| AspenTimes.com

High Country: Rest in Freak Power

Lauren Maytin, Keith Stroup, Bob Braudis, Joe DiSalvo, Gerry Goldstein at the NORML Aspen Legal Seminar in 2019. (Craig Turpin/Rising Sun Photography)

As the news of the passing of Pitkin County’s beloved former sheriff swept through the community last Friday, the country’s top minds in marijuana law were in session at the annual NORML Aspen Legal Seminar.

Bob Braudis, a longtime supporter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) — the nonprofit public-interest advocacy group founded by Keith Stroup in 1970 — was famously in favor of legalizing all substances, a cause he continued to champion after winning the sheriff’s seat of Pitkin County in 1986; he retired in 2011. A close friendship with the late Hunter S. Thompson, one of NORML’s earliest Advisory Board members, is said to have contributed to shaping Braudis’ anti-authoritarian and pro-humanitarian ethos.

His obituary in The Aspen Times read, “(He) believed in treating illegal substance use as a health issue instead of a criminal one, and advocated for the legalization of drugs.”

Local defense attorney and Colorado NORML board member Lauren Maytin shared with me via text, “Bob Braudis was Aspen … he was a giant, a larger-than-life law man … a sheriff I wanted to keep my community safe from the right things. Bob was a philosopher, friend to both marijuana and NORML and one of my personal heroes. This true icon will be remembered forever in Aspen and beyond.”

While reading the tributes that poured onto the internet over the weekend, I came across one of the more candid conversations ever published with the legendary leader in The Independent (Sept. 13, 2009): “A law unto himself: Robert Chalmers meets Aspen’s gonzo lawman Bob Braudis.”

Here, High Country honors Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis’ unwavering stance in support of legalization — a legacy that has helped pave the path toward progress.

A Bob Braudis 2006 campaign poster by Thomas W. Benton. (Courtesy Fat City Gallery)

Robert Chalmers: ”There’s a perception, among your opponents, that you don’t give two hoots what substances Pitkin County residents consume; is that fair?”

Bob Braudis: ”I’ve been labelled the sheriff who doesn’t enforce drug laws. That is categorically untrue. A couple of years ago I was in a bar — not in this state — with a very senior undercover drug enforcement officer from the FBI. I saw him turn a blind eye to people smoking cannabis. You presumably wouldn’t turn in a friend for using marijuana? No. I am pro legalisation.”

Chalmers: ”Of everything?”

Braudis: ”Everything.”

Chalmers: ”Politically, that must be quite a hard sell.”

Braudis: ”Very hard. What I would emphasise is that I don’t distinguish between chemicals. I don’t think most of them are particularly healthy. I do not promote or advocate their use. But I don’t believe they should be regulated by the criminal justice system. If you have an addiction to anything — be it alcohol or heroin — I believe you should be placed in the hands of physicians. I don’t think that you should go to prison. It costs $35,000 a year to incarcerate a non- violent drug inmate. Add the cost of probation, prosecution, all those other ‘tions’, and it runs into billions. And what has been the result? Availability has soared. The price has gone down and the potency has increased.”

Chalmers: “Is there anything we can learn from Bob Braudis? What would our world be like, if its police officers implemented his philosophy to the limit?”

Braudis: ”In Britain, until the early 1970s … registered heroin addicts were prescribed the drug by their doctor. Those people, for the most part, paid taxes, bought their children bicycles and did not rob old ladies in the street. Today — and you’ll just have to take my word on this — senior police chiefs that I meet admit, behind closed doors, that drugs should be made legal. But they can’t say those things in public.”

Chalmers: ”Will you run again, in 2010?”

Braudis: “That is the subject of a difference of opinion between Dede and myself. She would prefer that I retire. The community is getting a little nervous, which is very flattering.”

Chalmers: “What are they nervous about? Perhaps the huge figure of Braudis — more even than that of Hunter S. Thompson — has come to embody the defiantly unorthodox spirit of this small town. Maybe they suspect that, should he retire, the creeping process of normalisation will begin, bringing high-rise developments, more drunken drivers, pink underwear for convicts and large jets screaming down the newly extended runway. And, worst of all, a dramatic rise in what Bob Braudis has always regarded as the most pernicious menace of all: boredom. Perhaps what’s really troubling them is an irrational fear — though who’s to say it’s unfounded — that once Sheriff Braudis leaves Aspen, the party lights will go out for good.”

Former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, left, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Mason Tvert share the stage at the Belly Up during the Saturday session titled, "The Aspen Legacy and the Law" as part of the Cannabis Grand Cru in November 2014. (Aspen Times archive)
THE CAUSE

To honor Bob Braudis’ legalization legacy, make a donation to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) — representing responsible cannabis consumers since 1970: norml.org (@natlnorml).

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

High Country: Red Belly Honey ramps up for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Strawberry Honey Ice Cream
Matt Armendariz

Following a one-time September edition last year, superfans of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen have a far shorter wait for the celebrated culinary festival’s return.

