| AspenTimes.com

High Country: The 5 best cannabis apps, from social networks to dispensary deals

Looking for a little help in how you get high? Here in High Country, we’re five years into the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana, so of course, there’s an app for that.

Despite the wild discrepancies in marijuana laws from state to state, a slew of new mobile applications have been built specifically for consumers to offer everything from social networking and strain reviews to dispensary locators and advance ordering online.

Apple’s App Store still prohibits “facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco or controlled substances” or “encourag(ing) consumption of tobacco products, illegal drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol.” It has banned marijuana-related apps in the past, although it has since lightened up. Google Play recently banned apps that “facilitate” the sale of marijuana, but is working with cannabis-centric developers on compliance.

However, there are still plenty of pot-focused (and free) apps to enhance every smoke sesh, so we’ve rounded up the five best to download right now.


The popular vape-maker unveiled its groundbreaking app in 2016 to give consumers autonomy over the length of their sessions through custom temperature and color settings. “With PAX’s Session Control, you can enjoy the full richness of the cannabis experience in a controlled environment,” explains JJ O’Brien, PAX Labs’ vice president of strategy. The PAX Era oil vaporizer ($29.99) is a lightweight, sleek and user-friendly device outfitted for its patented pods (with dispensary partners spanning Colorado), each containing 500 milligrams of pure cannabis oil. The San Francisco-based technology company’s app is also compatible with its pricier PAX 3 device ($249.99) for vaporizing both extract and dry flower.

Free; iOS and Google Play, pax.com


The marijuana mapping company was way ahead of the game when it first launched its eponymous app in 2008 as a community where medical patients could find and connect with dispensaries. Since then, this OG has expanded its empire into an all-encompassing cannabis education resource that includes consumer reviews, Groupon-esque dispensary deals and a dedicated news site. Until state legislators implement home delivery of cannabis, you can order ahead online through the app for pickup at select dispensaries (Android only). The Southern California-based hive mind is also behind the Museum of Weed, a pop-up concept open through Sept. 29 in Los Angeles.

Free; Apple iOS and Google Play for Android; weedmaps.com


Not far behind Weedmaps came Leafly, hitting app stores in 2010 as a dispensary and strain database, which, according to a spokesperson for the Seattle-based startup, is “the world’s largest flower resource with more than 3,000 cannabis strain names logged.” Late last year, Leafly Pickup launched in Colorado, allowing advance ordering online for pickup at select dispensaries (Google Play only). The Leafly news team is led by veteran cannabis journalists including Bruce Barcott and David Downs, who, with a multi-city staff of reporters, provide industry news, lifestyle tips, long-form features, product reviews and more. Leafly’s weekly podcast, The Roll-Up, recaps its top stories and recently marked its 100th episode.

Free; iOS and Google Play; leafly.com


Calling all cultivators: Whether you’re a home-growing hobbyist or working in a greenhouse, Bud provides an iPhone camera-compatible visual diary for your pot plants. While growing is usually an activity for one, app users can either keep their journals private or open them up to the mobile community to ask advice, discuss strains and talk techniques.

Free; iOS; growbud.co


What started in 2015 as Tinder for cannabis lovers has turned into a social network with more than 1 million members from around the world, according to the makers of High There! “We initially developed High There! to be a dating app for the cannabis community, but we are constantly evolving with the industry,” said Darren Roberts, High There! CEO and co-founder. “There is no denying that cannabis is now a part of a bigger global conversation, and with the increase in media and debate, trusted resources can be hard to come by.” After a relaunch earlier this year, and a second update coming this fall, the app allows users to connect with each other, create Slack-like discussion rooms and receive localized product recommendations based on user preferences.

Free; iOS and Google Play; highthere.com

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

High Country: Could a cannabis lounge at Jazz Aspen Labor Day ever happen?

Earlier this month, I was lucky to experience one of the legal cannabis industry’s most historic moments yet: the first-ever consumption lounge and bazaar at a major music festival.

Outside Lands, held annually since 2008 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, first introduced Grass Lands in 2018, but was unable to secure the permitting necessary to make it much more than a brand showcase. This year, and only 36 hours before the gates opened, promoters obtained the OK from the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, granting Outside Lands a temporary permit to conduct adult-use sales and consumption on-site.

After entering festival grounds on day one, I beelined it to Grass Lands, where I was greeted by a second round of security to check my ID (entry was restricted to concertgoers 21 or older). Located just past the Polo Field — home to main stage headliners from Childish Gambino to Paul Simon — and literally and figuratively on higher ground, I made my way up a long flight of stairs stamped with pot leaves and the words “Welcome to Grass Lands.”

Upon entering the sprawling, shaded area, I felt my eyes well up with tears and my arms covered in goosebumps. While people have been lighting up to live music for a century, it was in this moment where the fight for and progress of this movement was realized.

Secluded from swarms of the 200,000 attendees Outside Lands attracted over the weekend, Grass Lands was a utopia. It was a place intentionally free of alcohol, where close to 20 of California’s leading cannabis companies could educate and connect with consumers. I picked up a pack of pre-rolls from Flow Kana and found some friends in one of three designated smoking sections within Grass Lands. After sharing a joint, I ventured back out into the madness of the mega-festival only to find myself yearning to return to its calmest spot. Those who attempted to return, but appeared too intoxicated, were turned away. Post-event, San Francisco officials reported that there were zero Grass Lands-related police calls.

For one Colorado-based edibles company, Outside Lands was the perfect opportunity to mark its expansion into California.

“Being part of something cutting-edge takes a lot of planning, which we worked on for the better part of the past year,” says Binske Executive Vice President Alex Pasternack. “Our brand is all about the celebration of life, art and breaking boundaries. We’ll look back on Outside Lands 2019 in the same way people remember Woodstock … if you were there, you get it. Grass Lands was exceptional, the consumers were excited and engaged; it was history in the making.”

