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How Colorado's New Pot Laws Will Affect the Local Concert Industry

Weed will impact fans and promoters alike, but only in small doses

Employees at Denver Kush Club in Denver, Colorado take jars of different strains of marijuana off the counter between customers.
Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images
January 6, 2014 2:40 PM ET

Next time Umphrey's McGee plays Colorado, the jam band with the marijuana-friendly following will not add a new marketing tagline: “Come from out of town to go pot-shopping!" But longtime Umphrey's manager Vincent Iwinski acknowledges the state's revolutionary legalization law, which allowed sales to adults as of January 1st, might lead to attendance boosts. "It'll be kind of a tourist attraction," he says, a week after the band's three-night New Year's run at Denver's Fillmore Auditorium. "It might impact people who don't have access to the good pot and say, 'I'm going to come out and make a weekend of seeing Umphrey's at Red Rocks this summer so I can go and sample the local product.'"

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Colorado's market for jam bands, and other music stars whose fans are no strangers to pot consumption, has been robust for decades. It's not like Phish, Dave Matthews Band, String Cheese Incident, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Pretty Lights are having trouble finding audiences in the state. So local promoters aren't predicting a post-pot-law run on tickets. "We're already a tour anchor destination," says Don Strasburg, vice president of AEG Live Rocky Mountains. But he adds: "I don't think it'll hurt."

For now, the pot laws are unlikely to change the concert experience in Colorado. Although the law allows pot sales at designated outlets, it still prohibits marijuana-smoking "openly or publicly." Also, the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking of any kind at a bar, club or theater. Reps from the Boulder Theater (whose upcoming schedule includes two nights of the Dark Star Orchestra) and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (whose headliners this June include Leftover Salmon and the Yonder Mountain String Band) say they have no plans to sell pot on the premises.

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Jay Bianchi, owner of Denver music clubs Sancho's Broken Arrow, Quixote's True Blue and Dark Star Lounge, all of which cater heavily to Deadheads, hopes Colorado regulations eventually change to the point that he can set up marijuana vending machines. "Some people have been asking me to start doing that. I'm kind of waiting till it fleshes out. I don't want to deal with the ATF too much," Bianchi says. "If they said, 'You can buy it and put it in the vending machines, or have these joints here,' that'd be fine. But I don't want to be involved in production and maintenance. I'm not a gardener."

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