High Country’s quarterly content collaborator Joline Rivera will make a comeback, too, bringing her beloved Red Belly Honey — a superfood naturally infused with hemp by bees on a California farm.

”Red Belly Honey is thrilled to be invited back to Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. It further reinforces the value and importance of our nature-infused CBD honey and the growing interest that food is medicine — it’s not only healthy, but tastes incredible,” shared Rivera, also the founder of the cannabis culinary magazine Kitchen Toke. “Chef Derek Simcik, director of culinary operations for Sage Restaurant Concepts, joins us again along with chef Ryan Rau, executive chef of Urban Farmer’s new location in Denver.”

Since its showcase at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in 2021, Red Belly Honey has made its way onto shelves across Erewhon Market’s seven natural grocery store locations in Los Angeles, plus launched Rbel Bee Honey Gummies — microdosed with 5.1 milligrams of CBD per pack of 17 pieces blended with passion fruit, citrus and cayenne. Rivera will also embark on a retail partnership with Lululemon’s experiential store concept in Chicago, where she’s based, on June 1.

Rbel Bee Honey Gummies
Courtesy Red Belly Honey

During the already sold-out Food & Wine Classic in Aspen later in the month (June 17- 19), Rivera and her team plan to serve up two infused dishes as an official exhibitor in the Grand Tasting Pavilion: a baked Red Belly Honey sesame bun stuffed with sweet mushrooms and ‘nduja; and a Red Belly Honey and ginger-marinated charred watermelon with coconut gel, cucumber granita, tangerine pearls and candied hazelnuts.

Both Red Belly Honey and Rbel Bee Gummies will also be on hand in an independent, VIP-only “Chill Lounge” at Here House where special guests are invited to take time out and unwind during the whirlwind of a weekend. Until then, start summer off on a sweet note with two Red Belly Honey-based recipes to try at home. And remember, honey is always better than sugar!

STRAWBERRY HONEY ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint ripe strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved • 1⁄2 cup sugar, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1⁄4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1⁄4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons glucose
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup Red Belly Honey
  • Rbel Bee Honey Gummies for topping, optional

Instructions:

  • Toss strawberries with half of the sugar and spread onto a sheet tray.
  • Roast in a preheated 375 F oven for about 15 minutes. Cool.
  • Combine remaining sugar, dry milk, xanthan gum and salt in a small bowl and stir well; set aside.
  • Combine in a medium pot milk, cream and glucose. Heat liquid, add cream cheese and dry mixture.
  • Simmer for a few minutes. Cool slightly and stir in honey, add strawberries and their juices and chill for several hours or overnight.
  • Add strawberries and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours, or overnight.
  • Process in an ice cream mixture according to machine directions. Top with Rbel Bee Honey Gummies.

Yield: Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Beets, Watercress, Goat Cheese and Raspberry Honey Vinaigrette
Matt Armendariz

BEETS, WATERCRESS, GOAT CHEESE AND RASPBERRY HONEY VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds medium-sized orange and red beets
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1 large bunch watercress
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons Red Belly Honey
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 11⁄2 cups olive oil
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1⁄2 bunch chives, chopped

Instructions:

  • Rub beets with olive oil and roast on a parchment lined sheet tray for an hour or until easily pierced with a fork.
  • Cool, peel, quarter and transfer to a mixing bowl with watercress.
  • In a blender, puree raspberries, honey, shallot and champagne vinegar along with salt and pepper. Slowly add oil to emulsify.
  • Toss vegetables with desired amount of vinaigrette.
  • Correct seasonings, dollop with pieces of goat cheese and sprinkle with pecans and chives.

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SHOP

Rbel Bee Honey Gummies, $13.49 per pack

Red Belly Honey, $79.49 per jar

redbellyhoney.com

@redbellyhoney

High Country: Student-made ‘Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush’ premieres on PBS12

“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” premiered on Friday, May 13 on Colorado Public Television/PBS12, where it’s airing and online now.
Getty Images
WATCH

“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush”

Colorado Public Television

PBS12

pbs12.org

@pbs12.co

For one group of Colorado State University students, the end of the school year was made even more memorable with the premiere of “Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” last Friday.

Produced by CSU’s Journalism and Media Communication department with support from the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media (COFTM), the documentary celebrates Colorado’s newest boom crop while examining both its potential and its challenges for growers and producers. It ranges from Boulder for a visit to a farm with the state agriculture commissioner to Idaho for a look at use of hemp for construction.

“I hope the film will help educate the Colorado public, much as it did our film crew, on the tremendous potential of hemp on agriculture and manufacturing … and the effort Colorado agriculture officials and lawmakers have put in to its development,” shared Steve Weiss, special projects coordinator and instructor for CSU’s journalism school.

