Mountain Town News: Now that pot’s legal in Colorado, who’s next? |

Mountain Town News: Now that pot’s legal in Colorado, who’s next?

Compiled by Allen Best
Mountain Town News
A moose checks out the vantage point from Gold Hill earlier this month.
Peer Bjornstad / Special to the Daily |

DENVER, Colo. – Monday was the annual holiday for marijuana enthusiasts, and in Denver, arguably the center for the world’s legalization movement, those gathered were observant when 4:20 p.m. arrived.

Giant clouds of smoke billowed from the crowd that had gathered at the annual Cannabis Cup sponsored by High Times magazine. Of course, smoke had been much in abundance the entire afternoon at the Denver Mart, a convention center with hundreds of vendors selling everything from pipes to T-shirts to better lighting systems for grow operations.

It’s still illegal to publicly consume cannabis in Colorado, but the law is enforced with some restraint. Besides, how are you going to enforce a law at a gathering like that? A sheriff’s deputy directing traffic on a nearby street said that attendance was estimated at 65,000 on Saturday, the first day of the festival, and the crowd looked even bigger on Monday.

The event drew a diversity of people: fat and skinny, young — but at least 21 — and old, white, black, yellow and brown skins; crew cuts and dreadlocks and, on one tall man, hair long enough to shine his shoes.

“Denver: Center of the Cannaverse,” said one T-shirt. Washington state has been following at a more restrained pace, and now Alaska and Oregon voters have chosen to follow in these footsteps. Washington, D.C., is pursuing a different path of legalization, one that emphasizes grow-your-own.

As people vaped and lit blunts outside, speakers at forums talked about what comes next.

Ballot issues are being readied in Arizona, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. Legislators in some other states are working up proposed legalization laws.

“If California legalizes it, it’s over,” said Russ Belville, who does a daily two-hour show on 420 Radio, which calls itself the NPR of THC.

What would be over, he explained, is the national policy of prohibition. The U.S. government took the first steps to ban marijuana in 1937, just a few years after legalizing alcohol, and then stepped up the ban in 1970 by making it a Schedule 2 controlled substance under federal laws.

Belville showed a chart showing that more than two million people have been imprisoned under the laws. “Mostly Black and Latino men,” he said.

Keith Stroup, an attorney who in 1970 founded NORML, the advocacy organization, pointed to a key challenge for cannabis reformers. He said that in 1969, polls showed just 12 percent of Americans favored legalization. Now, it’s 53 percent — and even higher in some polls.

But Stroup said that they favor legalization because they can see the failure of prohibition. Two-thirds of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of marijuana users. “They see us as slackers, people without ambition who spend our days on the sofa.”

The key, he added, is to provide the science about marijuana use to non-smokers, “because they hold the key.”

“We have passed the tipping point, but marijuana smokers must be responsible in how they pursue it and how they present it,” he said.

And after the United States? Other countries took their cues from the U.S. in making marijuana illegal, and the reverse will be true, too, speakers said.

How can this legalization wave be messed up? Greed, answered Mason Travert, who co-wrote Colorado’s constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis and is now working on efforts nationally. He suggested that tracking of goods, packaging and other means of assuring the public must be accepted by THC providers.

But there is also concern about the effect of big money. Derisive mention was made of “big tobacco” and of the “boozers,” and fears that giant corporate interests will try to take over what is essentially a supply chain somewhat akin to craft breweries.

Outside, among the tents, where people were lining up to pay “donations” in exchange for hits, very little tobacco and virtually no alcohol was evident. Cannabists are interested in good health. At one session, there was even discussion about how to avoid refined sugar when creating edibles.

As for smoking tobacco — not their thing. Cigarette smokers went to the margins to light up.

Small avalanche kills skier in Montana b.c.

BIG SKY, Mont. – Again comes news of the death of a backcountry skier who was both experienced and conservative in his decision-making. Nor was the avalanche that caught 28-year-old Jens Hagen Anderson a large one as he skied down a couloir in the Madison Range of Montana. However, it was enough to sweep him over cliffs, and he died of trauma, reports Big Sky’s Lone Peak Lookout.

Skiing the 100 highest may not be the hardest

ASPEN, Colo. – Christy Mahon has had some grueling uphill adventures. She became the first woman to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.

Now, along with her husband, Ted Mahon, and their climbing partner Chris Davenport, she hopes to be the first to climb and then ski Colorado’s 100 highest peaks. Some of those lesser peaks, such as Dallas Peak overlooking Telluride, are actually much more difficult than the 14,000-foot peaks.

