Aspen might put kibosh on pot smoking at Grand Cru event
October 16, 2014
The Grand Cru is still coming to Aspen in November, but it might not be as grand as originally expected.
The three-day event, scheduled for Nov. 14 through 16 at the Sky Hotel in Aspen, includes lectures, seminars, experiential learning and entertainment centered around the cannabis business in the United States.
The event also proposed to set up an area around the Sky Hotel pool that would be fenced and screened to allow the consumption of marijuana that event participants bring themselves.
But a recent communication with the city of Aspen puts the participation aspect in doubt, causing some concern for Anthony Dittmann, the Grand Cru organizer.
"We think we're staying within the municipal code by making this a private event," Dittmann said. "The event will go on with or without a private smoking area, but I'm wondering where the customer service is from the city of Aspen."
Dittmann said he's been in contact with Aspen about the event since June. He said that after the June discussions with Linda Manning, the city clerk, he was told the city would send him a copy of the municipal code that was referenced in the argument against the event.
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He said both parties agreed they also would try and find some common ground to work out the matter.
Dittmann received a copy of the municipal code on Monday.
"Part of our plan was to create some commerce for Aspen in the offseason," Dittmann said. "For us to be so transparent with the city the entire time and eager to receive clarification from them, and for them not to respond to us really since June, there's no sense of customer service towards us whatsoever. It also puts us in a very precarious position where we've invested tens of thousands of dollars moving forward based on good faith from the Clerk's Office."
Both Manning and Debbie Quinn, the city of Aspen assistant attorney, disagreed about the communication between the two parties.
"We've said all along that the city does not permit consumption in public areas," Manning said.
Dittmann argued that since his group had booked the entire Sky Hotel for all three days, the event should be considered private, not public.
"There's a liquor license at the Sky for the bar area by the pool," Manning said. "Because there's a liquor license, it's a public place."
Manning said that means even if a private participation area is designated by the Grand Cru team in that area, it won't counter the pool area being public.
Quinn said she believes the city has consistently told anyone who asked that consumption of marijuana at this event would not be permitted.
"I do think we've been consistent in indicating that consumption is not permitted," Quinn said. "We absolutely prohibit the consumption of marijuana on the premise of any business or any kind of private club in the city of Aspen."
Quinn said a gray area could be that if a hotel chooses to allow smoking, that could include marijuana.
But a privatized area by the Sky Hotel pool would be different, Quinn said. That area is part of the Sky Hotel business premises and is not the same as a private room.
Quinn said she talked with representatives of the Sky Hotel on Tuesday and told them that if they wanted to open the hotel's rooms to smoking, that would be up to them.
"If it's a smoking facility and you chose to allow people to smoke in their rooms, what they smoke is their business," Quinn said. "Marijuana is legal in the privacy of certain places."
Dittmann said he honestly believes ticket sales will suffer without the ability to smoke personal amounts of marijuana at the event.
"It's like a beer festival without beer," he said. "I think we'll be refunding tickets if there is nowhere legal in town for people to smoke. We've engaged a lawyer in Denver who's the executive director for Colorado's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws."
Dittmann said he's done more than his share to make this event comply with the city's guidelines.
"We internally decided no edibles will be consumed at the event," he said. "We decided to put up the privacy area just for personal use. Based on a recent Marijuana Enforcement Division bulletin that makes it clear that distribution outside of your store premises is illegal, we're not sampling on site. We've made every effort to find common ground, to embrace this new industry, to provide commerce to the city of Aspen and be as transparent as possible. At the Valley Marijuana Council meeting in August, Quinn said she doesn't want Aspen to become Amsterdam. I think they're basing a lot of their subjective attitudes towards that."