Hemp as a subject was recommended by the state film office for the first education project of the CSU media program’s ongoing partnership as a beneficiary of financial and production support up to $5,000 per film, including grant funding, crafting of concepts and providing editorial feedback. The film office has also organized and presented four career panels to CSU students featuring various Colorado-based filmmakers.

Originally scheduled for pre-pandemic production, the majority of filming took place prior to the spring of 2020 with JMC students producing a short documentary, “Hemptopia,” which won a prestigious Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts’ “Award of Excellence.” The full-length feature debuted on Colorado Public Television and is currently available for viewing on PBS12 and online.

“These documentaries raise awareness about important topics that shape the lives of Coloradans and our economy,” said Donald Zuckerman, Colorado’s state film commissioner. “That’s exactly what this type of COFTM support is intended to do — highlight social impact stories that might not otherwise be shared.”

Weiss, who led the filmmaking team, said: “This film looks at the push and pull between the momentum and the hurdles that remain. What excites me personally is the huge potential for products like biodegradable packaging, paper, construction materials, clothing etc. — all addressed in the documentary. It’s a sustainable plant that can literally change the world if developed and utilized properly.”

“Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” on location near Boulder: from left, unidentified, hemp researcher Dr. Robert Sievers, CSU student filmmakers Claudia Murillo, Joy Enyinnaya and Dane Aragon, state agriculture commissioner Kate Greenburg, Isabelle Farms’ Paul LeBlanc and CSU special projects coordinator Steve Weiss.
Courtesy Steve Weiss

Student filmmaker Clara Scholtz credits her production experience on “Hemp: Colorado’s Next Green Rush” and “Tuning Out the Pandemic” — another CSU- and state-produced documentary, which was nominated for a Heartland Emmy Award for its coverage about the return of live music at Colorado venues — for helping her zero in on a career path.

“Steve has been the biggest mentor in my college and young professional career. It’s people like him that bring out the success in his students. Working on this documentary with him opened up huge opportunities for me and really made me realize that this is what I wanted to do long term,” reflected Scholtz.

Also an accomplished photographer, Scholtz landed in the video production department for the city of Loveland after graduating from CSU last spring.

She added: “The highlight for me (in being a part of two films in the program) was learning all of the ins and outs of telling a bigger story and working with a bigger team. I used to think that I was a one-woman band. Now I strive to be a team player, work with others and bring all of our creative juices together to create a beautiful, educational and real life story with real life people. It truly helped me become more of a ‘real professional’ in the industry I so love.”

High Country: Recapping the revelry at The Pullman’s 2nd annual 4/20 dinner

(Rising Sun Photography)

With a classic stoner playlist of Bob Marley, Snoop Dogg, Sublime and Cypress Hill turned way up on the speakers and munchies-satisfying gourmet dishes on the table, the only thing missing at The Pullman’s second annual “420 High Holiday Dinner” was the joyous ritual of passing a joint around a table amongst friends.

When the announcement email from The Pullman came across my inbox, I immediately called to make a reservation (lesson learned after it was already sold out when I tried to get a coveted table last year).

IF YOU GO…

The Pullman

330 7th St., Glenwood Springs

970-230-9234

thepullmangws.com (@thepullmangws)

Fully booked again within a few hours after announcing its next special supper “in a regular series of irregularly scheduled events,” The Pullman paid homage to the unofficial national cannabis holiday with a five-course menu paired with libations ($75 per person) inspired by “the attack of the munchies.”

With public cannabis consumption illegal in Garfield County (and most of Colorado with the exception of Denver, which is in the process of licensing social lounges) anywhere aside from the privacy of your own home, The Pullman’s invite encouraged guests to “come as you will” — subtly suggesting to light up or pop an edible before arrival.

My dinner date and I made the drive down to Glenwood Springs on April 20 with a few minutes to spare before the one-and-only 7 p.m. seating and shared a vape pen during a risqué riverside walk.

We watched from our high-top for two as the restaurant filled to max capacity and reviewed the printed menu in front of us — adorned with a piglet sitting blissfully on a pot leaf (an art installation on the front wall reads “eat more pork!” in graffiti). As the staff simultaneously delivered the first round of drinks to each table, general manager Brandon Cambron welcomed the lively crowd, “We hope you had a little fun before and are a little hungrier now.”

(Rising Sun Photography)

Back in the kitchen, chef John Little — who took over majority ownership of The Pullman when longtime down valley restauranteur Mark Fischer and his wife Lari Goode announced their retirement earlier this year — was orchestrating the only community 4/20 party in the Roaring Fork Valley (at least to my knowledge).

“(Fischer) was always willing to push the envelope. In 2021, the original idea was that we would do something with THC(-infused) food and we went down that road, but obviously realized there were serious implications as far as us operating as a restaurant with a liquor license,” Little explained during a post-dinner phone interview. “So we said, let’s just do a munchies theme instead. We were slightly concerned about people coming in too high and having too many cocktails, which could turn into a recipe for disaster, but everyone was in such a good mood and loved the food, so we decided to make it an annual thing.”

