Denver urges Colorado Symphony to cancel pot concerts

· May 8, 2014, 9:52 pm

Photo: Marijuana in Colorado 1 Inside the grow operation of Options Medical(Photo: CPR/Irvin Coffee)The city of Denver is urging the Colorado Symphony to call off a series of pot-themed fundraising concerts. The series is sponsored by some of the state's marijuana businesses and is scheduled to start with the first of three concerts at Space Gallery, a private art gallery in Denver's Santa Fe Art District, on May 23.

In a letter dated May 8, 2014 and addressed to the Symphony's CEO, Jerry Kern, director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, Stacie Loucks, wrote "the event, as advertised, could violate both City and State law." 

Amendment 64 permits the personal use of marijuana for adults over 21 but doesn't allow public consumption. The Symphony's events, called "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series," are billed as BYOC - Bring Your Own Cannabis.

Loucks' letter states that "Immunity from prosecution under state and local laws granted for adult possession and consumption does not extend to smoking 'openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.'"

According to the letter,  "Openly smoking or consuming edible marijuana at an event at the Space Gallery may well be a violation of State laws prohibiting public consumption of marijuana."

The letter also says the Colorado Symphony concert series may violate federal law.

"Additionally, your contract with Denver for the use of the Boettcher Concert Hall requires compliance with all laws, expressly including federal law. The consumption of marijuana is illegal under federal law and the promotion of public marijuana consumption at a Colorado Symphony event may constitute a breach of contract with the City."

The letter states the applications for two special event permits the Symphony submitted to Denver "will be subjected to a public hearing to determine if the permits should be granted as provided for by state and local law. The advertisements promoting public consumption of marijuana will be examined at this hearing and will be considered as to whether the permit is issued or denied."

Loucks advises the Symphony to "cancel the effort to use your business to provide an event for the public consumption of marijuana in violation of local and state laws. Failure to follow the law may result in civil and criminal penalties."

Neither Loucks nor her colleagues in the Department of Excise and Licenses, Judy Steele and Cindy Woehler, could be reached for comment. 

The Symphony's CEO Jerry Kern issued a written statement Thursday responding to the city's letter. 

“As a responsible and civic-minded organization, the Colorado Symphony takes the issues raised by the City of Denver very seriously. We’re reviewing the issues with our legal team. When the Colorado Symphony accepted support from the legal cannabis industry -- as a means of supporting our financial operations and connecting with a culturally diverse audience -- we believed we did so in full compliance with the law. We’re confident that any questions can be resolved quickly. We will issue a more detailed response after a thorough internal review.”

Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez says the city isn’t singling out the Symphony. He says Denver is only trying to ensure compliance with the laws. "The Colorado Symphony is an important partner for the city and really a value to our entire community," he says. "When we talk about halting an event, it’s not a judgment call on the Symphony itself. It’s really about the promotion of an event where there’s the public consumption of marijuana. We have an obligation as a city to enforce our laws and make sure that folks are on notice that those provisions will be enforced and that they’re not caught off guard."
Jane West owns Edible Events Co. which is helping to organize the Symphony's fundraising series aimed at the cannibas crowd. 
She says she's disappointed by the news that the city wants the Symphony to halt these concerts. She's now talking with the Symphony to determine how to move forward.  
West says she’s already raised more than $37,000 from businesses within the cannabis community to support this event series. 
“I hope we can continue to work to find options so that these events can proceed as planned,” she says.

The Colorado Symphony's concert series is scheduled to culminate with a performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Sept. 13. Marijuana consumption at Red Rocks is illegal.

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