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Why the Colorado Symphony's pot concerts are already a success, despite threats from the city

Not a sight the public is likely to see at the current version of the Classically Cannabis series.
Not a sight the public is likely to see at the current version of the Classically Cannabis series.
Eric Gruneisen. Full slideshow.

When Colorado Symphony Orchestra announced their Classically Cannabis concerts, a series of bring-your-own-weed performances, it sounded like a great merging of the city's classical music culture and its rising cannabis culture. But the City of Denver felt the shows violated the ban on "public" consumption of marijuana stipulated by Amendment 64. The Symphony has re-configured the events to address those concerns, and they are now by invitation only. Anyone who bought a ticket will get a refund.

Despite the confusion, the Symphony seems likely to accomplish its original goal of attracting the interest (and money) of the cannabis industry. "We've come onto the radar onto a lot of people who might not of known about the symphony prior to the event," says Colorado Symphony Director of Community and Media Relations Laura Bond. "So we're interested in building relationships with those people,"

The series is a collaboration between the Symphony and Edible Events, a company whose mission is "to maximize the cannabis experience and stimulate your heightened awareness of taste, smell, sights & sounds via artfully choreographed events that are incredible experiences."

The shows were originally going to be held at Space Gallery and feature a finale at Red Rocks. The original idea was that the Space Gallery shows would be private events and guests could bring their own cannabis to smoke.

The Colorado Symphony and Edible Events assumed that because the event was listed as private (only guests who purchased a $75 ticket would be allowed in) and Space Gallery is privately-owned, the BYOC idea fell right in line with the new Amendment 64 law that allows for private consumption of cannabis.

However, the City of Denver seemed to disagree, sending a letter to the symphony that said, "We will exercise any and all options available to the City of Denver to halt the event and hold the business owners, event organizers responsible for any violations of law. We are also ready to hold individual attendees responsible for any violations of City ordinances or state law prohibiting public consumption of marijuana."

More on what we've learned about Colorado's young marijuana laws is on the next page.

 

The confusion highlights the challenges of interpreting the terms "public" and "private" in Amendment 64. The city claimed that the events violate the private consumption law by allowing smoking "openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others." It's easy to see how the organizers of this series wouldn't think that it could be described as public, but clearly Denver disagrees.

"We did everything that we thought we needed to do this first time," Bond said. "We announced this event to comply fully with the law."

Still, the symphony responded by re-characterizing the events as fundraisers and limiting the guest list to those with invitations. According to Bond, Edible Events will be putting together that list, so presumably it include members of the cannabis industry -- the group the series was trying to attract in the first place. The finale event at Red Rocks is still open to the public, though you won't be allowed to smoke there (or, officially, at any other event at the venue). Those changes have satisfied the city, so the shows will go on.

In a news release, the symphony described its interest in the series, citing the projected $67 million in tax revenue for the state this year and the $200,000 the symphony expects to raise from series.

Bond says this is just one small part of the Symphony's work to reach new audiences. "It you look at what the Colorado Symphony has been up to over the last couple of years it has been these kinds of initiatives," she says. "It's not just this cannabis initiative."

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