Now three weeks later, on the eve of the 29th annual Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, I can’t help but wonder, could a cannabis consumption lounge ever happen at the pop music festival in Snowmass? Based on the town of Snowmass Village’s contentious track record on marijuana overall, it’s easy to just assume “no.”

But with Town Council finally giving the green light to a dispensary (slated to open this winter on the second floor of the Snowmass Mall) and legalization progressing worldwide, it’s inevitable the community will have to address the issue. Unlike Aspen Skiing Co., which has a clear reason for prohibiting cannabis due to its occupation of federal land, JAS takes over Town Park, owned by the town of Snowmass Village. Cannabis could be legally consumed here now. And JAS attendees have been consuming it illegally on-site since 1991 (or at least since my first time in 2008). But until there’s a change in leadership, the reefer madness mentality will remain.

The town of Snowmass Village declined to comment, but it did provide the verbiage included in its event contracts, which states, “In order to preserve the desired image of Snowmass Village as an inclusive and exciting community and resort, particular scrutiny will be focused on sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers and vendors of tobacco products or tobacco paraphernalia; sex products or paraphernalia; cannabis related products, paraphernalia and/or information. Snowmass Tourism reserves the right to, in Snowmass Tourism’s sole discretion, refuse to permit any sponsor, exhibitor, advertiser or vendor to sponsor, exhibit, advertise, vend or otherwise participate in an event.”

One substance that doesn’t seem to damage its “desired image” (often self-described as “family friendly”), though? Alcohol. Snowmass Tourism presents three dedicated festivals for beer, wine and cider, where impaired parents can openly imbibe while pushing double-wide strollers around Base Village. But still, local officials have yet to acknowledge the many post-legalization reports proving weed is far safer and less addictive than booze, with many Americans ditching one for the other — which in turn could create calmer, more controlled crowds at large events.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass wasn’t willing to talk about it, either. Fair enough, as the nonprofit is bound to the agreement in place until it’s up for renegotiation in 2021. It’s worth noting that five of JAS’ 25 sponsors this year are alcohol brands: Woody Creek Distillers, Larceny Bourbon, Corona Extra, Don Julio and Robert Mondavi. Do you know how many cannabis companies are willing to shell out even more dollars to participate in such a special celebration of music, ultimately supporting the organization’s important year-round calendar and education initiatives? Oh, and beyond participation fees, Grass Lands generated over $1 million in cannabis sales for Outside Lands in three days.

With Binske’s products on-shelf in Aspen’s dispensaries, Pasternack thinks an experiment like Grass Lands is what will eventually move the needle for long overdue, social-use initiatives locally and beyond.

He adds, “The consumers and the economy have already carved out the future for cannabis and it’s unstoppable now. Yes, I believe Colorado has made some progress, and it will only become more prevalent as the industry evolves. Remember, tourists visiting Aspen face the challenge of ‘Where can I consume?’ Think about it, they can’t consume in their car, hotel or public sidewalks, so there is a real need for consumption-friendly options — especially at organized events.”

And after seeing the success at Grass Lands, I am more hopeful than ever that one day, I will attend a cannabis-permitted concert in my own backyard.

Katie Shapiro lives in Snowmass Village. She can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

High Country: Meet Harmony Bowman, Aspen’s budding CBD beauty entrepreneur

As cannabidiol continues to take over every aspect of our personal wellness routines, our entire town — from infused coffee at Gorsuch to the soda case at Carl’s Pharmacy to a CBD massage at the spa — has embraced the trending cannabis compound, too.

And while mainstream luxury brands like Lord Jones are on the shelves at Cos Bar and fashion houses like Alice + Olivia are creating products of their own, the Roaring Fork Valley has yet to see a locally made line that, soon, will rival them all.

Introducing Blue Willow, which Aspenite Harmony Bowman launched earlier this year, but is only recently open for business online. The beautifully branded and bottled trio features a Body Balm ($68), Body Oil ($65) and Bath Soak ($48) — each infused with 150 milligrams of CBD oil derived from whole plant hemp that’s sourced from and processed at a sustainable farm outside of Denver. And unlike the majority of CBD companies currently on the market, Blue Willow conducts third-party lab-testing to ensure quality, potency and consistency.

All-natural beauty and activism are in Bowman’s blood — inherited from her herbalist mother and cannabis advocate father, both sources of inspiration for every batch she makes by hand.

“I’m the flower child daughter of liberal, hippie parents from Portland (Oregon). My mom, who we joking call ‘Mother Earth,’ makes legendary salves and lotions. My dad has been involved with NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) for decades,” shares Bowman. “I was never a huge (cannabis) smoker because I grew up as a competitive runner and still try to go on trail runs every day. Over time, I started learning about the real benefit of this plant for medical use through other applications and that’s where my passion began.”

After graduating from Tufts University, Bowman spent a year working for L’Oréal in Manhattan, but felt an unavoidable pull from the place she grew up skiing to take a belated gap year. While woking at The Little Nell, she met her now-husband, Dylan Bowman, who’s a professional ultrarunner and credits his wife’s new venture in helping him heal from a recent string of injuries.

They relocated together to Marin County, where she worked as a brand manager for the next six years for alcohol behemoth Constellation Brands, which notably invested $4 billion for a 38% stake in Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth in 2018.

“I could have spent my entire career there,” Bowman says. “I got unbelievable experience in launching brands and love wine (Kim Crawford Wines was in her portfolio), but it just wasn’t my lifelong passion.”

In 2017, she was faced with a serious illness and was bedridden for months. While Bowman had been using cannabis topicals pre- and post-run for nearly a decade at that point, it was during her recovery that she found a new focus for treatment.

“Obviously I had always been open to alternative healing, but I was in so much pain the last thing I wanted to be doing was taking opiates, which is what the doctors kept pushing,” Bowman adds. “I wanted to detox my body and heal holistically, so started using CBD-rich salves everyday. It was the one thing that helped with my pain and to relax at night. The silver lining of getting sick was that it helped me put everything in perspective and realize, ‘OK, maybe this isn’t what you should do for the rest of your life. Why don’t you follow your passion and take a chance?’”

