Marijuana plants are housed in a Denver grow facility. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Denver’s inaugural marijuana regulation symposium finishes strong

Denver’s inaugural foray into cannabis event programming this week was deemed such a success that “it’s definitely a possibility that we’ll do it again,” said Dan Rowland, spokesman for the city’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

The city’s Marijuana Management Symposium, the first government-organized cannabis event of its kind, brought 220 paid attendees and an additional 110 presenters and staff members to the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday and Friday, according to organizers. The event targeted “anyone who is or will be responsible for implementing marijuana policies and regulations at the local and state levels.”

The scene was bustling inside the convention center Friday, with attendees hopping between conference sessions on data collection, and law enforcement and public safety.

Research consultant Adam Orens said he particularly enjoyed Friday morning’s State of Marijuana session — an update from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s director of marijuana coordination, Andrew Freedman, and Lewis Koski, director of the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

“I think the city’s presentation on data was very good as well,” said Orens, a managing director with the Marijuana Policy Group and BBC Research & Consulting. “It was interesting to see how they’re tracking public health data, because that’s such a story the nation wants to know.

“How is this working? Was this right, or was this wrong? And the data the city of Denver and Denver Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Education are starting to collect, in a few years it will become a rich data set that you can compare time series trends on.”

Other attendees Friday included Boulder County marijuana and liquor licensing clerk Christopher Mallory, Colorado Department of Agriculture pesticide program manager John Scott and the city of Amsterdam’s Yvette van Groenigen, who advises Mayor Eberhard van der Laan and gave an impromptu, and well-attended, presentation on pot policy in the Netherlands.

The CDA’s Scott asked van Groenigen after her presentation what the Dutch government knows about the pesticides present in the marijuana sold in Amsterdam coffee shops. She admitted the government doesn’t know anything about the content of the cannabis, because of the city’s unique regulatory structure, which tolerates the sale of small amounts of pot but criminalizes the growing side.

The two-day event brought no major surprises, said the city’s Rowland, but he and his colleagues — including Denver’s cannabis czar, Ashley Kilroy — were pleased with the amount of conversation between the attendees and panels.

“We thought this was a good idea,” Rowland said, “but the level of engagement was phenomenal. Digging into the details of the fire code isn’t something that on paper looks super-riveting, but we had people in the room hanging on every word and asking plenty of questions. And that was a nice treat for someone like me, who planned this thing, to see that the level of engagement was so high.”

Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, or @bruvs

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