Denver might be the new weed capital of the world — with hundreds of dispensaries, plenty of smoke shops and pro-ganja culture — but there’s one thing missing from the Mile High City: places where consumers can enjoy marijuana.
Anna Zhuravlev has a solution for that, thanks to zoning regulations that designate the home of Rigs 4 Us, the smoke shop she opened last year at 5912 East Colfax Avenue, as both a business and a residence. She allows people to smoke in the private, residential portion of the building — in the back room, on the back patio or in the downstairs dab bar — and she’ll even offer you a free dab hit if you’re over 21 years old.
Taking further advantage of the building’s unique designation, Zhuravlev teamed up with marijuana activist and entrepreneur AJ Hashman to organize the inaugural Colorado Cup on 4/20. It's a free cannabis competition that anyone could enter — as long as they had fourteen grams of flower, nine grams of concentrate or 25 pieces of edibles — until all 75 slots were filled.
Many of the entrants are private growers, Hashman says. A panel of five local celebrity judges — including pot critic Jake Browne, longtime marijuana activist Wayward Bill and marijuana chef Big Sal, famous for his Chocolate Salty Balls edibles — will test each of the entries, and the winners will take home custom-blown glass.
The Rigs 4 Us store will be closed to the public for the 4/20 holiday, but Cannabis Cup attendees can access the event, which will run from 2 to 11 p.m., through a side door. Food trucks will be parked out front to help with inevitable cases of the munchies, and more than a dozen acts will perform throughout the day on the back patio, including Ponder the Albatross and Lincoln Street Revival. Vendors will also set up there, showcasing their non-cannabis products; while they can bring their own weed, they can’t sell it.
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At past High Times Cannabis Cups in Colorado, Hashman notes, it was common for companies from other states to sell their marijuana indirectly — by offering a free eighth of weed with the purchase of a T-shirt, for example. But the practice of giving out samples was banned at last year’s Cup, and this year’s Cannabis Cup will be held in California, after Adams County denied High Times a special-events permit to hold the event there and backup plans in Pueblo County didn’t work out. “That’s really why we wanted to do something like this, to be able to showcase Colorado growers, Colorado extractors, Colorado people, in a safe environment where they didn’t have to worry about all that BS from California companies, Oregon companies or Washington companies,” Hashman says.
Although there’s no charge for entering the contest, private growers can pay a $40 fee to have their products tested for potency before the event. “Once we were able to offer that, I was like, all right, this is definitely taking things to the next level, because normal, everyday people don’t have access to this testing and to see where their product measures up compared to everything that they buy at the dispensaries and at the rec shops,” says Hashman. “This really gives them a chance to showcase their own skills and see if they can do better than the shops.”
Hashman and Zhuravlev have covered their bases in preparing for the Colorado Cup, hiring security and requiring that attendees sign a waiver before they enter, stating that they are entering the private establishment of their own free will and are responsible for their own actions. Last month, Zhuravlev distributed fliers to buildings in the area, informing neighbors of the competition and of the amplified music that will be coming from her building. She didn’t request a special-events permit from the city because she’s hosting a free private event on her own property; she says that attorneys she consulted confirmed that she’s operating within the law.
According to Hashman, the main goal of the Colorado Cup is to bring a like-minded community together to trade ideas. “It’s not just a competition or tasting,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to share knowledge and to bring the industry, the growers and the concentrate makers all together in a safe, fun, private environment, where we can all dab and talk and enjoy each other’s company.”
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Although he’s hosted dozens of medical marijuana events, Hashman says he hasn’t had any luck getting special-events permits for public cannabis events since recreational marijuana was legalized. “There is no permit out there that you can apply for, so until they actually make us a cannabis-event permit, we’re kind of flying blind and have to sort of make it up on our own,” he notes. “I think it’s a lot of politics behind it, because the people who run our city are invested in alcohol and they want alcohol events; they don’t want cannabis events. I know that 60 percent of people who are out at bars and clubs and things like that drinking alcohol would rather be at a cannabis event if they could safely go to one and have it in a public place.”
But city spokesman Dan Rowland points out that special-events permits aren’t issued for cannabis events because consuming marijuana in public is still illegal, while consuming alcohol is not: “The fact is that it is legal to consume alcohol in public in those types of situations; it’s not legal to do that with marijuana, so you’re not going to get that special-event permit.”
Rowland acknowledges that the difference between public and private events, such as the Colorado Cup, can seem hazy. As soon as an event charges admission, it is no longer considered private, the way a party in a private home is, and other rules come into play, such as the Clean Air Act. “The whole public-versus-private thing hasn’t all been sorted out constitutionally yet,” Rowland says, “and it’s going to take years of case law before there are clearer lines on that.”
In the meantime, Zhuravlev says she’s happy to offer her building as the site of the first Colorado Cup — because otherwise, it might not have happened at all. “There is not another location in Denver or in Colorado where they actually can have that because of the restriction of all the laws,” she says. “It means the world to me that I can give a place like this to people. That’s my passion.”