The Bowmans moved back to the mountains last summer and, a few months later, Blue Willow was born. Bowman started out by trying “almost every product out there” and was disheartened to learn that worlds like “natural” and “clean” often have no legal basis. She also found traces of chemicals and preservatives in the CBD products she was researching. So she took a page from her mother’s extensive plant diary (along with plenty of pro tips) and began making balms, oils and bath soaks of her own.

Now with her personal and professional backgrounds working together officially and harmoniously, Blue Willow is poised to make its way behind beauty counters in Aspen and beyond.


Bowman searched meticulously for the best non-toxic ingredients for Blue Willow, which combine pure botanicals known for healing properties with hemp-derived, full-spectrum CBD oil. She handcrafts batches for her three products, all of which contain a heavenly signature scent from floral and woodsy notes, using:

Apricot Kernel Oil


Avocado Oil

Calendula Flower


Chamomile Flower

Epsom Salt

Fine Sea Salt

Grapeseed Oil.

Green Tea Oil

Himalayan Pink Salt

Hemp-Derived Full Spectrum CBD


Jojoba Oil

Macadamia Nut Butter



Sunflower Oil

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

High Country: 8 cannabis-infused getaways to take this offseason

Luxury cannabis leader Lord Jones became the industry’s first to form an official partnership with a hotel chain when announcing in 2018 that The Standard would soon stock its line of gumdrops in minibars and lobby boutiques from Los Angeles to New York. Adult-use marijuana is now legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and since Standard Hotels set a groundbreaking precedent, the travel industry is following suit with more cannabis-friendly offerings than ever before.

Of course, there are still challenges when it comes to consumption in common areas or in the privacy of your own room’s balcony (like with cigarettes, there are still hefty fines for smoking cannabis inside). But while cities try to navigate implementing social-use regulations, hotels in legal states are known to turn a blind eye to lighting up outside, vaporizing or ingesting edibles—especially those that are now serving up CBD or selling cannabis paraphernalia on-property. Plus, TSA recently stated, “Products that contain hemp-derived CBD oil or are FDA-approved are generally legal & can fly.”

So now that summer in Aspen is finally quieting down, it’s high time to start planning for fall. From picking up a PAX vaporizer poolside at the Dream Hollywood to booking a private dinner through the Thompson Seattle, here are eight cannabis-infused getaways to take this offseason.

The Standard Spa

Miami, Florida

Treat your feet to the Royal Chill Treatment ($175 for 60 minutes), a massage featuring a refreshing foot bath and cooling scrub, followed by a grounding reflexology ritual. Using Lord Jones’ best-selling High CBD Pain & Wellness Formula and a variety of techniques, including balancing reflexology points, say goodbye to aches and pains so you can put your stilettos back on for another night out in the Magic City. Hotel guests can also find Lord Jones’ Blood Orange CBD Gumdrops (an exclusive flavor created in partnership with The Standard) in the spa boutique and minibars in-room along with smoke-friendly accoutrements in the gift shop like Stonedware Company ceramic pipes, rolling papers, lighters and stash jars. standardhotels.com

Dream Hollywood

Los Angeles, California

PAX Labs, makers of sleek and smart vaporizers, as part of its ongoing initiative with the Dream Hollywood, has devices available for purchase at the hotel in-room and on the rooftop pool patio, The Highlight Room. While the Dream Hollywood doesn’t offer guests cannabis flower or Era pods compatible with PAX on-site, delivery direct to your chaise lounge chair is as easy as a swipe on your iPhone through statewide online ordering service, Eaze. dreamhotels.com

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa

Napa Valley, California

This laid-back, rustic retreat has recently incorporated CBD into its spa treatment menu, offering two signature treatments. The CBD Soak ($75 for 25 minutes) is a twist on their popular Splish Splash featuring infused bath salts that help to restore the body after a workout, reduce inflammation and relieve stress. The CBD Massage ($145 for 50 minutes) uses a hemp-derived, rich body cream to reboot muscles, skin and aura. calistogamotorlodgeandspa.com

La Quinta Resort & Club

Palm Springs, California

Set beneath the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains, the iconic, Waldorf Astoria-operated resort’s Spa La Quinta has just launched a signature plant-based treatment. The VYBES Calm and Balance CBD Massage ($250 for 50 minutes) starts with a tasting of three flavors of VYBES organic hemp water, such as honey crisp apple basil and burning mandarin, followed by a full-body massage with CBD Care Garden oil and a full pour of your favorite VYBES water after the service. laquintaresort.com

Hotel Teatro

Denver, Colorado

As the Mile High City’s first hotel to implement an official CBD cocktail program on the menu of its in-house restaurant, The Nickel also hosts an ongoing series of CBD workshops and special events. Using CBD-rich turmeric oil from Denver-based hemp company SUPERGOOD sip a sense of calm with The Chill Lebowski (vodka, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, espresso, honey syrup, Frangelico and egg white) or the Super Limoncello Haze (house-made limoncello, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, cherry bitters, and whipped cream) — both infused with 12 milligrams of CBD. hotelteatro.com

Hotel Saint Cecilia, Austin Motel, and Hotel San José

Austin, Texas

In all three of Liz Lambert’s Austin-based Bunkhouse hotels, guests can shop from an array of her personally curated CBD product picks. At the Hotel Saint Cecilia, a 14-room, secluded estate, find Lord Jones gumdrops in your minibar and in the lobby shop. At the Austin Motel, grab Dazey tinctures, Recess sparkling water, and The Good Patch by La Mend. Hotel San José, the super cool hideout on South Congress, stocks Bang Candy Co.’s Dream Drops and Dram CBD’s sparkling waters and tinctures. Guests can go next door to Jo’s Coffee to fuel up with a Flora + Fortitude CBD-infused cold brew, too. bunkhousegroup.com

