Week in Review: Liquor giant eyes MJ drinks, notable MJBizCon quotes & Denver voters make history

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By John Schroyer, Omar Sacirbey and Bart Schaneman

A liquor giant eyes cannabis-infused beverages, conference goers offer valuable business intelligence, and Denver voters make the city the first in the nation to allow cannabis use in bars, restaurants and businesses.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

A shot of marijuana in that martini?

Liquor companies such as Constellation Brands – the owner of Corona beer and Svedka vodka – may be eyeing the cannabis space with infused beverages. But it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, no matter how interested the beverage giant is.

“On the state side, there is not yet a state that allows for cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages,” said Jay Czarkowski, a founding partner of Boulder-based Canna Advisors. “So at this point, it’s a cool idea, but it’s not happening anywhere. In fact, I’d be surprised if any state or country would allow that anytime soon.”

The simple reality is that most public officials are already hesitant when it comes to allowing medical and recreational cannabis, but the idea of combining the two is likely a little much for politicians to stomach.

That doesn’t mean it’ll never happen, Czarkowski said. Just probably not anytime in the near future.

“It absolutely could happen one day,” he said.

However, Czarkowski emphasized, the wheels of government reform move very slowly.

“I’ve been telling people for seven years that, ‘Yeah, by next year the banking issue should be fixed.’ Seven long years,” he said. The banking issue, of course, has yet to be fixed by Congress for marijuana-related businesses.

Which means Constellation Brands will probably have to be patient.

Notable MJBizCon quotes 

Marijuana Business Daily reporters have heard many presentations and held countless conversations at this week’s Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. In the process, they’ve collected a trove of business intelligence. Below are notable quotes.

  • “When you go into meetings with investors, you need to present yourself as more professional than you normally would, because when you enter the room, they are expecting far less.” Ryan Smith, CEO of LeafLink, a New York-based provider of an order-management platform for marijuana retailers and vendors
  • “Predatory lenders are out there in droves, and if it smells like a crappy deal, it probably is a crappy deal.” Truman Bradley, CEO of Seed & Smith Cannabis, a Denver-based infused products manufacturer and wholesale flower brand
  • “Vertical integration has a lot of benefits, but there are also dangers. If you grow cannabis that has mold or mildew, and you have to throw it away, that’s very painful. … I like to have a mix of horizontal and vertical.” Andrew DeAngelo, co-founder of Oakland-based Harborside, one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensaries
  • “You do not want your employees dosing while handling your money.” Frank Hawkins, owner of Nevada Wellness Center
  • “Bigger staff means bigger problems.” Lilach Mazor Power, founder and managing director of Phoenix-based Giving Tree Wellness Center
  • “You don’t want to be in the most expensive retail location in town, but you also don’t want to be buried in an industrial site.” Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company, a Denver-based medical marijuana dispensary chain
  • “You have to join professional organizations. They are your eyes and ears.” Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company

A Denver first

Denver is now the first city in the nation to allow consumption of marijuana in bars, restaurants and other businesses and establishments, provided a local neighborhood group formally approves the business’ permit application. (Update: Colorado licensing officials said Friday that establishments with liquor licenses will not be permitted to apply for a cannabis consumption permit when applications are available in late January, the Denver Post reported.)

The new regulation bars liquor licensees from allowing the consumption of marijuana on their premises. Approved administratively by the Liquor Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue, the rule means that any business with a liquor license will be disqualified from seeking a city permit to create a marijuana consumption area when applications become available in late January.

Proponents behind last week’s successful ballot measure allowing public consumption in Denver hope to stem a potential loss of marijuana tourists to other states that permit cannabis enthusiasts to imbibe publicly. But the desired impact in Denver may not be all that much.

“They would certainly pull from us,” Kayvan Khalatbari, co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting and a lead proponent of Initiative 300, said of other states.

But he tempered his statements on the expected impact: “I don’t think honestly that much is going to change.”

Voters in Nevada and California, both major tourist draws, approved adult-use legalization initiatives last week. And supporters of the Denver ballot measure have fretted that both states – which are tourist meccas (think Las Vegas) – could prove a lure to out-of-state visitors who like to imbibe.

Denver marijuana companies do have one big advantage: Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are a tourist mecca, too.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at omars@mjbizdaily.com

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com