The show goes on for Cannabis Grand Cru |

The show goes on for Cannabis Grand Cru

Former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, left, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Mason Tvert share the stage at the Belly Up during the Saturday session titled, "The Aspen Legacy and the Law" as part of the Cannabis Grand Cru.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

For all the hype and worries that surrounded the first marijuana symposium on the Western Slope, the Cannabis Grand Cru was exactly what the promoters said it was going to be: a chance to highlight the cannabis culture, lifestyle, business and community in one setting.

Hosted at the Sky Hotel in Aspen, the event celebrated the diversity of marijuana use while bringing together some of the principal characters who helped shape the current cannabis landscape in Colorado. It also highlighted Aspen and the progressive attitude toward pot that started decades ago and is still maintained here today.

“The benefit here is we can showcase the work we’ve done within the community,” said Jordan Lewis, owner of Silverpeak Apothecary in Aspen. “It’s not an abstract concept that we’re talking about with the community outreach and participation we’ve had. We’re actually showing the folks here, through our participation and that of the Sheriff’s Department, how this can be done correctly. It’s great to see an event like this take such a professional approach toward the industry.”

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo was an active participant on several discussion panels Saturday, using the platform to reiterate some of his views on educating the community on marijuana use and pushing responsible use among those who chose to ingest or smoke pot.

“I trust the promoters of this event to not just have a stoner convention with a bunch of bleary-eyed folks looking to get high,” DiSalvo said a month ago. “This is going to be very different with some incredible speakers and some of the brightest minds in the business.”

It would be tough to argue DiSalvo’s description of the event, as the speaker list was loaded with guests from an array of different backgrounds, including lawyers, scientists, business owners and others involved in or affected by the industry.

During one session, DiSalvo and former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis teamed with Mason Tvert to talk about the Aspen legacy of “live and let live” when it came to marijuana use. Tvert is the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Tvert co-directed the campaign that supported Amendment 64, the 2012 ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado.

Braudis touched on the influence that Hunter S. Thompson had on the image of Aspen in the early 1970s and shared some personal stories about building trust within a community.

“We were conscientious objectors against the war on drugs and allowed discretion when it came to enforcing certain laws,” he said. “We built trust within our community by allowing the use of common sense from our officers. We weren’t interested in going undercover to bust our friends and lose that community trust. I know that there are undercover policemen involved with Grand Cru. I don’t know if there are any federal narcs, but I know there are undercover policemen and women covering this event. You should be afraid if you’re doing anything illegal.”

DiSalvo noted that there weren’t any Aspen city or Pitkin County public officials at the event Saturday.

“This was a great chance for anybody to advance their education on this industry,” he said. “This is a topic the city and county, I assume, will continue to talk about. The better education they have, the better. Today we’ve had some interesting topics that are relevant to Pitkin County, like smoking clubs, growing, public/private use and sharing. It was a great opportunity for appointed and elected officials to be here, to learn about the industry and erase some of the stigma. I invited several but don’t see any of them here.”

Nick Brait received a juris doctor certificate in international trade and business law prior to moving to Denver to found the Greene Consulting Group and the Greene Law Firm in 2013. Brait helped map out how the current laws came to fruition with a brief history of the cannabis law in this country.

“You can go back to 1996, when California passed the first medical marijuana laws,” Brait said. “Colorado moved slowly after passing its medical laws in 2000 until the modern cannabis industry that got out of the caregiver/collective state and into big commercial grows, the dispensaries, the real professional nature of the industry.”

John Hunt, who operated a medical marijuana outlet in Aspen before advancing his business ventures, saw 2009 as the pivotal time when the marijuana industry changed to a larger money-making venture.

“In 2009, the first regulatory aspects of marijuana came to Colorado with licenses and fingerprints required,” Hunt said. “That has now blossomed into something much bigger. That didn’t really occur prior to 2009. The industry moved toward more of a profit module as opposed to having home grows and redistribution through patient rights.”

The only snafu through the first two days of the event was from one sponsor, Y5rx, after it handed out a cannabis-infused cigarette to a plain-clothed police officer at the Grand Cru Village located in the pool area of the hotel.

“They were informed of the rules and didn’t follow them,” said Grand Cru promoter Anthony Dittmann. “Subsequently, their activation was removed from the sponsor area the night of the incident.”

At the end of a session that DiSalvo hosted, he was asked about his supposed carrying of a soft sword as a law enforcement officer and just when he saw it necessary to use the sharp side of the sword.

“I don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” DiSalvo said. “I look at my philosophy as a double-edged sword. Yes, I can be compassionate, but I have zero tolerance when it comes to the invasion of people’s privacy or bullying. That’s when you get the other side of me. With marijuana, the sharp side comes out with children. I have no tolerance when there’s children involved with marijuana. We’re working on a lot of programs with the schools. ‘Just Say No’ sucked and D.A.R.E. was a horrible failure. I want to help educate teachers and parents when it comes to marijuana and kids. I also have no tolerance when it comes to driving stoned. There are things I have little tolerance for and I do carry that sharp sword for, when it’s needed. I’m open-minded, but I get closed-minded real fast when some kid gets hurt.”

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