A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Denver for the High Times Cannabis Cup with Russ Belville of 420 Radio. We road-tripped across a couple prohibition states, got to visit some dispensaries, and even judged some concentrates. You can check out 420 Radio's coverage of it here.
As someone who is currently helping with the marketing and advertising side of things here at TWB, I was excited about the possibility of spending the entire week before 4/20 in what is currently the capital of the cannabis world. There are so many great businesses based in Denver, and so many movers and shakers were flying in from around the world for that week of festivities.
Without a doubt the one business I was anticipating visiting the most was Denver Relief. Denver Relief was one of the first dispensaries to pop up in Colorado, making it the second longest continually operated Medical Marijuana Center in the state. At the helm of this top-tier cannabis business are Ean Seeb, who also currently serves as President of the National Cannabis Industry Association, and Kayvan Khalatbari who is currently running for one of the two at-large positions up for grabs on Denver's City Council in tonight's elections.
Kayvan is a dedicated activist who has been known in the past to chase Governor John Hickenlooper around in a chicken costume. He's also a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. Kayvan's story is an inspiring one. He's gone from being homeless to running several successful and well known businesses (Denver Relief, Sexy Pizza, Sexpot Comedy, Birdy) and tonight he is up for election for Denver City Council.
If you are a marijuana consumer or advocate living in the Denver area, you need to make sure you get your ballot in tonight by 7pm to one of the designated drop sites.
There couldn't be a more staunch advocate for marijuana running for elective office in Denver than Kayvan Khalatbari. In our interview, he touched on the ways that the nascent cannabis industry is being unfairly discriminated against, and the things he'd like to see changed. Khalatbari also addressed the medical landscape, and how caregivers and patients are too often being disregarded by a lot of dispensary owners.
We talked about the need for public spaces for marijuana consumption, and how tourists are coming to Colorado to buy recreational marijuana, but are unable to find a legal place to consume. Kayvan also brought up the fact that Denver dispensaries are forced to close at 7pm, while dispensaries outside of the city are allowed to stay open as late as 10pm or midnight. He argues that this has resulted in thousands of lost labor hours and millions of dollars in lost tax revenue, while liquor stores are able to stay open until midnight, when alcohol is responsible for killing 1 in 7 working age Coloradans.
Kayvan is spot on when it comes to cannabis issues, but he isn't running only because of his stance on marijuana. He truly cares about the struggle of working people, and wants to raise the quality of life the people of Denver enjoy.
When Russ and I had a chance to sit down he outlined his concerns around a couple of non-cannabis key issues (starts at about 9:33), including affordable housing, police brutality, and child services. The audio from our interview is below:
"We've had 100,000 people move to the Denver metro area in the last twelve months. 30,000 registered voters. We have 27,000 households being pushed out of Denver County because they can't afford to live where they have been for so long now.
Our City Council has set aside three million for new public housing, affordable housing opportunities...but has spent over seven and a half million in the last year on police brutality settlements. We're proposing spending $750 million on an I-70 interstate expansion that is unnecessary. It needs to be fixed, not widened. They are trying to widen it all with city money. Again, three quarters of a billion dollars, as opposed to the three million dollars they are spending on affordable housing. We have criminalized homelessness here recently, which is extremely unfortunate...because again, we are taking people's homes, we're pushing them into the streets, and then we are criminalizing that.
We have the police brutality issue that I mentioned that is getting worse... and children services. You know, we have failing public schools here, as most places do in America, and we're not engaging kids. We're actually testing more on a daily basis in Denver than almost anywhere else in the world. Testing doesn't teach kids, teaching teaches kids. Kids need to learn. They need to be engaged to learn. Not take tests. So it's my goal... I sit on the board of directors for the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, I've been a Denver kids mentor, a big brother with three kids for now eight years. I've seen what a little engagement post-school can do for folks.
So I think that if I can engage existing non-profit entities, programs, that are after school, to get them to provide a certain level of attendance or participation from Denver public school students, then we can really show kids through entrepreneurship, artistic creative programs, that there is an alternative to what they are being taught in school. That is something that benefited me a great deal. I've been living on my own since I was 16. I started homeless in my entrepreneurial career seven years ago, bootstrapped everything and got to where I am today. Because I saw that there were these opportunities out there and I was engaged by these creative, unique people...and that is ultimately what I want to show other people. "
Kayvan Khalatbari is exactly what I think our movement needs. Hard-working and dedicated activists, who become well-respected entrepreneurs, that go on to fund campaigns or run for elective office. I believe its the natural progression in marijuana activism. First you speak out for the injustice and the madness of prohibition, then you find a way to use business as a form of activism, then you use that social capital to affect change at a larger level.
If I lived in Denver, I'd be waving signs in the streets and making phone calls, to make sure that Kayvan Khalatbari is elected to Denver City Council At-Large. I hope that all your TWB readers will reach out to anyone you know in Denver and make sure they are getting their ballots in to one of the designated drop-sites by 7pm tonight!
Thank you to Kayvan for being willing to step up, and best of luck!