DENVER — Saying it's bring your own weed, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra will play a series of fundraising concerts sponsored by the state's burgeoning pot industry.
Symphony CEO Jerome Kern told The Associated Press that the move was part of efforts to reach a broader audience. The state's only full-time professional orchestra, like others across the country, has struggled with dwindling audiences and budget problems.
"The cannabis industry obviously opens the door even further to a younger, more diverse audience," Kern said.
In return, he said, marijuana companies get "the legitimacy of being associated with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra."
Under state law, retail marijuana sales have been legal in Colorado since January. The first state to lift prohibition has seen hiccups, including questions about the safety of edible marijuana products and packaging and scrutiny by the federal government, which still considers marijuana dangerous and illegal. But Kern pointed to poll results released Monday that show 52 percent of Coloradans think marijuana legalization has been beneficial, and 67 percent disagree with the sentiment that legalization 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 concerts dubbed: "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series." The first three 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.
"This is a cannabis-friendly event," according to an events listing on the symphony's Web site. "But cannabis will NOT be sold at this event; it's strictly BYOC" — bring your own cannabis.
Jane West, whose Edible Events Co. is organizing the series, said concertgoers will be able to bring joints, as well as edibles or tinctures of marijuana, for personal use to the gallery and will be able to inhale in a separate smoking area there. Guests must be at least 21 and purchase $75 tickets in advance. Sponsors include Ideal 420 Soils, a company that claims its product "grows the highest quality marijuana."
"We try to create upscale events where people can come and enjoy some cannabis just like they would a glass of wine," said West, who has previously hosted similar marijuana events.
For the final show at Red Rocks, which is owned by the city and county of Denver, West said organizers will follow the rules police dictate. 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 tastes, with tickets ranging from $40 to $65.
Judith Inman, a member of a volunteer guild that has organized balls and other more traditional classical music fundraisers in Denver for decades, 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."
Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.
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