Denver city officials are using their muscle to stop a weed-themed concert series by the Colorado Symphony.
The city warned the orchestra not to go ahead with plans for three fundraising concerts with space set aside for people to use weed. If the events take place, officials said, the city would shut them down.
“If you go forward, we will exercise any and all options available to the city of Denver to halt the event and hold the business owners [and] event organizers responsible for any violations of law,” wrote Stacie Loucks, director of Denver’s department of excise and licenses.
Loucks said the city would also target concertgoers who use pot in public.
The symphony planned the concert series for private venues: a private gallery and the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, a place where weed is banned but almost always tolerated.
But the city attorney’s office said the gallery could be considered public under Colorado law because state discrimination statutes treat museums and theaters as public spaces. And a city ordinance makes it illegal for anyone outside the marijuana industry to benefit from the consumption of weed – including the orchestra.
That, officials said, means gallery owners could be prosecuted for allowing pot smoking on their property. It wasn’t clear what the threat might mean for the final concert of the series, at Red Rocks Ampitheatre.
The symphony said it was reviewing its legal options.
“When the Colorado Symphony accepted support from the legal cannabis industry – as a means of supporting our financial operations and connecting with a culturally diverse audience – we believed we did so in full compliance with the law,” the orchestra said in a press release.
The city’s threat could have major implications for the symphony, which has a contract with Denver to use Boettcher Concert Hall. That contract requires the orchestra obey all laws, including federal statutes, which ban marijuana. Allowing cannabis could violate those terms and cost the symphony its concert space.
The concert series was planned as a way to bring in money for the struggling symphony. The first event was scheduled for May 23. Planners hoped to bring in an audience whose use of cannabis would help them appreciate music.
City officials sent the threatening letter to the orchestra in response to applications for two special permits. A hearing would be held before those permits could be issued.
“The advertisements promoting public consumption of marijuana will be examined at this hearing,” the city attorney’s office said in the letter. “With the foregoing in mind, we advise that you cancel the effort.”