First of its kind on Western Slope | AspenTimes.com

First of its kind on Western Slope

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

On Thursday, workers put in several extra heaters to counter the chilly Aspen weather at a temporary stage, dance floor and sponsor area that is now in place over the Sky Hotel pool for the Cannabis Grand Cru event. There's also a covered area on top of the structure where DJ Naka G will perform.

Ready or not, Aspen is set to host another gathering of some of the brightest minds and business leaders in their industry.

It's not as prestigious as the Ideas Fest and won't draw crowds this year like the Food & Wine Classic, but the Cannabis Grand Cru is the first major marijuana symposium ever on the Western Slope and will be hosted at the Sky Hotel in Aspen this weekend. The event is geared towards the consumer and cannabis professional alike, with a three-day agenda that's set to offer a combined learning experience and celebration of the marijuana industry.

Corey Enloe, general manager of the Sky Hotel, said he is pleased with the way the event shaped up.

"This weekend is nearly sold out," Enloe said. "We have a few rooms left for walk-ins, and we expect them to fill in. We're excited about the event, as it's a good piece of business for this time of the year. It's interesting and cutting-edge, obviously, because of the nature of the event. The company producing this, Blue Sugar Productions, is out in front of the industry and has made sure all the pieces are in place."

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

Dittmann, ESPN's former director of operations for the X Games for 15 years, has been planning the Grand Cru since May.

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"We've definitely seen our share of ups and downs," Dittmann said. "Producing an event for the first time in a new city will always present some challenges. There are still a lot of people that question this industry and cannabis itself, and we've gotten some pushback here and there, but ultimately, everyone has been very supportive. The city of Aspen has been supportive, contrary to some of the stories and history over the past few months, but we got the clarity we needed, and we're moving forward. Jim True, the Aspen city attorney, has been great."

The Grand Cru event originally planned to have an area for people to smoke or consume marijuana but ultimately dropped that aspect, as it conflicted with city rules concerning public use of pot.

"We made it clear to the ticket holders that they can't smoke at the hotel," Dittmann said.

The Grand Cru opens with a welcome reception tonight, informational sessions and guest speakers Saturday and a live performance by White Water Ramble at Belly Up and a farewell party Sunday.

The informational sessions 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.

"It's been rewarding to watch our first production come to fruition," Dittmann said. "This is the first event that is truly operated and owned by myself and my colleagues. It's been very satisfying to get to this point. The challenges we're identifying come from not having a bunch of departments behind us. We don't have a marketing department, a PR department or a talent-wrangling department. Trying to do all this between two or three people has been very challenging."

Dittmann hopes the Grand Cru event will help grow his company's brand as it promotes cannabis in a responsible way. He thinks having an intimate setting such as the Sky Hotel will only benefit the experience of his guests, speakers and sponsors.

He fully expects another Grand Cru event in Pitkin County next year and also is looking at holding a similar event in Seattle next year.

"I think it's going to go off without a hitch," Enloe said. "I don't think there will be too many issues. We've talked with all the parties involved, from city officials to the state liquor board, and everyone seems ready to go."

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com