Little, who grew up in Maryland and got his start locally as a sous chef at Fischer’s 689 in 2008, has consumed cannabis for his “whole life” and admitted, “I don’t smoke as much anymore, but how far (legalization) has (progressed) is crazy … I can’t even imagine where (it’ll) be in the next five years. A lot of what is happening with cannabis and the culinary world is beyond my comprehension … I have a lot to learn. But for now — the world I’m in at the restaurant — we obviously follow the rules, so we’re not there yet in terms of me being able to start experimenting. But It’s definitely something I will give a shot once the laws catch up.”

As for Little’s inspiration on such a unique spin on what The Pullman likes to refer to the sometimes side-effect of “the blind, screaming munchies”?

“We wanted to play off of things that are comical and whimsical in cannabis culture — like Cheez Whiz, cereal milk (inspired by Christina Tosi), mac ’n’ cheese and Funyuns — in the same vein as we always do at The Pullman. For all of our special dinners (May TBA) or new dishes, we try to take a theme or idea and elevate it to a point where it’s reminiscent, but different,” he added.

The Pullman’s 4/20 dinner did just that perfectly. And hopefully Colorado will let us imbibe together socially in 4/20’s to come.

THE PULLMAN’S 4/20 MENU


The menu from The Pullman’s 4/20 “attack of the munchies” pairing dinner. | Courtesy Rising Sun Photog

1st

Korean corn dog, potato, gochujang aioli, house-made “Funyuns,” caviar ranch, oxtail French onion, gruyere “Cheez Whiz”

Paired with coconut rum, pineapple, thyme, hibiscus, lemon, CBD

2nd

Mushroom taco, cilantro tortilla, queso fresco, avocado, salsa macha

Paired with Voodoo Brewing Co. Good Vibes West Coast IPA

3rd

Lobster mac’n’cheese, mascarpone, orecchiette, pari crisp, chive oil

Paired with Loosen Bros. sparkling Riesling (Dr. Loosen Sekt Extra Dry; Mosel, Germany)

4th

Thai BBQ pork ribs, tostones, spicy green papaya salad

Paired with Snow Capped Cider’s 6130’ Dry

5th

Fried cereal milk, banana anglaise, bacon caramel

Paired with cinnamon toast milk, rum and whiskey

High Country: Burb transcends cannabis culture in tribute to ‘legacy B.C. bud’

A glimpse inside the original Burb flagship location in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.
Courtesy Burb

The mission at Burb — one of Canada’s earliest networks of licensed cannabis retail stores — has not wavered In the five years since I first discovered the dispensary chain that has evolved into an all-encompassing lifestyle brand.

Co-founder, creative director and CEO John Kaye shared with me in 2018: “We want to sell products we’re using ourselves and make high-quality apparel that speaks to a new cannabis culture — sans Rasta pot leaf and inspired by our own environment growing up and living in [Vancouver] B.C. Creating a culture one can associate with and [a] lifestyle one can be proud of is our main focus.”

The company has since grown to personify the modern cannabis cultural movement through its three storefronts, line of branded apparel and accessories, plus a podcast hosted by the venerable Paper magazine founder David Hershkovits.

Burb marked 4/20 this year with two major milestones: the U.S. debut of the brand’s private label flower and a fourth dispensary location in British Columbia. Launching with two famed B.C. strains (Beaver Tail and Butter Tarts), Burb’s inaugural cannabis collection will be available at Cookies, High Times and Main Stage dispensaries in California (look for Burb in more than 100 more stores across the state by May).

The four-story compound — designed with Burb’s signature neutral color palette, raw materials and minimalist aesthetic — in East Vancouver will serve as the new company headquarters with a traditional dispensary footprint and additional dedicated retail and event space, which will also act as an incubator and gallery for local artists and creatives. In unison with its grand opening party, anchored by a group art show curated by local visual performance artist Ester Tothova, Burb also took its 4/20 celebration international with special events in Las Vegas, Brooklyn and Toronto.

Amid festivities for the annual high holiday, I caught up with Kaye to go behind the design of the flagship location in the “burbs” of Vancouver, learn why the dispensary’s “burbtenders” are the key to retail success and how he’s honoring B.C.’s legacy cannabis culture.

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

Pot shop robberies fuel calls for U.S. banking bill, including one sponsored by Colorado representative

SEATTLE (AP) — A surge in robberies at licensed cannabis shops — including a pistol-whipping, gunshots and killings in Washington state last month — is helping fuel a renewed push for federal banking reforms that would make the cash-dependent stores a less appealing target.

