Pubdate: Sun, 25 May 2014
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2014 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Jack Healy, the New York Times
Page: A10


Legalization Spawns Mainstream Event

Wine and Debussy Also on the Program

DENVER - The musicians stuck to the classics at the Colorado 
Symphony's first-ever "Classically Cannabis" fundraiser Friday night. 
They played Strauss and Wagner, not Marley and Garcia. Their only 
concessions to the evening's marijuana theme, it seemed, were the 
bright green ties they wore with their black suits.

"This is not some big ganja fest," said Justin Bartels, principal 
trumpeter for the Denver-based symphony. "This is very respectable."

As attendees swirled through an art gallery just south of downtown, 
clinking glasses of wine and ducking through an open door to a rainy 
patio to light up a joint, the brass quintet ran through popular 
selections by Puccini and Debussy, playing on in a corner as the 
unmistakable odor of marijuana smoke filled the echoing space.

The symphony's event was one more sign that marijuana has begun 
slipping into the cultural mainstream, five months after Colorado 
became the first state to allow recreational sales of the drug to 
adults 21 and older. (Washington state also allows recreational use.)

In addition to hundreds of marijuana retailers and growers across the 
state, several companies offer marijuana tours through Denver and 
into the mountains. The Denver Post runs a bustling website, The 
Cannabist, devoted to all things marijuana. There are 
marijuana-friendly speed-dating events and cooking classes devoted to 
marijuana-themed recipes. And this spring, the Denver County Fair 
will feature an adults-only Pot Pavilion, albeit one without any 
actual marijuana plants on the premises. (Oregano will have to 
suffice for a joint-rolling contest.)

Friday's event was organized by a marijuana-themed event promoter, 
and sponsored by a cannabis cultivation products company and a 
handful of marijuana sellers. For the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, 
the bring-your-own-marijuana event offered a novel way to raise 
$50,000 at a time it is contending with financial struggles and a 
battle over rent at its city-owned concert venue.

"For us, it's just another fundraiser," said Evan Lasky, the 
symphony's chief operating officer. "Performing arts are struggling."

Some board members objected to a fundraiser sponsored by an industry 
that sells a drug still outlawed by the federal government and a 
majority of states, and Lasky said he had received a few outraged 
emails, though none from patrons. Lasky said the sponsors had a 
straightforward pitch: They operated legal businesses in Colorado, 
had money and wanted to support the arts.

If the symphony's chamber ensemble could perform a Beethoven and beer 
fundraiser, Lasky said, why not "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series"?

At first, the symphony sold tickets, but it was forced to refund 
those sales and recast the fundraiser as a private, invitation-only 
affair after Denver officials raised objections, saying the 
performance could violate laws against the public consumption of marijuana.

Despite the drug's legality, it is illegal to consume marijuana on 
the street or in public parks, bars, restaurants or any other public 
spaces, and the police in cities such as Denver and Boulder have 
cracked down on public consumption in recent months. Denver officials 
warned that they could try to halt the symphony's cannabis event and 
hold organizers and sponsors responsible for violating any public 
consumption prohibitions.

In response, the symphony stripped information about the cannabis 
concert from its website, refunded ticket sales and agreed to limit 
attendees to a closed list of guests set by the organizer. The 
outdoor patio where guests smoked marijuana was sheathed in plastic 
to shield guests from street view.

"We were very careful," Lasky said.

There are two more cannabis sponsored fundraisers scheduled for the 
summer, including an outdoor concert at Red Rocks amphitheater in the 
foothills west of Denver. Marijuana consumption is banned at that 
venue, though many concertgoers would testify that the prohibition is 
loosely enforced.

As the chamber quintet performed, the guests - many of them connected 
to the marijuana industry - inspected the art, pinned marijuana-leaf 
pins to their dresses and suit lapels, and talked about business in 
this new frontier of commerce.

Leslie Bryant, 23, a law student who emphasized that she and her 
fiance had planned ahead for a cab ride home, surveyed the scene from 
an upstairs balcony. She said the evening was a good excuse to dress 
up and add a grace note of culture to a recreational undertaking 
usually associated with someone's basement or concert-hall bathrooms.

"It can be sophisticated," she said. "It doesn't have to be about stoners."

A few tables away, Phil Cherner, a criminal-defense lawyer, said the 
evening was about as mainstream as you could get. "The goal of the 
project was to make marijuana boring," said. "They've succeeded. It's 
classical music, a glass of wine, a toke."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom