Connor Thompson, with Source Colorado, at right, and Rob Lanterman, with Open Vape, listen to a speaker in a packed room during a Canopy Boulder event at the eTown Hall in Boulder in November 2015. (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera file)

Rude awakening for Canopy Boulder’s California dream to boost weed biz

Boulder-based cannabis business startup consultant CanopyBoulder is delaying the start of its inaugural San Francisco class after too few businesses applied.

Canopy co-founder Patrick Rea said there were not enough applicants to support classes in both Boulder and San Francisco for the spring program, which starts Feb. 29, now only in Boulder.

Classes are typically made up of 10 early-stage ancillary service companies.

Rea blames the poor showing in part on California’s patchwork regulation. Because weed is still not legal statewide there — a vote is on the ballot for this November — each municipality has its own set of sometimes conflicting rules, creating an unstable environment for new businesses.

More than 20 California cities have banned marijuana delivery, for example, raising an interesting legal question: Can vehicles drive through those towns to deliver pot to an area where such businesses are allowed? Or can they be pulled over and prosecuted, similar to individuals transporting alcohol into dry counties?

Ambiguous situations like that create a “level of uncertainty that has an impact on folks who are going to be taking a giant leap and launching a business,” Rea said. “You can’t take a giant leap on uneven quicksand-y ground.”

Shawn Coleman, a local lobbyist for the marijuana industry, said Colorado’s regulatory regime — despite its flaws — has created reliability and predictability, which has allowed the state’s cannabis businesses to flourish.

“The businesses that were able to survive (the implementation of) Colorado’s extremely tight regulatory regime were able to benefit from it being there,” Coleman said. “The predictability and stability of centralized regulation creates a more fertile environment” for innovation.

Coleman believes that passage of statewide legal marijuana will result in a more cohesive regulatory approach, allowing California’s budding businesses to catch up with Colorado.

Rea said Canopy intends to spend the spring and summer educating Bay Area companies about the ins and outs of the industry in time for the fall class, which starts Aug. 29. Canopy will also resume its search for a San Francisco office.

In the meantime, Boulder’s next crop of companies is the strongest yet, Rea said.

“The concepts and the businesses have much more traction and are further along than what we’ve seen in past cohorts and applicants,” Rea said.

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, or

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