“It makes absolutely no sense that legal businesses are being forced to operate entirely in cash, and it’s dangerous — and sometimes even fatal — for employees behind the register,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Although 18 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 37 allow its medical use, it remains illegal under federal law. Because of that, big banks and credit card companies have long been reluctant to work with the industry, leaving the businesses heavily reliant on cash and making them attractive marks for robbers.

On the annual 4/20 marijuana holiday Wednesday, Murray held a news conference at Salal Credit Union to say she will prioritize marijuana banking reform as part of her work as a key negotiator on a conference committee that is ironing out differences in House and Senate versions of a major federal competitiveness and innovation bill.

Cannabis industry activists said they consider her announcement an important signal that after years of work, the banking issue might finally get resolved this year, allowing financial institutions to handle marijuana money in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution, loss of their federal deposit insurance or other penalties.

There recently has been a massive spike in the robberies for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Dozens of cannabis businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area were hit last fall in a wave of attacks that sometimes appeared coordinated. Industry trackers in Washington state have reported at least 80 so far this year, mostly in the Puget Sound region.

While dispensaries are frequent targets for robberies, the spate in Washington is helping drive the national conversation about banking reform. Last month, a suspect shot and killed an employee at a cannabis store in Tacoma; an ID checker shot and killed a robber in Covington; Seattle police shot and killed a suspect following a robbery in Bellevue; and a robber pistol-whipped a worker at an Everett shop.

In the last few days, police have arrested a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy in the killing of employee Jordan Brown, 29, at Tacoma’s World of Weed. Authorities said the pair were responsible for at least 10 other armed robberies, including several at pot shops.

“The number of these robberies is shocking,” said David Postman, the chairman of the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The board in the past month has held public safety discussions with retailers, recruited law enforcement to talk to retailers about best practices, and worked with state financial regulators to highlight local banks and credit unions that work with the industry as well as third-party vendors that cannabis retailers can use to conduct cashless phone transactions.

Marijuana shops that can afford it have hired private security guards, sometimes at costs of more than $50,000 a month for a round-the-clock detail, said Adán Espino, executive director of the Craft Cannabis Coalition, which represents more than 60 retail stores in Washington. Some of the businesses have tried to hire guards, only to find that security companies are completely booked, he said.

Espino said he’s pushing for state lawmakers to give tax credits to cannabis stores that have to shell out money for security.

Mary Mart, a cannabis outlet in Tacoma, hired armed security in March after it was robbed twice in two months — including, police say, by the two teens who days later killed Brown. Budtender Amara Barnes, who was not present for either robbery, said she and other employees had their hours cut to help offset the cost.

“It’s scary. I had worked here for four years without any kind of incident,” Barnes said. “To have a couple kids come in and do that, it really shakes the confidence.”

Officials and industry advocates say hiring security and training employees on best practices won’t solve the problem the way federal approval of cannabis banking would.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter introduced the SAFE Banking Act in 2013 soon after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the regulated sale of marijuana. The bill would keep federal regulators from penalizing banks that work with licensed cannabis businesses.

The House has passed it half a dozen times with bipartisan support, but it has never passed the Senate, where it has 42 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has insisted that he would prefer to see federal legalization of marijuana, along with measures to redress harms caused by the war on drugs, before addressing banking.

Schumer, however, recently announced that his marijuana legislation would not be ready to introduce this month as originally planned.

Supporters of fixing the banking problem first now see an opportunity, especially with Murray announcing that she will prioritize it in her work. David Mangone, director of policy and government affairs for The Liaison Group, a Washington, D.C.-based cannabis lobbying firm, called news of Murray’s statement “a reasonably big deal.”

In a letter to Schumer and other senators Tuesday, Perlmutter cited the robberies and deaths in Washington state in support of approving banking reform as soon as possible. He called the banking reform “an immediate solution to get cash off our streets and ensure state-legal, legitimate businesses can operate like any other type of business.”

High Country: Have a happy 4/20 with Colorado’s best pre-rolls

Another year, another 4/20. While the annual holiday on the cannabis calendar — once mostly commemorated in the form of on-campus smokeouts — has taken on a life of its own in the post-legalization era.

From dispensary promotions and big city festivals to pairing dinners and activist rallies, however you observe 4/20 usually involves a good old-fashioned joint. Whether you are heading to an official event or just marking the occasion with a few friends, there is no shortage of options to come prepared.

Pre-rolls have become a best-selling staple on dispensary shelves for those on-the-go or in need of a party favor — taking away the time, effort and mess required to grind up flower and roll your own. Elevating the single “doob tube” to the next level, the popularity of pre-roll packs has finally caught on in Colorado with dispensaries and independent companies launching branded boxes that make bringing your own cannabis more convenient.

So, in honor of 4/20, here are the five best pre-roll packs to shop for locally and light up with in celebration this week.

Native Roots

Courtesy Native Roots

As one of Colorado’s longest-running and largest dispensary chains, Native Roots is the OG when it comes to putting pre-rolls in a pack. Each pocket-sized box of Shortys includes five quarter-gram joints (aka “dogwalkers”) featuring best-selling strains like Lavender Jones, Jilly Bean and Training Day.