The Jupiter

Portland, Oregon

Portland’s original boutique hotel, which earned design accolades from Architectural Digest in 2016, has teamed up with locally-based companies to compile an “Everything But The Weed Kit” for its cannabis-consuming guests. While no cannabis flower or oil is included, a colorful travel pouch is filled with the latest issue of Oregon Leaf, munchies, Jupiter tee shirt, dispensary discount coupons and a Jayne vape pen, lighter and grinder. jupiterhotel.com

Thompson Seattle

Seattle, Washington

As a notable cannabis culinary expert, executive chef Derek Simcik is available to those who have done some research on their own before booking a room at the tony Thompson Seattle (the property does not list information on its website or offer details on-property). Through the concierge, though, Simcik is available for hire to cater a private, elevated dinner party of any size, held in an unaffiliated event space nearby. thompsonhotels.com

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

High Country: Alice + Olivia welcomes cannabis into its world with a new wellness collaboration

The technicolor world of Alice + Olivia now has a new shade of green in its rainbow through a partnership with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen. The move into the CBD market for the womenswear label follows the recent launch of a cosmetics collection with Maybelline New York, expanding upon the brand’s commitment to beauty and self-care.

The New York-based fashion house is the latest mainstream name to put its stamp of approval on cannabis, which, since adult-use legalization in California, has collectively contributed to the wellness industry’s most significant new category in decades. Alice + Olivia founder, creative director and CEO Stacey Bendet personally started using CBD products two years ago and discovered Kush Queen on her own.

“I have been in the business of empowering women through fashion since 2002,” Bendet said in a phone interview. “When learning about Kush Queen and Olivia (Alexander), I immediately saw the alignment of our brands with her empowerment of women through wellness. A partnership between the two brands became a natural and complementary fit.”

Speaking to the trend of more non-cannabis companies officially incorporating the less-psychoactive compound of the plant into their product portfolios, Bendet explains, “There are great opportunities as women realize the health and wellness benefits both physically and mentally for CBD, and as brands, we get to help develop and market these products to our customers. I love doing co-branded collaborations with companies and products I like to use.”

“People need to ask themselves, ‘Why are you entering the space? Are you just jumping in because of all the noise, or do you truly have a passion for this plant? Has it improved your life?’” Kush Queen founder and CEO Olivia Alexander added in a recent interview. “It all comes down to authenticity. As two powerful women with unique perspectives, we don’t follow the trends, we set them. This (collaboration) is a perfect example of how to enter this new category rooted in authenticity. Stacey is using CBD and she understands the power of bringing this wellness tool to her audience.”

As one of the industry’s earliest pioneers, Alexander was quietly building a marijuana media and lifestyle empire well before fashion forward, cannabis-friendly accoutrements were shoppable at the mall or the words “luxury” and “cannabis” were spoken in the same sentence.

“I started behind the counter of a (Los Angeles) dispensary in 2007 shortly after trying cannabis for the first time. I was immediately passionate about cannabis and the way it made me feel,” adds Alexander during a recent interview.

Soon after Instagram first launched, she began posting cannabis-focused content in between shifts and formed the still hugely popular account @buddfeed along with a Snapchat counterpart, YouTube channels and a podcast. Alexander created her first company, The Crystal Cult, in 2013 as a line of bedazzled vaporizer pens. Kush Queen was ultimately formed in 2015 and has grown into a multi-million dollar company with THC- and CBD-infused products distributed to 750 retail accounts worldwide, including Urban Outfitters.

“Believe it or not, A + O reached out to me via LinkedIn to get in touch. Initially, I thought it was too good to be true because I literally have Alice + Olivia hanging in my closet — I am an A + O girl,” Alexander says. “It’s a career-defining moment for me because I started this brand with zero dollars and a vision to make products for people like myself, who did not relate to stoner culture. When they explained to me that they wanted to make CBD products for their brand, I knew it would be a huge moment for CBD, Kush Queen and A + O.”

The Alice + Olivia x Kush Queen collection will include three products: a 100-milligram bath bomb ($25), a 150-milligram body lotion ($50), and a 150-milligram bubble bath ($50) — all lightly scented with lavender to promote further relaxation. A Kush Queen hero product, the bath bomb also is infused with vetiver, which aids nerve and circulation issues along with sandalwood to improve mental clarity. CBD is most commonly associated with reducing inflammation, which can be the source of pain, fatigue and anxiety.

“I am a longtime yogi and I love using CBD oils and lotions for muscle pain and soreness or for massages. I also love to rub a little bit of it on my feet before I put high heels on,” Bendet says of her personal CBD routine. “At night, I will sometimes take a few drops of CBD oil to help me sleep. I have never used cannabis (THC) as a creative tool, but who knows, maybe I need to try it!”

According to Alice + Olivia, “Whimsical designs featuring the brand’s signature ‘StaceFace’ motif of black sunglasses and a bold red lip inspired by Bendet” will grace the products on packaging also marked by its classic black and white stripe print.

“I use cannabis and CBD every day. I always start with our CBD tincture and our Soaked CBD shower gel to boost my mood in the morning,” Alexander adds. “Four years ago, I got myself off a cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals I was using to treat my bipolar disorder. I realized that a combination of CBD and THC could treat my symptoms without the side effects of pharmaceuticals. I smoke CBD joints in the afternoon and love edibles to sleep. I really use all forms of cannabis in ratios of both CBD and THC all the time. I think people would be shocked at how much I work and how much I consume.”

While Alice + Olivia’s first foray into the industry is CBD only, Bendet promises there is even more cannabis to come and says, “Big ideas are in the pipeline!”

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

High Country: How Denver’s hottest startup is streamlining sales and service for dispensaries

Founder and CEO of Flowhub Kyle Sherman has crazy luck — and courage — on city streets.

Growing up in Barrington, Illinois, he was a movie-obsessed kid and a hopeful future filmmaker, going as far as ordering Sundance Film Festival merchandise from eBay to look the part. When he was 17, he stumbled upon the production of Marc Forster’s “Stranger Than Fiction” in downtown Chicago and asked the first crew member he saw if he could intern. The eager entrepreneur credits wearing Sundance’s signature director puffy jacket that day to the production saying “yes.”

