There were no 10-foot bongs, dab bars, or hat pins at Colorado’s annual Cannabis Business Awards in Denver last night. In the place of traditional cannabis carnival fair there was a red carpet, bow ties, hot appetizers, and an industry bonding together to celebrate a historic year.
Casselman’s, a local entertainment venue, was filled with the movers and shakers of Colorado’s cannbis industry who were mostly dressed to the 9’s in formal suits and dresses, many donning nug-boutineers (pictured above). From the onset, the vibe in the room was overwhelmingly positive, as all the nominees and attendees were just stoked for the opportunity to congregate to crown Colorado’s first year of legalization.
Colorado’s marijuana industry was not nearly as prominent as it has become today. Now, the industry has become an emblem of American freedom and example for other state’s to follow. And the attendees all couldn’t help but smile knowing we were exercising this freedom.
Before the event, I had a chance to speak to some friends and nominees, and the common refrain was this one of liberty. Ryan Cook of The Clinic (who would go on to win Manager of the Year), told me “It’s amazing to have an opportunity to be in a community that supports the industry so much that we can have professional business awards to recognize all the hard work for all of the individuals out there since this industry began.”
Sabrina Fendrick of NORML, who would later accept an award on behalf of NORML and was also nominated for Activist of the Year, added that “I’m honored to have been nominated and listed among such an esteemed group of individuals. This is a great example of an industry growing up and coming into its own.”
While the elevated setting may have been unusual, it was a welcome change of pace showing the evolution of a budding business. And for some of the nominees on hand, this event had special, added value.
I then chopped it up over a vapore session with a couple of nominated Extract Artists who a year ago were just getting their start in the industry. Hash extraction has evolved into a market unto itself since last year, and both extractors were amped to be in the house.
Elias Paniagua of The Clinic humbly told me that “It feels weird. I haven’t been nominated for many things in my life. I’m just a small town guy who loves making hash.” Shortly thereafter, Josh Zirlin of TC Labs (the eventual winner) would add that “The biggest thing that pushes me everyday is what I do here is 100 percent legal and moving forward, I don’t have to look over my shoulder to do what I love.”
What stood out as I kicked it with Elias and Josh–competing against one another–was the mutual respect that they and everyone in the room had for what’s essentially their industry competition. The praise and maturity flowed through that room like flowers and hash flow through our lungs.
And then after some pot stickers (delicious) and pot (discrete), the award ceremony began. The evenings founder, host and CEO of Cloverleaf University, Chloe Villano, took the stage beaming in front of a packed room.
Chloe thanked and acknowledged the entire room for their contributions to making legalization a reality, and soon struck a heartwarming chord. The first award handed out was a new, special award that took the crowd by surprise: The Hope Award.
The Hope Award recognized the medical and compassionate side of the industry, highlighting the need for CBD and the impact medical marijuana can have on families and our youth. The award justly went to Sierra Riddle and her adorable, healthy-looking son Landon, who’s leukemia has been abated by CBD.
Everyone in the room loudly clapped and cheered for both Landon and Sierra as she fought back tears while thanking the community that helped save her child’s life. The room reached its highest volume as Landon hoisted the globe-shaped award.
The need for medical marijuana and our efforts was clear in Landon’s eyes. And as the night progressed, the evolution and value of the industry continued to shine.
Colorado’s marijuana industry was, for at least one night, blissfully aligned. While just living and working in this state makes us all winners, there were more awards handed out.
Here’s a full list of the award winners:
The Hope Award: Sierra and Landon Riddle; Jason Cranford
Business Executive of the Year: Brooke Gehring
Publication of the Year: The Cannabist (Denver Post)
Most Valuable Media Source: Weedmaps
Most Influential Individual: Toni Fox
Cannabis Activist of the Year: Sean Azzariti
Cannabis Advocate of the Year: Mason Tvert
Educator of the Year: Cannabis Business Alliance (Edibles Education Campaign)
Non-Profit of the Year: NORML
Cannabis Business of the Year: Vicente Sederberg
People’s Choice Industry Organization of the Year: Women Grow
Most Valuable Political Industry Representative: Mike Dunafon
Industrial Hemp Industry’s Most Influential Individual: Samantha Walsh
People’s Choice Infused Product Manufacturer: Incredibles
People’s Choice Best Medical Center: The Clinic
People’s Choice Best Retail Center: Mile High Cannabis
People’s Choice Best Concentrate Products: Green Dot Labs
People’s Choice Best Edible Products: Sweet Grass
People’s Choice Best Flower Products: Kind Love’s Alien Rock Candy
Cultivation Master of the Year: Jay Price of The Clinic
Extract Artist of the Year: Josh Zirlin of TC Labs
Budtender of the Year: Jordan McFall of Patients Choice/Live Green Cannabis
Manager of the Year: Ryan Cook of The Clinic
Product of the Year: ? (please comment if you can recall)
People’s Choice Invention of the Year: Mary’s Medicinal Transdermal Patch
MVP Awards: Jane West of Women Grow, Adam Dunn, Wanda James, Genifer Murray of Cannlabs, and Rachel K. Gilette
As the ceremony and evening came to a close, Chloe eloquently congratulated the entire industry for our historic achievements in 2014 while adding that we can’t and won’t slow down.
To close out the evening, the crowd erupted to a phrase we can all agree on: “Let’s legalize this plant globally!”
For a full list of all the nominees, click here.