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Colorado Symphony links up with pot industry

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DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Symphony Orchestra said Tuesday it will play a series of "cannabis-friendly" fundraising concerts sponsored by the state's burgeoning pot industry.

The state's only full-time professional orchestra hopes the unusual shows dubbed "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series" will boost its audience as it struggles with dwindling attendance and shrinking budgets.

"The cannabis industry obviously opens the door even further to a younger, more diverse audience," symphony CEO Jerome Kern told The Associated Press.

In return for sponsorship, marijuana-related companies get "the legitimacy of being associated with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra." he said.

The event, however, is strictly BYOC — bring your own cannabis, according to an events listing on the symphony website that says pot will not be sold.

Richard Yost of Ideal 420 Soil, a New Hampshire company that sells soil and other cultivation products to marijuana growers, sees sponsoring the concerts as a chance to link his company to one of the best orchestras in the nation and to make the point that pot consumers can be clean-cut and sophisticated.

"You can be intelligent and savvy and enjoy cannabis as well," said Yost, adding that he plays Mozart while he works on business plans.

Another sponsor, Jan Cole, said her Boulder-based pot retailer The Farm has helped fund arts events in her hometown and a concert by Ziggy Marley in Denver. She said she hoped for a long-term association with the symphony, because its audience was "our crowd ... people who like art and music and alternative products."

Judith Inman, a member of a volunteer guild that has organized balls and other more traditional classical music fundraisers in Denver, has reservations about the marijuana mash-up.

"I know that the symphony needs new sponsors, and they are trying to go after a younger group," she said. "I just don't think this is the way to go about it."

Retail marijuana sales have been legal in Colorado since January but there have been concerns about the safety and packaging of edible marijuana products.

Still, poll results released Monday showed 52 percent of Coloradans think marijuana legalization has been beneficial, and 67 percent disagree with the sentiment that it has eroded the moral fiber of people in the state.

Kern said he has heard complaints from at least one musician and from symphony supporters about the upcoming concerts.

The first three shows will feature small ensembles of symphony players at a downtown Denver gallery. The series culminates with a concert at Red Rocks, an amphitheater outside Denver where the symphony and pop and rock groups play.

Jane West, whose Edible Events Co. is organizing the series, said concertgoers will be able to smoke pot in a separate area at the gallery. Guests must be at least 21 and purchase $75 tickets in advance.

"We try to create upscale events where people can come and enjoy some cannabis just like they would a glass of wine," West said.

For the final show at Red Rocks, which is owned by the city and county of Denver, organizers intend to follow rules dictated by police, West said.

Smoking pot at the famed venue is officially banned, though that was flouted long before recreational marijuana became legal.

Another series of symphony events restricted to the 21-and-up crowd is "Beethoven and Brews," which brings musicians to a trendy downtown hotel bar to play as local breweries offer tastings.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.

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Follow Donna Bryson at http://twitter.com/donnaindenver

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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