But she is also struggling with another uphill climb. She is part of a group called Citizens’ Climate Lobby that is trying to get the U.S. Congress to take meaningful action about climate change. She wrote her sentiments in a letter published in newspapers in Aspen and Grand Junction.

Bruins figure out the “resistant” trash cans

ASPEN, Colo. – Several years ago Aspen city officials purchased trash and recycling containers that were designed to deter pilfering bears. They were bear resistant but not bear proof.

Now, the bears have figured out these containers. In response, Aspen is upping the ante, ordering 50 BearSaver cans at a cost of just less than $50,000, reports the Aspen Daily News.

“Over the last three years, we’ve had more and more bears coming into town and they figured out how to get into these,” said Tom Rubel, director of the city’s Parks and Open Space Department.

Cleaner-running cars reduced need for fans

DILLON, Colo. – Drivers don’t really see them, but the Eisenhower and Johnson memorial tunnels that bore through the Continental Divide at above 11,000 feet elevation in Colorado have giant 600-horsepower fans to draw exhaust out of the 1.7-mile tunnel and draw in fresh air.

But although traffic has increased, with nearly 30,000 vehicles annually, the fans no longer must run at full power, as today’s cars are more fuel efficient.

The twin bores, located 58 miles west of Denver and adjacent and below the ski slopes of the Loveland Ski Area, are the highest elevation highways tunnels in the world.

California towns object to H20 limits

TRUKCEE, Calif. – California Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered a 25 percent cut in residential water use, because of the four-year drought, but representatives of resort towns say it’s more complicated than that.

Consider Truckee, located near Squaw Valley and a bucket of other ski areas. “Truckee’s full-time population is about 16,000 but over half of tour housing units are second homes, and we have a large number of visitors year-round,” says a letter dispatched last week by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

“Simply swapping water used per capita for water used per housing unit would wash out the anomaly that exists in Truckee and in many other second-home communities in California and get us to a fair and appropriate measure of water use per person,” says Tony Lashbrook, the Truckee town manger.

The Wall Street Journal reports similar sentiments by South Lake Tahoe officials about their perceived view of California’s formula.

Skiing revenues double since the late 1990s

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – In reporting the retirement of Chris Diamond from the helm of the Steamboat ski area, The Denver Post establishes just how well the resort has done. In the last 15 years, the newspaper says, Steamboat’s annual payments to the U.S. Forest Service for use of federal land have more than doubled, to $1.5 million last year.

Steamboat had been owned in the late 1990s by Les Otten’s American Skiing Co. In 1996, it was among three aspiring ski giants, the other two being the new Vail Resorts and also Intrawest.

American Skiing crumbled, and the Post notes that for a time a popular bumper sticker was “More snow, Less Otten.” In 2006, Intrawest purchased Steamboat – and still owns it.

As for Vail Resorts, the initial public offering stock price in 1996 was $16 a share. On Monday, it was $104.

Challenges of appealing to international visitors

WHISTLER, B.C. – The annual Mountain Travel Symposium was recently held at Whistler, and one topic parsed in the seminars was international visitors, including those from China.

In Whistler, the United States remains the largest source of tourists, due to the proximity, but China recently overtook the United Kingdom as the No. 2 spot.

David Lynn, chief executive of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, says the number of Chinese custom entries to British Columbia grew 26 percent last year compared to the previous year.

As has been the case most prominently at Jackson Hole, Lynn sees the primary opportunity with Chinese tourists to be summer visitors.

But if the number of visitors from mainland China remains relatively small, the Whistler Blackcomb ski area has begun spending money in hopes of cultivating visitors.

“We actually have been going to China now for a couple of years in terms of building our relationship with certain resorts,” said Dave Brownlie, the chief executive at Whistler Blackcomb.

One of Whistler Blackcomb’s consultants is Origin Design, which specializes in mountain-travel marketing. Danielle Kristmanson, a principal in the firm, tells Pique that foreign languages often present the most significant challenge when targeting international consumers.

“It’s a real barrier to penetrate a market like China when (Whistler Blackcomb) just doesn’t have the budget for the small slice that Chinese skiers would represent of the total skier market,” Kristmanson says.

Marketing campaigns even to English-speaking countries, including the UK and Australia, are less about content and more about price points and packaging.

“We don’t specifically target a U.K. consumer with key specific messaging in marketing campaigns the way we might someone in California,” Kristmanson said. “It’s a bigger market.”

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