Visitors to the Colorado Convention Center walk by I See What You Mean, the big blue bear sculpture by Lawrence Argent that peers into the building on Dec. 10, 2014. The Colorado Convention Center has experienced its most successful year in 2014, seeing record attendance numbers. (Anya Semenoff, The Denver Post)

Yes, convention attendees visiting Colorado are talking about legal weed

Delegates to national conventions in Colorado are well aware of legal retail marijuana, and not just because they might have slipped in a visit to a dispensary.

Some conventions have used Colorado’s cannabis laws to incorporate working panels on the ways legal pot can affect their business sectors.

“The legality of marijuana certainly impacts our industry,” said Stuart Ruff, director of meetings and events for the Risk and Insurance Management Society, which brought 9,700 attendees to Denver in April. “There are a lot of misperceptions about the (Colorado) law, and we want our members to be educated.”

After recreational cannabis sales became legal Jan. 1, RIMS decided to hold a convention session entitled, “How Will the Legalization of Marijuana Affect Your Employment Policies?”

“From my perspective, I look at it as an opportunity,” said Fred Droz, a meeting planner who is coordinating the Communications Leadership Exchange convention in Denver in April. “The group prides itself in addressing topics that deal with strategic thinking, so we will have a panel that will give different perspectives on legal marijuana.”

Convention locations typically are selected far in advance of the events themselves, sometimes as long as 10 years earlier. That means almost all major meetings taking place in Colorado for the next few years were planned well before Amendment 64 was approved by Colorado voters in November 2012.

Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, logged 429,210 convention delegates through the end of December, compared with 385,292 in 2013. Bookings for 2015 and 2016 are on pace to continue the same trend, bureau spokesman Rich Grant said.

For future bookings, fallout from legal marijuana has been a complete non-factor, Visit Denver CEO Richard Scharf said.

“People are more inclined to joke about it anymore than to express any concerns,” he said. “It’s been pretty immaterial from either a positive or negative standpoint.”

Scharf said officials of Visit Denver, the city government and organizations such as the Downtown Denver Partnership have worked hard to educate visitors and convention delegates on the terms of Colorado’s cannabis laws, including where it can and cannot be consumed.

Ruff of RIMS said the shock value and comedic aspects have dissipated.

The group’s convention delegates “are all college-educated people,” he said. “They lived in dorms once.”

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, or

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