Denver Government

Denver Cancels Government Marijuana Expo for Third Straight Year

Denver’s Marijuana Management Symposium, an annual conference where government officials share cannabis compliance and regulatory tips with each other, has been canceled for the third year in a row.

Hosted by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses for five straight years, the expo received visitors from around the United States and other countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Excise and Licenses to cancel the symposium in 2020 and 2021, and this year is no different, according to department communications director Eric Escudero.

Despite a local decline in COVID-19 cases and a loosening of mask and vaccine requirements by event venues, Escudero says the unpredictability of the virus poses too great of a risk for the symposium. This year's conference would've taken place in September, he explains, and the city isn't willing to invest resources into hotel and conference rooms. He also questions whether other cities and states are willing to commit to send representatives to a large, in-person conference six months from now.

Denver's first Marijuana Management Symposium took place in 2015, the year after recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado. The day-long event hosted hundreds of people, including representatives and regulators from governments that have legalized marijuana or are considering legalizing. In 2019, Escudero recalls, there were a total of 367 attendees from around twenty states and three other countries.

The first major city to allow recreational pot sales, Denver now contains 206 retail marijuana stores, according to Escudero.

“We basically created the blueprint in Denver that other cities followed,” he says. “That’s why there's always been a lot of interest from other municipalities to come out to Denver and exchange ideas.”

The symposium centered on various aspects of regulation, with panel members from Colorado and other states that have legalized marijuana discussing their preferred practices and policies. At previous expos, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment delved into issues such as pesticide use and sustainable marijuana cultivation, while law enforcement officials have shared their approach to preventing black market crime.

Although 2022 marks the third year the Marijuana Management Symposium won't be returning, Escudero believes the world is “on the road to recovery” and hopes the conference comes back in 2023. More states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana since 2019, and the push for federal legalization is stronger. Both factors, among other pot industry developments, make the symposium worthwhile, he notes.

“Think of all the changes in cannabis regulation, as far as how many more markets there are across the United States, from the last time we held it to the next time we hold it,” he says. “There are a lot of factors in play, and we still get questions on a regular basis from other cities and states that look to Denver.”