Aspen Filmfest panel talks evolution of pot industry |

Aspen Filmfest panel talks evolution of pot industry

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Kyle Vetter, manager of Aspen Roots; Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch; The Cannabist's Jake Browne; film director Mitch Dickman and Aspen Film artistic director Maggie Mackay discuss the pot industry in Colorado after the screening of "Rolling Papers" at Aspen Filmfest on Saturday.
Jeremy Wallace/Aspen Times |

When “Rolling Papers,” a film documenting the first year of legal marijuana in Colorado, debuted at South by Southwest this spring, Aspen Film knew it had to screen here.

The documentary follows Denver Post staffers as they enter the uncharted territory of marijuana journalism, even as the state itself learns to adapt to pot’s legalization. Within Colorado, Aspen has led the way for some towns on allowing the industry to succeed, noted Maggie Mackay, artistic director for Aspen Film, during a panel following the documentary’s screening Saturday in Paepcke Auditorium.

For that reason, it was particularly important for Aspen Film’s former directors George Eldred and Laura Thielen, who stayed on to program Aspen Filmfest, to show “Rolling Papers” at this year’s event, she said.

Viewing the changes through the lens of newspaper journalism added another layer to the film about the struggles of the print-media industry, director Mitch Dickman said. Reporter Jake Browne noted that the Post and its marijuana publication The Cannabist don’t always take a pro-marijuana angle, such as when editor Ricardo Baca investigated the overrepresentation of THC in products made by one Denver company.

That project gets a few scenes in the movie, as does Browne, who is shown sampling strains at the Cannabis Cup and Googling “investigative reporting” on his way to an interview with a black-market dealer. Mackay remarked that the film doesn’t stray away from the fun side of pot, as have past documentaries that focused on the medical industry.

“It does now serve both recreational folks and legitimate medical issues,” she said.

One of the themes of both the film and the panel discussion was that the state has been learning as it goes on how to regulate the industry. The state took an important step when it enacted regulations about the packaging of edibles to make them child-proof, Browne said.

However, Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch called edibles the “Achilles’ heel” of the industry in that consumers don’t always know what they’re getting and wondered if governments will at some point have to step in with more regulation.

Browne responded by saying that many people feel more comfortable purchasing edibles because they’re more discreet and because users won’t, for example, get charged an exorbitant amount for smoking in a hotel room. He said policymakers, especially in places such as Aspen, should prioritize creating “responsible areas where adults can consume,” sparking applause from the audience.

Frisch, who said he doesn’t personally partake but supported the industry’s entrance into the city, said Aspen could be a leader in that regard.

“I’m not opposed to nonalcoholic venues for consumption,” Frisch said. “This is a very forward-thinking place.”

Kyle Vetter, manager of Native Roots in Aspen, said tourists always ask where they’re allowed to consume and where they can take it.

“I would love to say, ‘Here’s where to go,’” Vetter said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.