Price: $18

Shop: Native Roots, 308 S. Hunter St., Aspen, 970-429-4443, nativerootscannabis.com

Roots Rx

Courtesy Roots Rx

For its just-launched line of pre-roll packs, Roots Rx tapped Salida-based artist B.A. Dallas to create four limited edition covers (with more releases on the way later this year). Each box contains five half-gram joints filled with its Sour Lemon Poison strain, which is organically grown at 10,200 feet in its Leadville cultivation headquarters.

Price: $15

Shop: Roots Rx, 400 E. Hyman Ave. (lower level), Aspen, 970-900-9333, rootsrxstores.com

Willie’s Reserve

Courtesy Willie’s Reserve

Among legendary country crooner and cannabis advocate Willie Nelson’s eponymous product offering is the High Five Pack. Containing five half-gram joints — made with whole-flower versus the trim of lower-quality pre-rolls — the range is available in best-selling strains from Mac N Cheese and Mimosa to Red Headed Stranger and Ice Chem. Most recently, Willie’s Reserve swapped its metal tins (with plastic inserts) for 100% recyclable cardboard packaging, furthering its commitment to sustainability.

Price: $30

Shop: The Green Joint, 720 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, 970-710-2657, thegreenjoint.com

Toast

Courtesy Toast

Experience the entourage effect with a pack of Toast Original — five filtered joints made with a 2:1 CBD:THC ratio. Each “Slice” is equivalent in strength and effect to a glass of champagne or your favorite cocktail thanks to a perfect balance of cannabinoids specifically blended to imbibe during social settings. Toast is also one of the few pre-roll options to also use hemp paper and a high-flow filter to level the burn, encouraging a slower consumption experience, which is identified with its signature purple tip and gold foil insignia.

Price: $40

Shop: Silverpeak, 520 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, 970-925-4372, silverpeakcolorado.com

Dalwhinnie Farms

Courtesy Dalwhinnie Farms

In line with its sophisticated downtown storefront, Dalwhinnie Farms’ pre-rolls are packaged beautifully in a sleek, magnetic closure box with its regal logo stamped in gold foil. Inside, seven half- gram joints are accompanied with a strain information card (all organically grown on its farm in Ridgway) including THC content, effects and tasting notes. Dalwhinnie Farms also uses whole flower instead of trim to fill its cones, resulting in a purer and more potent expression of the plant.

Price: $65

Shop: Dalwhinnie Farms, 108 S. Mill St., Aspen, 970-429-8830, dalwhinnie.com

*Most prices listed are pre-tax.

Colorado Congressman continues push on cannabis reform; question is how big (or how small) to go

Jawaun McFly weighs out product at the counter of the Rollup Dispensary on Washington Street in Denver on Friday, April 9, 2021. The retailer sells lotions, creams, and transdermal patches in CBD, CBN, THC form, as well as edibles, concentrates and flowers, and manufactures shatter, wax and Co2 hash.

Colorado Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter has been on a mission — some might describe him as relentless — trying to get Congress to pass his SAFE Banking Act.

The bill, which would give legal cannabis businesses access to financial services, has gotten through the House several times in the past few years, both as a standalone bill and as an amendment to other bills like the National Defense Authorization Act. But each time, Perlmutter has had to watch as the Senate left the idea by the wayside.

The shift in control from Republicans to Democrats two years ago has not helped. Perlmutter summed up the partisan positions on his bill for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week: “Basically, from the Republicans’ point of view: too big, too broad. Now Sen. (Sherwood) Brown is the chair of the (Banking) committee: too limited, too narrow.”

Outside of Congress, supporters of the SAFE Banking Act are increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress in the Senate.

“It’s created a very unsafe environment with the amount of cash that is still, you know, being transacted without access to normal banking operations,” explained Chuck Smith, head of the industry association Colorado Leads.

SAFE Banking is up against an age-old problem in Congress, one that crops up around thorny issues. Do lawmakers try to pass a small, targeted bill that solves a specific concern, which Perlmutters’ bill does, or do they go big and try to tackle the whole issue?

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., has been on a mission trying to get Congress to pass his SAFE Banking Act.. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski file photo)

Senate Democrats, including Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer, are trying to go big.

“This cannot just be about simple legalization. It has to be about restorative justice,” said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Last summer, Booker joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden in pledging to introduce a measure to end the federal prohibition on cannabis, while also addressing the social and criminal justice issues that the war on marijuana has left in its wake.

Booker noted that those punished for marijuana offenses are overwhelmingly low-income Black and brown people. And while he agrees that giving existing cannabis companies access to banking services is important, he’s not willing to move forward on that issue alone.