After graduating high school early and bypassing college, Sherman headed for Los Angeles, where he spent the next decade in entertainment. He discovered medical marijuana to help manage the stress that came with his career choice. Finding so much relief, he was compelled to make another move to pursue his newfound passion for advocacy and legalization — this time to Colorado to get into the cannabis industry as it was taking shape.

“It was so serendipitous, that first day I got to Denver, I met Tripp Keber (the co-founder and then-CEO of Dixie Brands). I recognized him on the street from a block away and ran right up to him,” shares Sherman, who was recently in Aspen as part of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference (he was first invited as a speaker in 2016). “I always tell people that you should always research in depth about whatever it is you want to do, because if you’re prepared for the opportunity when it arises, you just never know what might happen.”

That chance encounter resulted in a marketing position at Dixie, where he had a crash course in canna-business. Sherman went on to work at the online dispensary resource Weedmaps and as the chief compliance officer at Neos, where he navigated state regulation needs for the vertically integrated company.

Realizing a major void in reporting data to the state and in tracking inventory, Sherman explains, “In 2015, I said ‘OK, I’m just going to start my own company.’ I knew the laws and at that point, everything was just getting entered manually. I couldn’t ever get ahold of anyone to help push the process forward and we were losing data. I’m just thinking, ‘This is ripe for disruption.’”

Sherman adds, “It was really just a fascinating time of learning because the regulators were still trying to figure it out, too. I was audited in 2014 by the state and it was really stressful. I couldn’t pull the data they needed. So my next chapter became, ‘Let’s use technology and capitalism to end the war on cannabis.’”

Since then, Sherman has grown Flowhub from a team of one to having 70 employees in its headquarters near Union Station and expanded its software footprint into more than 700 dispensaries, working with 30 integrators across 11 legal states. While point of sale and employee solutions are at the company’s core, Flowhub also serves retailers to drive business by helping to streamline everything from scaling operations and managing risk to providing data via application programming interface. Flowhub also offers a mobile device — the patented NUG scanner — that’s compatible with two proprietary apps to manage inventory and scan customer IDs, reducing wait times during peak hours.

Flowhub also enables an easy implementation of rewards programs which, for local retailers like The Green Joint, sets them apart from the majority of downtown Aspen dispensaries by offering loyalty points that grant deeply discounted products.

“Flowhub’s supreme software and support team has been a pivotal partner for us, which we’ve grown with for over three years,” says Brian Sullivan, vice president of retail operations at The Green Joint. “Their platform has been a crucial component to the success we have achieved throughout our retail operations. Flowhub has a robust inventory management system, which tracks and records all activities, and ensures that we remain 100% compliant at all times.”

Roots Rx has six locations based in the tourist-heavy mountain communities of Aspen, Basalt, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Gunnison and Leadville.

“Flowhub provides tracking codes that allow us to identify patterns in our promotions giving us a clearer picture of our sales,” adds Brittany Centifanto, general manager at Roots Rx. “Gaining insight into when product sells is such a valuable tool that Flowhub continues to deliver on.”

Sherman, who also is the founding director and treasurer of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which is focused on lobbying for passage of the STATES Act (a bill introduced by senators Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that would amend the Controlled Substances Act, exempting state-approved marijuana activity from federal enforcement), assures that Flowhub is not a cannabis company but rather a “technology backbone” for the ever-expanding landscape of cannabis retail across the country: “We really believe that if we provide best-in-class (service) to our customers, they’re going to provide best-in-class experiences to their customers and legalization will spread. Prohibition can, and will, end.”

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

High Buy: Barton Perreira’s Limited-Edition Cannabis Sunglasses

Known for its treasure troves of exclusive eyewear across four flagship boutiques in Aspen, New York, Nashville, and Kansas City, Barton Perreira’s latest launch pays homage to the pot leaf. Inspired by the recent opening of Barneys cannabis store-within-a-store concept, The High End, the brand dreamt up three different designs for the luxury retailer: Aerial, Kahuna, and Thurston. 

The frames feature a small marijuana symbol, etched directly onto the lens, which make for an understated style statement for cannabis enthusiasts this summer. Ranging in price from $490 to $565, each pair comes with a hand-painted case, designed by Los Angeles-based artist Kenton Parker, with a discreet pocket for your own flower supply and intended for double usage as a stash case to store your ganja on-the-go. A branded microfiber cleaning cloth is also included.

“Cannabis has become such a big part of our customers’ culture and lifestyle, so when Barneys New York reached out about The High End, we knew we had to be a part of it,” says Patty Perreira, designer and co-founder of Barton Perreira. “They’ve curated such an extraordinary selection of elevated cannabis products, so we are proud to be a part of a shopping experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

Perreira, alongside partner and fellow industry visionary Bill Barton, formed Barton Perreira in 2007 and, since then, the brand has been celebrated for using the finest raw materials like CR-39 optical-grade plastic and mineral glass in each of its seasonal, limited-edition collections — all handmade in Japan by skilled artisans and produced in small quantities making each piece an exclusive work of art.

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

High Q secures lease for pot shop in Snowmass Mall, next up is license and review process

The woman who owns two recreational marijuana stores in the region hopes to add Snowmass Village to her stable after agreeing to a lease for a pot shop on the Snowmass Mall.

Renee Grossman operates High Q Dispensaries in Carbondale and Silt, and recently she was selected out of 11 requests to the Romero Group, which operates much of the Snowmass Mall, for a lease to open the town’s first pot shop.

Grossman said Friday the lease is just the first steps, and she has learned from opening stores in Silt (2014) and then Carbondale (2018), things can take time, and especially since this is a first for Snowmass.

