Marijuana put off participants at gardening conference, organizer says

This Mile High Gardening Conference, taking place at the downtown Sheraton this weekend, has sessions aplenty about 21st Century growing techniques, with a big focus on aquaponics and a vertical garden installed by the Spanish firm Urbanarbolismo.

What's not on the program? Marijuana -- although it was originally supposed to be. The change in plans frustrates representatives of one dispensary, but the organizer says he had to cut it because of resistance from other sponsors.

"Colorado is on the forefront of the legalization of marijuana," says Shane Morton, CEO of Roots Incorporated, the company that's putting on the get-together, "and although that wasn't the initial push for the conference, I felt it needed to be included to be a complete conference about gardening. But it presented an element other sponsors weren't able to get on board with. Maybe personally they could, but business-wise, they couldn't."

In the beginning, Morton planned to partner with the folks at Denver Relief. The center's Jake Browne says staffers had started lining up speakers, including author and cannabis grower Ed Rosenthal, when Morton informed them that he wanted to feature marijuana in an after-hours session rather than during the main part of the event. Browne adds that Morton wanted Denver Relief to seek out sponsors for the pot presentation, as well as sell tickets.

"Ultimately, we were doing more work for this conference to happen than we had planned for," Browne says, and that caused concerns. "We felt we'd really be sticking our necks out with people who'd come to rely on us for an event that we were having difficulty putting any stock in."

As for Morton, he admits to frustration over the lack of sponsors and ticket sales for the marijuana portion of the event. So he ditched it entirely to focus on the rest of the program, which includes appearances by the likes of Dr. Chito Sace, a University of Arizona professor who's been developing an aquaponics system one square meter in size that uses waste from fish at the bottom of the tank to nourish lettuce, spinach or other vegetables on top.

He's optimistic about the event, which he says began to attract more sponsorships once marijuana was out of the mix.

Still, there are clearly sore feelings on both sides.

"The bottom line is, marijuana still isn't accepted as mainstream at a cultivation conference," Browne allows, "and that's disappointing for us."

Counters Morton, "They hadn't supported us by selling a single ticket or bringing a single exhibitor or sponsor to the event -- and I'm not holding a private party. If you're not willing to put something behind it, then neither am I."

For more information about the Mile High Gardening Conference, June 1-2 at the downtown Sheraton, click here.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana publications sue over treat-pot-magazines-like-porn law."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts