(Denver Post file)

Symphony has new strategy to keep cannabis concert series

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra will go on with its “Classically Cannabis” concert series — changing the bring-your-own marijuana events to invitation-only fundraisers so they will not be construed as public events that potentially could break the law.

The CSO on Monday stopped selling tickets to the high-profile series in response to a letter from the city of Denver warning that the events could run afoul of regulations forbidding marijuana consumption “openly and publicly in a manner that endangers others.”

Instead, concerts now will be open only to “a closed list of VIP guests” managed by the concert’s promoter, Edible Events, according to a statement from the CSO.

The three-concert series, which kicks off May 23 and costs $75 each, will take place at Space Gallery in the Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe.

About 120 people who purchased tickets since the events were announced April 29 will receive refunds and “no reservations will be accepted from the general public,” the CSO statement said.

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Symphony CEO Jerry Kern on Tuesday said the changes came after the organization approached City Attorney Scott Martinez asking for guidance in how it might proceed with the series and not violate laws.

“We said, ‘If you think this is a public event rather than a private fundraiser, tell us what to do,’ ” Kern said.

The events are to feature music, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a patio where attendees could smoke marijuana if they choose. Guests must be at least 21 years old.

The CSO, which has suffered financial distress in recent years, hopes to raise as much as $200,000 from the events, which wrap up with a fourth concert Sept. 13 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Sponsors already pledged more than $36,000, according to Jane West, the owner of Edible Events, which has hosted a series of cannabis-friendly gatherings since the beginning of the year.

The orchestra set up the concerts believing they were legal because marijuana consumption is now legal in the state and Space Gallery is privately owned. Kern said the CSO would prefer to negotiate with the city, rather than turning the issue into a legal matter.

“The symphony does not want to be the poster child for determining the distinction between public and private,” Kern said.

Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, rrinaldi@denverpost.com or twitter.com/rayrinaldi

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