Denver's Pot-for-Donations Art Gallery: The Inside Dope

Denver's Pot-for-Donations Art Gallery: The Inside Dope

By Bryan Le 04/18/13

The proprietors, shocked to be facing felony charges, tell The Fix that they blame an encounter with a newsman in a rasta wig.

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The gallery is in legal hot water. Photo via

Until lawmakers put regulations in place, selling marijuana is still technically illegal in Colorado, despite the popular vote to the contrary last November. In the meantime, pot-lovers have had to come up with creative ways to transfer weed from those who have it to those who want it, without it being a "sale." The proprietors of 530 Art & Upcycle, an art gallery in Denver, came up with one such ruse—and they're now facing felony charges for distribution of marijuana that made headlines this week.

Adam Zimmerli and Devon Hawk Hazard were offering free weed to those members of their bluntly-named "Cannabis Club of Denver" who made donations to the gallery—and they insist they did nothing illegal. “To me, it's pretty benign what we were doing. I mean, obviously it's marijuana and it's legal to possess here,” Zimmerli tells The Fix. “We had people who wanted us to hook them up with a pound of weed and multiple times we shut them down: 'That's illegal, man!'” The pair insist that the donations they received were “absolutely for the gallery,” rather than a means of making personal profit. “We were never trying to have a marijuana business of any type,” Zimmerli tells us. “This was supposed to be a fun social club, like an Elkridge for potheads.”

But the pair had a nasty surprise in store. “Unfortunately nobody has really come out and said 'this is what we're going to be making arrests for,” Zimmerli continues. “If someone is out engaging in an activity they believe is legal, the police should inform them that activity is illegal rather than build a case against them. I would never disobey a direct order from law enforcement.”

Zimmerli suspects that his gallery was singled out after a hard-to-forget encounter with a local newsman, Rick Sallinger, who had investigated the duo two months prior. “Salinger is a 60-year-old square five-foot-tall old white guy,” says Zimmerli. “He came in here in a rasta dreadlock wig, a Woody Allen fisherman's hat, a tan detective's raincoat and a pair of blue blockers with a camera in them.” He believes the police investigation was a direct result of this bizarre visit; undercover cops infiltrated the cannabis club by befriending Hazard and Zimmerli, who provided them with marijuana. “Amendment 64 says we can give up to an ounce to our friends,” Zimmerli says. “I believed these people were our friends, but they weren't.” The pair plan to fight the case in court and say they're confident that the jury will be sympathetic.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter

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