It's a tense time for Colorado's medical marijuana industry in the wake of U.S. Attorney John Walsh's seizure letters to 23 dispensaries near schools. But tonight offers an opportunity for many of the industry's biggest players to blow off steam at the Ganja Gala, a ritzy fundraiser for the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America and the National Cannabis Industry Association.
The theme? Prohibition circa the 1920s, but with a nod to the 21st century.
Although NCIA executive director Aaron Smith says the concept is intended to heighten the fun, it's got a more serious subtext.
"We're drawing a parallel between the disaster of alcohol prohibition and the equally disastrous marijuana prohibition that we're enduring in this country," he says. "It provides people with an excuse to dress up in a playful way, and that's a good thing for an event like this. But we really feel we have almost the exact same climate today as we saw in the 1920s under alcohol prohibition."
Examples? In Smith's words, "We have criminal gangs and violent drug dealers controlling the market of a popular substance that could be regulated and taxed in a controlled market rather than a black market."
The entry price for the soiree, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight at the Lavish Lounge, 1448 Market Street, isn't cheap -- $50 for "guys and dolls," with a $150 charge for those who want VIP treatment. But Christie Lunsford, NCIA's member services officer, stresses that the money collected will allow her organization and the MMAPA, which are both nonprofits, "to fund our missions going into the next legislative sessions, and help us focus on patient services, lobbying Congress and supporting the legal cannabis industry."
Smith sees the event as "a way to raise awareness, and also have a good time."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Pot shop seizure letters decried by National Cannabis Industry Association."