You can't possess pot inside Denver International Airport. You can't eat it, smoke it, grow it or give it to a friend, and soon, vendors there may not be able to sell pot-themed merchandise, either. "We have started the process to restrict marijuana promotional merchandise at Denver International Airport and will be following the public hearing process to amend the airport rule to reflect that," airport spokesman Heath Montgomery told Westword this week. (Update below.)
That revelation comes six weeks after entrepreneur Ann Jordan complained that the airport was preventing her from selling pot-leaf-imprinted flip-flops and boxer shorts to one of the souvenir stores there. Jordan, a retired teacher who earlier this year started a business, High-ly Legal Colorado, thought it was ironic that the airport allowed Colorado flag shot glasses but not her products.
"I don't know where they're drawing the line," she said, adding that weed has become one of the state's best-known selling points.
After Jordan complained, the airport acknowledged that it didn't have a formal policy on pot-related merchandise, but officials there said they would take up the issue. "We will be discussing this and decide if such a policy is needed and whether or not we want to allow marijuana promotional products to sell in our retail program," Montgomery said at the time.
And, in fact, there was at least one pot-themed item for sale at a souvenir store in Concourse A in mid-October: a green T-shirt depicting a marijuana leaf with the words "Exit 420" and "Welcome to Colorado" on it. That shirt was produced by local firm Duck Co.
On Monday, Montgomery said the decision had been made: Pot merch is now kaput.
"We do not feel that this merchandise is in keeping with the standards for our concession program. As the gateway to Denver, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain West (including states like Wyoming, in which marijuana is not legal), we don't want marijuana to be the first thing visitors experience when they arrive, as there is so much more to this area," Montgomery said in an e-mail.
"We also do not feel that marijuana-oriented merchandise is in line with our family friendly environment. Finally, DIA operates under both local and federal rules, and federal law does not recognize marijuana as a legal substance."
While some people might suggest that the airport's current block-long display on Colorado's craft-brewing industry (it's in the walkway between the concourse and Terminal A) and recent temporary beer-tasting garden aren't family friendly, either, Montgomery pointed out that "the distinguishing factor is that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level."
Pot-themed souvenirs, however, do not.
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Updated: That's something that irks Duck Co co-founder Jim Bruno, whose Exit 420 shirt is for sale at DIA. "It's ridiculous. How can you ban something that is legal," he asks about both marijuana and t-shirts. Bruno's company, which was founded in 1988, doesn't specialize in pot t-shirts -- "we try to stay on top on whatever the trend is," he says -- but he feels like the market is strong for them. "It's such a fun and unique thing for Colorado. It's part of Colorado's brand now."
DIA plans to move ahead with its public hearing on the issue sometime in mid-November. The hearing is required because the ban on pot merchandise would involve a change to an airport rule, specifically Rule 30: Conduct of Persons Using the Airport, which covers everything from security screenings to picture-taking to roller skating in the terminals (not allowed, just fyi) to concessions.
Oh, and it also covers pot under section 30.16, which reads: "It shall be unlawful to possess, consume, use, display, transfer, distribute, sell, transport, or grow Marijuana on any property or facilities owned by Denver International Airport including but not limited to any building, structures, terminals, parking and ground transportation facilities, roadways, land, hangers, warehouses, runways, shops, hotels, motels and administrative offices.
"For the purposes of this Section 30.16, the term 'Marijuana' shall mean and include all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin, including marijuana concentrate. 'Marijuana' does not include industrial hemp, nor does it include fiber produced from the stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of the plant, sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination, or the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink, or other product."