“If everything went according to the way I’d like it to go, I would love to be open by December. But a lot of things have to fall into place,” said Grossman, who moved to the valley 10 years ago and has lived in Old Snowmass for the past three years. “We really won’t know until we start meeting with the town and they conduct public hearings how long the actual process is going to take.”

Grossman was a vocal opponent to the town’s licensing schedule, which requires the prospective applicants to first get their state license secured for the store before starting the town’s process. In all, that could take as long as six months.

She said she turned in her paperwork to the state in the past week and hopes to have that approval by the end of August. She then will submit her application to the town.

“When I opened in Silt, I started construction and I had to go through a special-use permit process. I was relatively new to working with municipal codes,” Grossman said. “We had a tied board on our first pass through Silt, and then the final trustee was at the next meeting and voted and so we passed.

“That was a bit of a lesson for me because we were already $40,000 into renovations. In Carbondale, we waited until we had the Carbondale license before we started renovations.”

She and her two minority investors for the Snowmass store are looking now at how much construction they might want to start as their applications are being reviews. The shop will be located on the second level of the Snowmass Mall where the old Hideaway restaurant was located (near the bus terminal).

“I honestly don’t know (how long the village review will take). I think they are going to be conservative since they have not been through this process before,” she said. “I do anticipate they will take their time. The ordinance allows them a lot of latitude on how long they can take.”

Assistant city manager Travis Elliott said Friday he thinks the town’s process will take one to three months. First comes a hearing with the Local Marijuana Licensing Authority and then a review of the application before the vote.

“It will mostly depend on the completeness of the application when we receive it, and how many hearings are required to review the application,” Elliott said Friday. “My ballpark estimate is 30 to 90 days.”

At the marijuana authority meeting in May when the language was being finalized for all of the town’s applications, Grossman challenged the consecutive timeline versus being able to apply to both the state and the town at the same time, which would help speed up the opening.

At that meeting, town manager Clint Kinney said they are proceeding with “an abundance of caution” because of the newness of the process.

“I have a good track record. We have had no fines, no issues with the state or problems with our neighbors,” Grossman said Friday. “I think some of the concerns people might have will dissipate once they see who we are.”

Dwayne Romero, who owns the Romero Group that runs the mall space, said Grossman will be “a good addition to the mall” and they are “thrilled to have her.”

Grossman grew up in Philadelphia and spent 15 years in investment banking in New York City before coming to Colorado in the summer of 2009 and later getting involved in the cannabis industry.

High Q does not have its own grow house. It tried in January 2015 but the Silt town trustees unanimously refused the application after a large group of residents protested. Grossman said High Q purchases its products from suppliers who grow without chemicals and pesticides. She said they only buy organically grown cannabis.

Snowmass Village had a moratorium on marijuana sales since it became legal in Colorado in 2014. In the November 2012 election, Snowmass Village voted 989-385 in favor of the state’s Amendment 64, according to election results from Pitkin County.

In March, the town council voted 3-2 to allow marijuana shops. Since that time, the licensing authority has approved all the language for the application process.

The town has estimated that it will see marijuana sales from $1.9 million to as much as nearly $6 million, based on what other Colorado communities have reported. In November, Snowmass votes approved a 5% sales tax (which would go along with the state’s 15% excise tax and 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana). Snowmass’s tax would bring in between $95,000 and $300,000 each year to the town.

The other key, say Grossman and Romero, is that having a pot shop in Snowmass will keep visitors and locals in town.

“We know a significant number of people leave Snowmass Village to go to Aspen to buy marijuana. You can presume they think, ‘Well, we’re going in, we should stay in there for dinner,’” Grossman said. “The thinking is this will help Snowmass Village.

“They’ve been making a huge push to increase activities and events and tourism in Snowmass Village to keep people in Snowmass Village, so I think this is along those lines.”


High Country: The Altered State of Colorado

Since 2014, cannabis coverage in the majority of mainstream media has leaned far more positive than negative (this column included) as it relates to the impact of adult-use legalization. While an entire new industry has emerged — to the tune of $10.9 billion of consumer spending worldwide in 2018 — the fact that 659,700 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017 (46.9% of which were black or Latino) is grossly overlooked.

Enter documentarian Jane Wells, who has spent the past two years criss-crossing Colorado speaking with residents of our groundbreaking state about the effect legalization has had on their communities for her latest film, “Pot Luck: the Altered State of Colorado.” As a former full-time Aspenite, Wells is now based in Manhattan where she’s the executive director of 3 Generations, a social justice filmmaking nonprofit, which has produced notable titles including the Darfur exposé “The Devil Came on Horseback.”

As director and producer, her “Pot Luck” road trip set out to find what the new normal looks like through the eyes of a colorful cast of Coloradans (and Roaring Fork Valley locals) including businessmen, budtenders, barbers, cops and farmers begging the questions: “The war on drugs has failed: is legalization of cannabis the answer? Is this blazed new world a good one? Have the injustices of the war on drugs been addressed? Is legalization synonymous with greater social justice? What is driving the movement to legalize cannabis, progressive ideals or capitalism?”

Wells is still finalizing plans for the film’s world premiere and festival run later this year, but she’s heading back to Aspen for a sneak-peek screening at the Baldwin Gallery on Sunday, July 14, where she will be joined for a post-screening Q&A with addiction recovery specialist Ben Cort and other guests who appear in the film. Before then, I caught up with Wells to go beyond the headline hysteria and behind the scenes.

Katie Shapiro: What was the impetus in making this film?

Jane Wells: The cannabis trash can at Aspen airport started me thinking. Medical marijuana had been legal when we lived in Colorado but returning as a tourist a few years ago, I was struck by the changes that had occurred; the new retail shops, the ubiquitous smell and the seismic cultural shift. I wanted to understand the true impact, beyond propaganda, and show the rest of the world what legalization looks like.

KS: How did you come together with Robin Quivers to narrate the film?

JW: I wanted to find a narrator who shared my cannabis-neutral point of view, and someone who is also aware of the failures of the war on drugs. When I learned Robin Quivers would do this, I was thrilled. Plus I think the film is quite funny and she has a wonderful laughing voice. She is a perfect choice for this film.

