Amid lights and philanthropy, outdoor industries begin to embrace cannabis

Amid lights and philanthropy, outdoor industries begin to embrace cannabis

VicesJuly 25, 2018 By Reilly Capps

At the Outdoor Retailers show in Denver this week, the biggest companies from North Face to Columbia are showing off their 2019 gear.

But even though a good percentage of the athletes and adventurers at the show love weed — and both cannabis and the outdoors are giant Colorado businesses — the Outdoor Retailer doesn't have a cannabis presence at all.

But at the Green Industry Affair, an unofficial sidelight to the O.R., it was different.

A small handful of cannabis companies joined with a few outdoor retailers to host a fundraiser for a carbon reduction program at Cervantes' in Denver.

Cannabis brands next to outdoor brands. Such a natural fit, so rarely done.

Next to a bunch of cannabis stuff, glassware from Jane West's luxury cannabis accoutrements, and tables for Lucy Sky and Lightshade dispensaries, which touted its new green greenhouse built to reduce water and electricity waste. It was a shock to see something so simple as a backpack from Osprey, the high-quality outdoors company out of Cortez, Colorado, and auction items from Zeal Optics and Outdoor Research.

[The crowd releases at the Green Industry Affair, where cannabis and the outdoor industry came together.]

Cannabis events are usually a lot of fun, but they tend to be segregated from the rest of the world. And cannabis companies are usually nowhere to be seen at farmers markets and art walks and most fundraisers. 

This event tried to break that stigman. It was organized by Cannabrand, billed as the world's first cannabis marketing agency and argues that cannabis is a natural a fit for the outdoor industry — bringing the two together can do a lot of good. 

It's not like the official outdoors industry shuns substance use. It's just a double standard. Patagonia sells beer coozies and beer growlers, but no one-hitters or stash boxes. Bass Pro Shops sell a Pale Ale brewery starter kit, but no seeds or substrates. REI says Sufferfest beer is the best for trail runners, but gives no guidance on which strains ease the pain of a twisted ankle. Ski resorts prohibit cannabis but sell beer. This is not the right move, safety-wise. I used to drink a six-pack at the restaurant at the top of the hill and then duck ropes alone into avalanche terrain called the Suicide Chutes, but if I smoked too much on the lift I might get so paranoid about tweaking my knee on the moguls I'd go home. 

[Osprey backpacks were being auctioned off to raise money for carbon offsets.]

Folks at the Green Industry Affair knew about the weed / outdoors synergy: "When you smoke cannabis, you're more aware of the environment," said DJ Harry, one half of BoomBox, the night's musical act, and a former resident of the mountain heaven of Telluride, Colorado. "People like to get high and take a hike." 

It was a fun crowd. One guy gave out a business card that said only: "My name is Michael. And I like to party" — with no contact info at all.

The beneficiary was the Colorado Carbon Fund, which helps farmers reduce their carbon output. Hilary Gleason, the CEO of the nonprofit level, which helped organize the event, peer pressured me into donating for a carbon offset for my car, which marks the first time at a cannabis event I've been pressured into doing something that would put less smoke into the atmosphere. 

[Brandon Welch of the Colorado Carbon Fund sells carbon offsets to Hilary Gleason of Level.]

With the imprint of Osprey, in the low purple light and chill vibe of Cervantes', with the legit sounds of BoomBox, did this mark the start of cannabis and outdoors companies coming together, the way cannabis and the outdoors always have? 

[cover photo: DJ Harry and Zion Godchaux of BoomBox spin at the outdoor / cannabis Green Industry Affair at Cervantes in Denver to raise funds for carbon offsets. // all photos Reilly Capps]