Cannabis Grand Cru to be a learning experience | AspenTimes.com

Cannabis Grand Cru to be a learning experience

Michael Mclaughlin
The Aspen Times

This rendering shows the proposed platform and shipping container that the Cannabis Grand Cru staff plans to erect over the Sky Hotel pool. The container area will serve as a space for sponsors to set up, as well as become the designated participation area.

The first major marijuana symposium on the Western Slope is coming to Aspen this November with a three-day agenda that organizers promise will be part learning experience and part celebration.

The Cannabis Grand Cru is coming to the Sky Hotel Nov. 14 through 16. The event is geared toward both consumers and cannabis professionals. The Grand Cru opens with a welcome apero Friday evening, a day of informational sessions with a live performance by White Water Ramble on Saturday and a farewell party on Sunday.

Blue Sugar Productions and its co-owners, Anthony Dittmann and Hezekiah Blake, are putting on the event.

Dittmann was ESPN's director of operations for the X Games for 15 years and also has worked on coordinating the ESPN ESPY Awards.

"The trick here is communication and details," Dittmann said. "The X Games is a huge event. It's televised with hundreds of athletes, media, VIPs and guests where safety and staying on budget is paramount. It's not uncommon for people to think that event coordinating is easy and assume they can do it, but I think that may have been a pitfall the cannabis industry is in right now. We're determined to bring a quality, professionally run event to Aspen."

Due to the current laws in Colorado, attendance at any cannabis event must be by invitation. On the Grand Cru website, there's an information request area where anyone can sign up for free membership with Grand Cru. Members will be sent invitations to purchase tickets.

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Since the event is about marijuana and the Sky Hotel is being privatized for the weekend, there will be a fence line around the pool area with a shipping container covering the pool itself. That will act as a designated participation area.

"We're reinventing how the Sky Hotel pool area has traditionally been seen," Dittmann said. "We'll have a flat deck over the pool with the shipping container on top of the deck. That's where our sponsors will activate from. We'll have a screen set up to create a private area where people can enjoy product."

On Nov. 15, there are 12 work sessions geared toward the retail industry but are open to any ticketed guest. The topics cover a wide range of issues within the cannabis industry, including marijuana genetics, brand building, legal aspects, financing and the culture of cannabis. There are also marijuana cooking demonstrations, discussions on topicals and oil extracts and a look at the history of marijuana in Aspen.

"We employed a steering committee of folks local to Aspen and Colorado to help guide us with who to talk to, some topics we might look at and who we might be interested in as guest speakers," Dittmann said. "They've been a great support arm for us. We also had an existing relationship with Sheriff DiSalvo from working with him through the X Games. He's excited to have another venue where he can advance his educational efforts with marijuana."

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who will be one of the guest speakers at the event, has been busy with the Valley Marijuana Council, his venue for helping educate the local community on the uses of marijuana.

"In the last year, we've had a new product introduced into our community," DiSalvo said. "A part of public safety, it's my responsibility to make sure I get as much accurate information out there. I'm hoping to share some of the creative ways we're dealing with as we introduce this new product. It's another way to get the message out. I also happen to really believe if anyone could put on a good, credible, high-level event, it's Anthony and his team."

Guest speakers at the event include:

Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Tvert co-directed the successful campaign in support of Amendment 64, the 2012 ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado.

Meg Collins, the executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. Collins steered the alliance through the development of the legislative and regulatory framework implementing Colorado's recreational marijuana market.

Daniela Vergara, an evolutionary biologist doing research to help understand the genomic regions in the Cannabis plants crucial for future applications in drug development, patient treatment and the industrial production of biofuel and fiber.

Myles Rockwell, former X Games gold medalist and world champion dirt-bike racer. Rockwell is a speaker from outside the industry who will share his story about getting arrested for growing 50 pot plants in Durango in 2003 and the ramifications that followed.

"It really put a black label on me as far as working with any bike companies," Rockwell said. "There's a stigma that needs to be addressed about being labeled a felon for growing pot. I'm looking forward to telling my story at the Grand Cru."

Jordan Lewis, Silverpeak Apothecary owner. Recognized as a pioneering leader throughout the industry, he recently spoke at the Agricultural Investment Conference in New York, the first time a marijuana grower was invited to speak.

Cannabis Grand Cru selected the Roaring Fork Conservancy for its give back initiative and will donate 5 percent of net profits following the November event in Aspen. According to the Grand Cru website, the business, "Believes in supporting the local community, the environment and organizations that protect our precious natural resources."

Dittmann hopes to see the Grand Cru become an annual event in Aspen.

"We're considering Seattle as another destination for a Grand Cru event," he said. "But right now we'd like to see this become an annual event in Aspen. We think offseason is a great time to do this. We definitely plan to be back next year."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com