KS: Did you set out to intentionally create a counterpoint to popular opinion about how Coloradans feel about cannabis?

JW: No, not at all. As a progressive, I have long known that the war on drugs was unfairly incarcerating people of color. Had I still been a Colorado voter in 2012, I would have voted for Amendment 64. I approached the subject with an open mind hoping to unravel something I found totally bizarre. I grew up in a world where being arrested for drug possession was scary and shameful, so I still find the idea of legality amazing. But the more we filmed the more questions I had — specifically about racial and social justice. Was this brave new world really a better one? And, if so, for whom? That’s the question I asked everyone we filmed. As we edited my intention became to challenge audiences to think this through more fully. My view that canna-business is benefiting the few at the expense of the many has only deepened since we filmed. We have even seen people like John Boehner join the industry, while pitifully few people of color are benefiting from the financial bonanza.

KS: What was the biggest learning for you about legalization in Colorado and the precedent it has set for the rest of the country?

JW: First, that the cannabis industry is proving difficult-to-impossible to regulate. The emerging regulations are a haphazard slew of reactive laws trying to staunch myriad problems — home grows, potency, toxicity, zoning, access among minors, etc. This creates major legislative overload. Second, what I found particularly disturbing is the discrepancy in social justice. For those who live in Section 8 public housing, if you are caught consuming cannabis (even medical) you can lose your home and your permanent right to subsidized housing. A two-tier system is not justice.

KS: Why Aspen for a sneak-peek screening?

JW: Because I lived in Aspen, I have had strong ties to the community for over 20 years and I love Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley in particular. I shot another feature documentary here (“Tricked,” about sex trafficking), for which I spent months embedded with the Denver Police Department. When Jackie Long of Callie’s Backyard Foundation offered to host a screening I was delighted because Aspen will always be home to me. I am excited to show the film to a local audience and hear their response. My friends are pretty equally divided between being active advocates for legalization and being concerned about the impact on young people and community health. As THC levels have increased, I have come to understand that the dangers of the drug for young people are under-reported and misunderstood. However, that is not the focus of the film.

KS: What stands out about Aspen’s cannabis landscape as it relates to the rest of the state?

JW: There are two things about Aspen and cannabis that stand out to me. First, the sheer number of stores per capita is not normal and second, that this penetration exists in a town of such high per capita net worth. High concentrations of dispensaries tend to be found in communities of color. Aspen hardly fits that profile, so what we see reflected here is the economic juggernaut of cannabis tourism.

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

High Country: Aspen Institute tackled CBD, psychedelics at Ideas Festival

Summer festival season is in full swing in high country and on the heels of the groundbreaking debut of cannabis at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen came the 15th annual Aspen Ideas Festival, which reached a milestone of its own in presenting the two dedicated discussions on cannabidiols and psychedelics.

The 10-day event is produced by the Aspen Institute, the nonprofit educational and policy studies organization based in Washington D.C., and welcomes more than 400 of the world’s most prominent thought leaders spanning business, politics, media, culture and science as speakers for its 3,000 registered attendees and invited scholars.

“Every year, Aspen Ideas: Health focuses on some of the hot button issues in health and medicine,” says Ruth Katz, Director of the Health, Medicine and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. “CBD and psychedelics are among those for 2019, as the sold-out audiences for both of these sessions clearly demonstrate. As always, in selecting our speakers, we look for the best in the business—those who are recognized as leaders in the field.”

As part of Aspen Ideas: Health, a prequel track of programming which ran from June 20-23, organizers addressed the explosion of the cannabis plant derivative everywhere, in “CBD: Hype or Hope?,” which according to the official description, begged the question: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration held its first public hearing on CBD in early June, but doesn’t yet regulate the product, and concerns about mislabeling and other hazards abound. What does the science tell us about CBD? Is the $600 million market a triumph of hype or a hopeful promise?”

As previously reported in the Washington Post, on June 16 the FDA released a document called “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out)” that states: “We are aware that there may be some products on the market that add CBD to a food or label CBD as a dietary supplement. Under federal law, it is currently illegal to market CBD this way.” Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill intended to promote federally authorized research into marijuana and its derivatives like CBD.

Just as cannabis has progressed, the psychedelic movement is following suit in terms of how advocates are approaching decriminalization (then, legalization) for adult-use and as a regulated medicinal aid for mental health. And for an organization of the Aspen Institute’s distinction to acknowledge it through a curated conversation, “Is very important. It legitimizes the work we have been doing for the past 30 years,” says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

Formed as a nonprofit in 1986, MAPS is “a research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana,” according to its website. Doblin prefers to refer to it as “an international psychedelic pharmaceutical company” and employs more than 50 staff members working on designing and sponsoring studies.

With a phase 3 clinical trial for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy underway and FDA approval anticipated in 2021, Doblin adds, “These days, I feel like I’m in almost a perpetual state of astonishment at the way things are going, and being asked to speak this year at the Aspen Ideas Festival is just one example of approval and how rapidly our cause is moving.”

MAPS also recently received a $900,000 annual donation commitment for the next three years from Elizabeth Koch and counts David Bronner and Joby Pritzker as members of its Board of Directors. Doblin was one of three “Bad Drugs Are Looking Good” Aspen Ideas panelists asked to shed a light on how, “Psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD, can trigger a schizophrenic episode, but their potential to treat addiction, control post-traumatic stress disorder, and prepare terminally ill patients for death is intriguing. Researchers are taking a fresh look at the treatment value of drugs with a reputation for danger and making some surprising discoveries.”

Many post-Aspen Ideas Festival questions obviously remain, but here are the top takeaways shared during each panel presentation (also available to watch in full online), to inspire future dialogue for both movements to move forward.

CBD: Hype or Hope?

