasons: There are more peace officers trained to identify drug impairment now (221 in 2020) than in 2012 (184), law enforcement may choose not to perform additional testing for marijuana if they know someone is impaired by alcohol, ongoing issues with testing and more.

According to data collected by the Colorado State Patrol, which the study uses as the benchmark agency for issues related to impaired driving, the total number of reported DUIs fell 16% between 2014 and 2020, from 5,705 to 4,805. Though, the number of state-patrol-issued summonses for marijuana related DUIs — marijuana alone or in combination with another drug — has increased 120% since 2014, from 684 to 1,508 in 2020.

The number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana or in combination with other substances increased from 47 in 2013 to 120 in 2019, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Though, the study notes that a positive test doesn’t necessarily indicate impairment.

Public health

The study shows that the biggest increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations occurred prior to recreational legalization. There was about a 100% increase in hospitalization rate between 2010 and 2013, what the report calls the era of medical marijuana legalization, from 1,260 to 2,446 per 100,000 total hospitalizations. The increase continued through 2016, when there were 3,516 marijuana-related hospitalizations per 100,000, though the numbers have been stable ever since, with 3,515 per 100,000 in 2019.

The number of calls to poison control related to marijuana exposure also has increased considerably, according to data provided by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. There were a total of 127 in 2013, which ballooned to 223 in 2014 after legalization and peaked in 2019 with 276. While the initial increase occurred among all age groups, the study notes that the most significant jump was among exposure for children ages 5 and younger, from 15 in 2012 to 103 in 2019.

Among individuals seeking treatment for substance use, the admission rate for individuals reporting marijuana as their primary substance has decreased since legalization, from 222 per 100,000 Colorado residents in 2012 to 182 in 2019.

Youth impacts

While adult use continues to increase, legalization appears to have had little impact on youth marijuana use. According to the most recent Healthy Kids Colorado Survey in 2019, a sampling of more than 46,500 high school students from around the state, 20.6% reported using marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 19.7% in 2013 and more than 24% in 2009.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey also shows that the number of students trying marijuana before age 13 has declined, from 9.2% in 2015 to 6.7% in 2019.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a smaller sampling of just 447 respondents, showed a small decrease in use among youths from 12.6% during the 2013-14 school year to 9.8% during the 2018-19 school year.

The number of juvenile marijuana arrests also has decreased dramatically since legalization, a 37% dip from the 3,265 arrests in 2012 to 2,064 in 2019.

According to data from the Colorado Department of Education, drug suspension rates have decreased from 551 students per 100,000 in the 2010-11 school year to 426 in the 2019-20 school year. Similarly, the drug expulsion rate decreased from 91 in the 2010-11 school year to 23 in the 2019-20 school year.

Graphic by Taylor Sienkiewicz / tsienkiewicz@summitdaily.com