Mindie Flores exchanges a cash donation for a gram of Moon Rocks at the Kurrupt's Moon Rocks booth during the High Times Cannabis Cup on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the Denver Mart. (Seth McConnell, The Denver Post)

High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup plans a possible move to southern Colorado

After Adams County commissioners last week rejected the permit for this year’s U.S. Cannabis Cup in Colorado, organizers are scrambling to find a new home for the event — and it looks as if High Times’ largest marijuana-minded party might be leaving the Denver metro area in 2016.

Cup organizers and Pueblo County property owners Tom and Anna-Marie Giodone told The Cannabist that the 2016 U.S. Cannabis Cup will take place April 16-18 near Pueblo, Colo. — a steel town 114 miles south of Denver known for its now-burgeoning marijuana industry.

Pueblo County officials on Monday had no comment on the status of the Giodones’ special event application, but they did release a statement Monday night.

“Pueblo County Planning & Development Department received a Special Event Permit application by Tommy G Productions for an event beginning on April 16, 2016 and ending on April 20, 2016. On Monday, February 22, 2016, when the Pueblo County Planning & Development Office learned that Tommy G Productions was not the event promoter, P&D asked that the application be revised and portions of the application be re-submitted by the true applicant High Times.”

The Giodones and High Times maintain that the U.S. Cannabis Cup will happen in southern Colorado this year — at the Giodones’ entertainment venue called The Yard.

“We’re super-excited to be back in Colorado doing it bigger and better — and on a bigger piece of land than before,” said Matt Stang, the New York-based director of advertising and sponsorship for High Times.

Added Tom Giodone, owner of The Yard: “This event, a similar concept to a beer festival and tradeshow, will bring a substantial influx of visitors to our community, driving a strong economic impact through revenues derived from sales and lodging tax, in addition to visitors supporting our local businesses and restaurants … For those of you who are interested in cannabis and the cannabis industry, we welcome you all to come out and enjoy the event.”

The Yard, at 23344 Hwy 50 East in Vineland, sits five minutes east of Pueblo city limits — and across the way from the Tom L. & Anna-Marie Giodone Library, a branch of the Pueblo City-County Library District that opened in late-2014. The site is already home to Colorado Best Budz, a pot shop owned by the Giodones’ son, Tommy; The Yard is best known as the venue for Bands in the Backyard, a music festival that will host Kid Rock, Alabama, Three Doors Down and others on July 17-18.

Son Tommy Giodone is the president of Tommy G. Productions.

Pueblo County, with its 3 million square feet of marijuana-cultivation operations, has grown into a hotbed of cannabis business. Its city council voted to extend nearly $8 million in incentives from the city’s economic development sales tax fund to help get a hemp-oil processing plant off the ground. Residents there voted 55 percent in favor of Colorado’s pot-legalizing Amendment 64 in 2012, and in the 2015 election they approved a first-of-its-kind weed college scholarship by a 20-point margin.

The Cannabis Cup is High Times’ consumption-friendly marijuana expo that happens all over the U.S. — and in the Netherlands and Jamaica, too. Because Colorado was the world’s first locality to implement regulated recreational pot sales in early 2014, the magazine’s Denver event caught fire and became the most attended Cup in the world.

But after a couple well-attended but legally contentious years at the Denver Mart, an expo center in unincorporated Adams County just outside of Denver, commissioners unanimously said no last week to the event’s 2016 permit. A number of law enforcement officials warned the commission that there were too many people sampling too many cannabis products openly at past Cups.

“From a safety perspective, I have serious concerns about this event and this venue,” Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh told the commission.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace called cannabis consumption in Colorado “a legal gray area” and said he hopes state officials will clarify what’s legal and not legal for the Cannabis Cup and other events like it.

“It’s a question that needs to be answered,” said Pace.

Tickets to the 2016 U.S. Cannabis Cup will go on sale next week, according the the event’s website.