“(The) reality is that there are a lot of very big money interests that want that done,” he said. “And if we get that done, we lose an invaluable sweetener to get the restorative justice, the expungement of records, the kind of things done that there isn’t as much money behind.”

Booker hopes his group will be ready to unveil their legalization legislation later this month, possibly April 20.

But not everyone in the industry agrees that going big is the right approach.

But Smith and some other industry advocates worry that by going so big, the bill might be doomed to fail.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good, right now,” he said.

It comes down to simple Senate math: to get the bill passed, supporters of legalization will need 60 votes.

“We struggle to get the most mundane thing done in Congress,” said Amber Littlejohn, executive director of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. “So equitably legalizing cannabis is not going to be something we get done this Congress.”

Like other advocates, Littlejohn wants the federal prohibition to end, and admires the goal Booker and lawmakers are trying to accomplish in dealing with a problem decades in the making. She agrees criminal records for nonviolent marijuana offenses should be expunged. But she thinks the groundwork for equity could start with SAFE banking. She said some of the businesses she represents won’t last until legalization unless they get some help now.

Her organization has direct experience with these troubles. It lost its bank last year and had to wait several months for its new bank to complete the federal due diligence. The Association is also fighting an IRS fine because its lack of access to electronic payments meant it couldn’t pay its taxes online.

The House passed a comprehensive legalization bill last week, called the MORE Act. But it only got three Republican votes, essentially condemning the bill to the Senate’s legislative graveyard.

GOP Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, who has been working with Perlmutter and others on cannabis issues for years, sees hurdles for any wide-ranging legalization bill, warning that it gives lawmakers a reason to avoid taking a potentially risky vote.

“They say, ‘You know, I like this part, but I don’t like that part.’ So they’re probably not going to vote for it,” he explained.

When it comes to legitimizing cannabis, Joyce thinks going smaller might be better: “Try to bring a coalition around those manageable pieces to see which ones have the energy to get over the top.”

What reform gets left behind?

But his House GOP colleague, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, warns that a piecemeal approach will always leave the hardest pieces behind.

“My fear is … we’ll pass SAFE banking and then won’t revisit it for 20 years, right? ‘Cause people will feel like they checked that box, they’re done now. But you can’t just stop there,” she said.

Mace has introduced her own legalization bill in the House called the States Reform Act. It’s a more limited approach than what the chamber’s Democrats just passed; it would treat cannabis like alcohol and contains limited criminal justice reform elements. The bill is expected to get a committee hearing in a few months. She’s hopeful it will be the tool to open the door to real bipartisan discussion and consensus-building on marijuana reform.

“Beggars can’t be choosers in this space. We’ve got to pull our head out of the sand and do what’s right,” she said.

Mace and others in this debate agree on one thing — that the federal status quo is increasingly unsustainable as more states legalize cannabis in one form or another.

But whether Congress’s next step on cannabis will be big or small remains to be seen. And advocates said the one scenario they’d like to avoid this Congress is having both the big and the small options fail.

High Country: Meet Miss Grass 2.0

The California-based startup unveiled new effects-led, color-coded packaging and products for Women’s History Month.
Courtesy Miss Grass

As a college student at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and a budtender for a medical dispensary in 2008, Kate Miller unknowingly became a pioneer for women in the legal cannabis industry when she purchased the domain missgrass.com from GoDaddy.

She held onto it for the next decade while rising through the ranks in the entertainment industry working for power players including “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels and “The Office” producer Ben Silverman, who moved to Aspen full-time in 2020.

In 2018, Miller officially launched Miss Grass with co-founder-turned-advisor Anna Duckworth as a digital educational platform and curated CBD shop. Its mission? To help women “get good at weed.” The first-of-its-kind community quickly gained a cult following for its unapologetic passion for the plant.

“Our primary focus is on women, the [cannabis industry’s] fastest-growing and most underserved demographic. We are cannabis lovers and true stoners, but we strive to offer an alternative to traditional stoner culture, which is heavily male dominated and often doesn’t highlight the sensual, introspective, expansive or playful aspects of it,” Miller shared during a recent interview.

With an audience already in place — unlike the countless cannabis brands that launch products first, then turn their attention to building a community — Miss Grass debuted its own line of THC and hemp flower in 2020 after closing a $4 million Series A round.

Click here to read the full story in Forbes.

High Country: A new local leaf leader

Shortly after High Country honored six local women in cannabis last year, where I referenced the book “Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Women, Weed and Business,” a colleague connected me to its co-author, Ashley Picillo, who just happened to have relocated from Denver to Snowmass Village for the summer (and stayed for the winter!).

We finally got together in the fall and had an hourslong heart- to-heart over coffee where we commiserated over our shared experiences as women working in the legal Colorado cannabis world since 2014; Picillo starting as a director of marketing, operations and sales for one of the state’s largest vertically integrated businesses at the time (MiNDFUL, which was acquired by LivWell in 2020) and me, a cannabis reporter for The Denver Post and documentary film producer.

