Trustees express concerns about marijuana, beer festival

 beer and weed

John Scarffe, Nederland.     Zephyr Adventures of Boulder proposed a new food, beer, marijuana, and music festival to the Town of Nederland Board of Trustees during the regular meeting on Tuesday, July 1, at 7 p.m. at the Nederland Community Center. Mayor Joe Gierlach and Trustees Kevin Mueller and Charles Wood were absent, so Mayor Pro-Tem Peter Fiori led the meeting.

Town Administrator Alisha Reis introduced the application for a special event on Town property called “Buds, Burgers and Beers,” which includes a marijuana element, with the proposed date of Saturday, September 6, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Guercio Ball Field.  Staff held a Technical Review meeting with the organizers on June 10 and the application was deemed complete at that time.

Due to the nature of the event, staff felt it was prudent to refer this application to the Board of Trustees. The organizers of the event, Allan Wright, 18-year owner of Zephyr Adventures (active and food and drink tours around the world) and Allan Parr, local attorney, would like to encourage the normalization of the marijuana industry by including it in a festival with other popular cultural items, such as food, beer, and music, rather than making marijuana the sole focus of the event.

Marijuana and alcohol cannot be consumed “openly and publicly” as per State Law. Town Attorney Carmen Beery and Parr have been engaged in discussion, and the organizers feel they have addressed this by constructing an opaque fence around the entire site and adding an enclosed, well-ventilated marijuana consumption tent for those who have brought their own. No sales of marijuana will be tolerated.

Since liquor is involved, as per State Statute, proper noticing of a Special Event Liquor Permit was posted. Reis told the Board the applicants have met all requests of Town Staff.

Mayor-pro-tem Fiori said he had never heard of the applicant before this meeting and didn’t know his name and business were on the application. “I think that’s sloppy to throw me on there,” he said, explaining that he is not going to recuse myself since he has not heard of the project before.

Wright explained that he didn’t want to involve him in advance so Fiori could take part in the meeting. He was using Fiori’s business as an example.

Wright said Kendall Norris is one of the organizers and a former Nederland resident who knows the town. He said safety is a big issue. They had long discussions with the Police Chief and those are referenced in the application documents.

“We don’t condone impaired driving,” he said. “We have ideas to limit impaired driving, such as deals with hotels, designated drivers, encouraging staying locally, and transportation alternatives.” They also will try to employ local people and offer discounted opportunities for businesses and discounted tickets for residents.

Wright said: “We’re also amenable to delaying this until next year. That idea works for us as well. We’re two months out. It’s pretty tight.”

Parr said: “We see this as not open. It also will have a tent over it so it won’t be open to a helicopter. It’s an opportunity for Nederland to show how this can be done and start a festival that will be great for years to come.”

Kendall Lawrence, who has been organizing events for ten years, said events are the most wasteful activities other than construction work. She said Zephyr will work with local providers to compost and recycle for less of a footprint. They are absolutely open to a Zero Waste event.

They also are working with medical providers. “These guys approached me with this great idea,” Lawrence said. “I’ve been a Colorado resident for 20 years now and have a great affinity for this little town.

“This could be a feather in the cap for the Town, on the cutting edge, brand new to the U.S. It’s a great opportunity to work with professionals to host an event that will go down in history.”

In response to questions from the Board, Lawrence said the music will not be at concert level. They are finding local bands that fit the vibe of a food and beer festival, but the music is really secondary. “We would look to experiences learned from NedFest and Frozen Dead Guy Days,” she said. “This is not your first rodeo. We want the experience of folks who have had the experience before.”

Fiori said he was skeptical the event could be pulled together in two months and asked if they had set a sellout number like 1,500 to 2,000. “We can’t have any more open festivals,” he said.

Reis said the applicants have a professional background in events and she liked the concept of having a marijuana element incorporated and controlled in a professional manner. “The thought of having a model we can look at is pretty intriguing to me and they were willing to jump through all the hoops.”

Stephen LeFaiver, executive director of TEENS, Inc., which includes an alternate high school, Chinook West, said the organizers had approached him for use of the parking lot, because it’s right next door to the ball field.

“We can’t support it,” LeFaiver said. “It’s not healthy to have a marijuana festival with a school right there. Normalizing is opposite of what we’re trying to do with our campaign.”

“It sends a message to youth that it’s okay,” LeFaiver said. Nederland has an issue with marijuana in the schools, and its use is higher than elsewhere in the Boulder and St. Vrain Valley school districts.

“Our school has a waiting list. Substance use is a big player in that,” LeFaiver said. “We can’t support it and will not let our parking lot be used. There will be youth all around down there. It’s going to attract young people if they can’t go in, and the school will be open on September 6.”

Trustee Topher Donahue said his biggest concern is how close it will be to the school. Another place like Chipeta Park would be better. He called RTD to find out how they could arrange for a bus and they couldn’t do it this year.

Donahue is concerned about intoxication and driving. A charter bus would be $450. “It would be good to try to button up some of those things,” he said.

Reis said the Town is trying to move events out of Chipeta Park. In the future the ball field space will be more open.

Fiori said 73 percent of the town voted to regulate marijuana like alcohol and has a brew festival. “That’s a staggering percentage,” he said.

“We have an opportunity to do this. Let us push this through the public process and have public hearings and do this next year. Marijuana isn’t cocaine. It isn’t ecstasy, and we can talk about how smoking particulates is unhealthy.

“We need to be inebriated as part of our recreation. We can set a precedent with a zero waste event and everything at a festival can be recycled and composted. We can use you guys to improve our events. That’s something we can be truly proud of. If you want to smoke, smoke it over there. They have answered that question. I would implore Stephen to think of some options. This is a great opportunity. Please don’t let it slide by.”

Trustee Randy Lee disagreed. “I can’t find a single positive thing about this concept. Outsiders bringing an event to Nederland. A recent survey found residents think the frequency of events is just right. It’s not like there’s a demand for this.

“This is an example of bringing an event to a saturated market. It will create gridlock on the eastern side. The idea is consumption. It’s not like you get together to hear music and have a beer, but the reason is consumption,” Lee said.

“You put alcohol and marijuana together and you have a very dangerous situation. People are going to consume and then drive down the canyon. It continues to send the harmful message that Nederland embraces the drug culture.”
“That’s the reason hard drugs are continuing to come into this town. Youth are susceptible to the message that this is cool stuff. It’s absolutely reprehensible we would let that happen.”

Trustee Kristopher Larsen pointed out the event is primarily a marijuana festival. It is intriguing and we should do it next year and not try to push it in two months. “Then we’ll have time for more discussion about that.

“If we have 14 months, I’d like to hear input from rest of Board,” Larsen said. The Board agreed to table the event permit for now and allow all boards to provide feedback. The item will be on the Board’s agenda at the August 19 meeting.