Moderator: Matt Laslo, freelance reporter, adjunct political communications professor, Johns Hopkins University

Panelists: Mallory Loflin, research scientist and principal investigator, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System; assistant professor of psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego; Marcel Bonn-Miller, global scientific director, Canopy Growth Corporation; assistant professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; Hunter Land, associate director of cannabinoid research, Canopy Growth Corporation

On drug testing:

“We tested folks that are just taking hemp extract and they’re popping positive left and right at pretty decent quantities.” —Marcel Bonn-Miller

“That depends, right. So I think some nuance around what that means, and if you’re taking a whole plant extract, full-spectrum, you will probably fail a drug test. And if you’re taking something where they isolate the CBD, then you probably won’t.” —Hunter Land

“I think most folks don’t realize that [the majority of] CBD can still contain up to 0.3 percent THC. And that, yes, especially if you’re dosing chronically, that absolutely could lead to a positive drug test. And we have data.” —Mallory Loflin

On lack of regulation:

“So not to freak everybody out … first, there are some good people and good companies on this space. But right now, the problem is the CBD market is in everything and there is actually no regulation. So, the safety of when you buy a bag of Doritos or a Hershey bar, you know that it’s gone through checks and balances and has nutritional facts on it you can trust. That’s not the case here. Each state is dealing with regulating this on their own and they’re kind of having to create their own mini FDA’s, which is crazy. You have a lot of companies that are just cranking stuff out and some don’t have as much CBD as they say they have in it.” —Marcel Bonn-Miller

“I think really what we need to do is empower the consumers to say, ‘Hey, we want clean products.’ My recommendation is if you buy these products, get a legitimate lab certification. If [a CBD company] doesn’t have it, but says, ‘Oh, I promise it’s fine. It’s great. It’s organic,’ I would say that’s probably inaccurate.” —Hunter Land

On traditional medicine:

“One thing that kind of gives me hope for the future is an overwhelming majority of physicians really want education. I think a lot of physicians and practitioners are like, ‘We don’t want any recommendations without hard data to back it up,’ but it means it’s going to take us [researchers] a while to catch up before anything comes close to you getting a solid recommendation from your medical provider.” —Mallory Loflin

On CBD vs. THC:

“When talking about dosing [PTSD subjects] with CBD, we need high doses. That’s very different with THC, where we would be dosing at just a few milligrams versus hundreds. A lot of our clinical data is suggesting that it looks like really high CBD oil, and very, very low THC might actually be the ticket for anxiety. But a lot of them were going to their dispensary and picking up high THC products on their own. So there’s a big mismatch between what people are using and what we’re actually studying.” —Mallory Loflin

“They just have very different effects. What I like to say is, ‘Cannabis is not cannabis is not cannabis.’ When we talk about the plant, this is something that has 120 different chemical molecules in it called cannabinoids. Beyond those cannabinoids, there are terpenes, flavonoids, all sorts of different things. CBD and THC are just two of the 120 cannabinoids in the plant. Most of the work has been done on THC historically. CBD has really gotten the limelight within the past five years from a research perspective. And then there’s the other 118 which we know almost nothing about.” —Marcel Bonn-Miller

Bad Drugs Are Looking Good

Moderator: John Torres, NBC News and MSNBC medical correspondent

Panelists: Rick Doblin, founder and executive director, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies; Mallory Loflin, (see above); Dennis Charney, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System

On ketamine:

“The first study showing that it was an antidepressant was based on the idea that a neurotransmitter was involved. To our surprise, somewhat, but not completely, we found that low doses produced a very rapid antidepressant effect in some patients within a few hours. And these were patients who had been depressed for many years.” —Dennis Charney

On big pharma:

“Ketamine would be more effective when combined with psychotherapy instead of just being seen as a pharmacological intervention. But pharmaceutical companies don’t understand anything about psychotherapy. And all of the drugs that we’ve been talking about are in the public domain. And that also limits for-profit investors from getting involved, which is why we we’re doing nonprofit drug development through donation.” —Rick Doblin

On drug-assisted therapy:

“It’s not about the drug. It’s about the drug-therapy combination. So if people get these [substances] on their own and they shouldn’t expect the same kind of results.” —Rick Doblin

On history:

“I mean, MDMA was a quietly known therapy drug from the middle of the seventies to the early eighties when it became known as the party drug, ecstasy. The sad part of this is thinking about all the unnecessary suffering that there has been when all this research was suddenly locked by the DEA. If we look at MDMA in particular, they first moved to criminalize it in 1984. That’s when we had these DEA hearings, and we actually won. The judge said that MDMA should be illegal for adult-use, but it should be legal for therapeutic use. But the DEA rejected that recommendation. That was in 1986 and when I started MAPS.” —Rick Doblin

On abuse risk:

“We’re really trying to mainstream them [these drugs]. There is abuse potential and that’s a big concern, but we need to educate people honestly because when we do, these exaggerated harm reduction and public education campaigns that people know are not true, then they don’t know what to believe and then it’s even more dangerous because they’ll try things that maybe they shouldn’t.” —Rick Doblin

“I think it’s a really important point, too, that yes, these drugs aren’t all bad, but they also aren’t perfect like any medication. I think one of the biggest problems is that application is just so far out. Remember, the scientific understanding is that everybody’s using them recreationally. So we kind of can’t get that message out when we’re in this phase of having a political battle around these substances as medication.” —Mallory Loflin

“When you consider the issue of abuse, people pull back and they’ve pulled back too far, so now we’ve got to push it [the research] forward again.” —Dennis Charney

On psilocybin decriminalization:

“The people who are doing a lot of the work with the psilocybin, particularly at Johns Hopkins and NYU, were freaked out by that. They thought that once the science was being used for drug policy reform, they were worried that the FDA would crack down, but that’s not going to happen. We [MAPS] think decriminalization is helpful because the more that the public is sort of moving in this direction, the more science will be needed. From the regulatory perspective, these efforts are helpful to us, but the thing that’s unhelpful is that they make all these incredible claims and that destroys a lot of credibility.” —Rick Doblin

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