Visitors attend the Pot Pavilion at Denver County Fair on Friday Aug. 1, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

Denver County Fair changes course, cancels Pot Pavilion; lawsuit settled

The Denver County Fair has canceled its attention-getting Pot Pavilion this year following a class-action lawsuit that accused a vendor of handing out samples of marijuana-laced chocolates at last year’s event, which was supposed to be drug-free.

About a dozen people complained of being given cannabis-infused edibles at the adults-only Pot Pavilion, which drew international attention amid the first year of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. The Denver County Fair was not implicated in the lawsuit, which fair organizer Dana Cain said was settled out of court late last week.

The law firm representing the attendees, Frascona, Joiner, Goodman and Greenstein, P.C., confirmed the settlement but said the terms are confidential. Neither of the Colorado marijuana companies involved, Full Melt Chocolate and LivWell (which operated together at the fair as Beyond Broadway LLC) returned multiple calls or e-mails on Wednesday.

Cain said the event was ultimately canceled due to lack of interest.

“In the first year, we got tons of vendor support, waves of international attention, tons of sponsor support and everybody was all about it,” she told The Cannabist on Wednesday. “But fast-forward a year later and it’s completely old hat. There’s a huge overload of marijuana events in this town now.”

Known for its quirky offerings and hip twist on traditional county fair programming, the Denver County Fair’s Pot Pavilion included a competitive joint-rollers and marijuana plant-growing competitions, pot brownie judging and paraphernalia displays.

In spite of the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized the sale and private use of recreational marijuana, public consumption of cannabis remains illegal in Colorado. That forced organizers to hold all judging events off-site at a licensed facility.

“The fact that we even got the National Western Complex (where the fair was held) to agree was a miracle, so we had to promise them there would be no pot consumption,” Cain said. “But we would have liked to have had a VIP smoking lounge in the Coors art gallery room — with tons of ventilation and heavy monitoring, of course — where vendors could do presentations and sample out some product. We just never got that point.”

Cain said it may seem odd to hold a marijuana-themed event without any actual marijuana, but that it was not the sole reason for retiring the Pot Pavilion.

Denver County Fair 2015: Pot Pavilion canceled following lawsuit
Visitors attend the Pot Pavilion at Denver County Fair on Friday Aug. 1, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

“We never wanted to be the Cannabis Cup,” Cain said, referring to High Times Magazine’s annual marijuana competition and industry festival. “We’re the Denver County Fair, so we’re celebrating everything that’s unique about Denver, and last year that was definitely marijuana.”

However, Cain also said pre-sales for vendor booths at the 2015 Pot Pavilion were less than 10 percent of last year’s at this time. The 2014 fair included 57 vendors.

“We couldn’t follow up that amazing pavilion with something substandard,” she said.

Attendance at the Denver County Fair was up 23 percent in 2014 over the previous year with an estimated 20,000 people — most of them families with children under 18, according to Cain.

This year, the Pot Pavilion will be replaced with a feline-culture offering called the Kitten Pavilion, which Cain said is also attracting out-of-state attention and visitors. The fair runs from July 31-Aug. 2.

“We just didn’t want to overdose on marijuana,” she said.