Marijuana Policy Project

TV Review: 'Pot Barons of Colorado'

The latest documentary to cover Colorado's marijuana boom, Pot Barons of Colorado, completed its run Dec. 28 on MSNBC. 

The six-part series focuses on the state's new ganjapreneurs, including: Tripp Keber, Dixie Brands CEO; Chuck Smith, Dixie Brands COO: Lindsay Jacobsen, Dixie Brands marketing director; Andy Williams, Medicine Man president/CEO; Pete Williams, Medicine Man COO; Sally Vander Veer, Medicine Man CFO; Pepe Breton and Jamie Perino, Euflora co-owners; Brian Rudin, Starbuds owner; Bob Eschino, Incredibles owner; Julie Dooley, Julie's Natural Edibles owner; Matt Moorman, High Country Healing president; Nick Brown, High Country Healing owner; Alex Stoffel, Maggie's Farm manager; Adam Brous, Terrapin Care Station manager; and Jake Brown, The Cannabist pot critic. 

In the first episode ("The Grand Experment"), Keber and Smith try to work out a deal with Medicine Man for large quantities of trim for their Dixie edible products. Keber is the new face of the cannabis executive: he's clean cut, wears a Searsucker and smokes a cigar. No weed for this pot baron (at least not on camera). At the 2014 Cannabis Cup in Denver, they celebrate, with cigars. "I'm not sure what the future's going to hold," Keber prognosticates, "but it's looking pretty bright and we're still in the second inning." He also contends that Nevada will legalize marijuana in 2016 and eventually surpass Colorado as the "marijuana tourism capitol of the world."

The second episode ("The Race to Aurora") follows three teams in pursuirt of obtaining retail licenses to sell marijuana in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Medicine Man, Starbuds and Euflora each receive licenses (Euflora gets two out of the 24 awarded). Back at their Denver store, Euflora's Perino catches someone stealing buds out of a container on one of the Apple Store-style counters. The amount missing is eight grams, so she calls the cops. Not cool.

Lewis Koski, head of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, says they biggest challenge they face is being first.

Episode 3 ("Edibles: The Food Fight.") is the best so far, pitting the reeling cannabis food industry against state regulators and conservative groups like Smart Colorado. Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division Lewis Koski director explains: The biggest challenge to this policy is how unique it is... the challenges of being first. When we first started there were no best practices developed on how you're going to regulate something like this. From a public perspective one of the biggest concerns everyone has is adolescence and youth."  

We see a different Keber, who's facing a factory shutdown becasue he's not being allowed to produce the precious cannabis oil that's the key ingredient in Dixie's soda and other edible products. Others like Eschino and Dooley face similar problems as the House "Edibles Working Group" wrestles with how to make edibles more identifiable to kids. 

Episode 4 ("The New Normal") primarily covers Medicine Man, Euflora and High Country Healing's efforts to expand around the state. Colorado Springs, its second largest city, has refused to allow for rec stores, shutting off major revenues for potential retial outlets. The city does have 60 dispensaries, so marijuana is avaialble, but only as a medicine.

Euflora breaks ground on their planned greenhouse site, and Perino and Breton pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Earler, Perino explains that her mother works in the sheriff's office and she hated pot the first time she tried it. She and the other Pot Barons never light up on camera. This episode features footage of people dabbing, but not one Baron takes a hit.

Episodes 5 ("The United States of Marijuana") follows the Barons to Chicago and Boston, where they're sniffing out opportunities in the burgeoning medical industries there. Skyler McKinley, the state's deputy director of Marijuana Coordination, Skyler McKinley, lauds Keber at the opening of Dixie's new 30,000 square foot building in Denver. "We can bring legitimate business people into this industry and we can run it like any other business," he tells the employees. "If the future of Colorado's recreational marijuana model looks like you what see here tonight, it's better that somebody in my position can go to the federal government and say, This is no different than any other business. Give them the treatment that they deserve."

Keber and Smith swill tequila shots and champagne, but still no marijuana - not even one of their elixir drinks!

The finale episode (''The Grass Is Greener") returns to Aurora to see who's going to open their store first - Medicine Man, Euflora or Starbuds. It's the reality of this series: if you get a license, then you remodel the location and race to the finish line. The goal is Oct. 1. In a community meeting, Mountain Man's Vander Veer tells the group, "We don't want to be sort of the stereotypical what you would picture of a stoner parlor."

Euflora in Aurora opens on Oct. 13. A month later Starbuds follows. "This is somethimg I believe in," Rudin says in the show's final interview. "I'm really, really proud to be a part of it. It represents more than than just some pot. It represemnt freedom."

Pot Barons of Colorado will return for a second season in 2015.

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.