Picillo quickly recognized that Colorado was becoming the model for other states and founded Point Seven Group (named for the most common number of leaves on the cannabis plant) in 2016 to offer management consulting services to new operators facing the daunting learning curve she had experienced.

Since then, Point Seven Group has expanded with headquarters in Colorado, plus a soon-to-open satellite office in New York City. Picillo and her staff specialize in business strategy, licensing acquisition, facility optimization and operations, go-to-market planning, financial modeling, regulatory compliance and company scaling. Picillo and her team have worked with clients in 24 states, Canada and Australia to secure highly coveted cannabis business licenses.

In continuing to spotlight female entrepreneurs in both of my columns this Women’s History Month, I caught up with the Boston-area native to see how she’s adjusting to life at altitude, if we’re any closer to shattering the “Grass Ceiling” and what advice she has for changing career paths.

KATIE SHAPIRO: How did you discover Aspen-Snowmass?

ASHLEY PICILLO: After moving to Colorado in 2014, I was eager to explore. I got into backpacking, camping and climbing 14ers and started to spend nearly every weekend driving to different communities. I first visited Aspen in the summer of 2015 and was totally smitten. I had visited a number of mountain towns at that point, but none compare. I would describe myself as an outdoor enthusiast who truly recharges my batteries getting outdoors, but also enjoy great meals, art, music and culture. I knew within hours of arriving that if I could figure out how to call this special place home someday, I would. It became a goal, inspiring me to work even harder over the last several years.

SHAPIRO: What was the impetus to make the move permanent?

PICILLO: I’m sure many of us have toyed with the idea that the pandemic did offer some silver linings. For me, it was a forced slow-down in many ways. I went from taking more than 70 flights a year visiting clients all over the country to being home, cooking dinner, hanging out with my dog and leading a more normal day-to- day life. It was a welcome change in many ways, but certainly not without challenges. My team was headquartered in Denver when the pandemic began, filling an office in the River North neighborhood. Our space quickly vacated as offices closed their doors. Fortunately for us, we were accustomed to working remotely, having clients in so many states. So the adjustment was fairly seamless, though the loss of culture is something we’re still actively rebuilding and learning how to do with a 100% remote team. I sealed the deal in spring of 2021, selling my place in Denver and buying in Snowmass.

SHAPIRO: What inspired you to write a book?

PICILLO: First, I had submitted a panel discussion to SXSW in 2017 of the same title and was over the moon excited to learn that the panel had been accepted. Cannabis was still becoming normalized back then, so getting this invitation was a big deal to me, and to the industry at large. The woman I was working with at SXSW let me know if I ever published a book, I was eligible to have it featured at the SXSW Bookstore (where it would be sitting next to works written by some big-time authors like Tim Ferriss and Marie Kondo). This started a 90-day clock to conceptualize, develop, write, edit and publish the idea as a book. Second, I have been writing most of my life and I wanted to help open people’s minds to the cannabis industry. Working with cannabis companies all over the U.S., I’ve come to realize that women truly are the gatekeepers in most communities and that mainstream education was seriously lacking. I thought by writing a book about women, I could effectively educate and demonstrate that there are meaningful professional opportunities in this rising industry while also further legitimizing myself, and each of the women featured, as true professionals in the space.

SHAPIRO: What is your perspective on women in the cannabis industry today?

PICILLO: Prior to writing it, I remember thinking that cannabis truly could be one of the only global industries led by women. Unfortunately, as my interview process unfolded, there was overwhelming evidence to suggest the industry would likely begin to look like most others before it. Cannabis can still be a polarizing subject, and many people have strong opinions about this plant as it pertains to legalization, accessibility and business. While I still interact with women each week starting their own cannabis companies — pursuing licensure and working at the executive level — there are just as many (if not more) who have been aggressively ousted from the companies that they founded and helped build. Access to capital for women, and even more so for people of color, continues to be a major challenge — which acts as a barrier limiting their success in this space. There is a substantial amount of regulatory reform underway and this topic continues to be widely discussed (which is critically important), but it may not be enough to change the trajectory. Of the 21 women I interviewed and wrote about, more than half have either exited the industry or been pushed out of their own companies. I realize it is a small sample size, but it’s indicative of a broad sweeping issue.

SHAPIRO: What advice would you give to women seeking a new career path in cannabis?

PICILLO: One of my closest friends, Karson Humiston (founder and CEO of Vangst, the industry’s leading recruiting platform), says that one way to be successful in cannabis is to “keep your career, change your industry” — meaning, if you’re an exceptional retail store owner, or an accountant, or a powerful business development professional — consider taking your existing strengths and skills into this space, versus starting from scratch. Too often, I speak with groups who hear the word “cannabis” and think growing or selling. Yes, those options are there, but there is so much more to consider and pursue. This space is still expanding and evolving rapidly and there are endless opportunities for women to get involved.