Kayvan Khalatbari moved to Denver in 2004 from his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska after graduating with a degree in Architectural Engineering. He spent the next five years working as an electrical systems designer and volunteering for Sensible Colorado and SAFER by participating in call to action activities such as collecting signatures for I-100 and other Cannabis initiatives, and chasing Denver Mayor Hickenlooper around in a chicken suit to protest his hypocritical views on cannabis legalization. He did so more recently with Hickenlooper as Governor of Colorado during his reelection campaign.
Through his volunteer work, Kayvan became an active member of a growing network of devoted patients, caregivers and medical cannabis business professionals. He soon realized that in addition to the benefits medical cannabis offers to patients, an incredible support system was developing as well. Through this support system, Kayvan met his future business partners for his local businesses, Sexy Pizza, Denver Relief, Denver Relief Consulting, DRx, Sexpot Comedy and Birdy. magazine. He also works with the city of Denver to produce progressive art events such as art&.
Kayvan partnered with the Assistant Director of SAFER to start Sexy Pizza in 2007 while continuing to support medical cannabis activism through the pizzeria. Sexy Pizza initially honored non-profit organizations including SAFER, Sensible Colorado, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition with a pie on the menu that delivers proceeds to them each time it is purchased. With the successes of these groups in Colorado, Sexy Pizza has since moved those pie donations over to new groups, the Harm Reduction Action Center, Freedom Service Dogs of America and the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra, an organization he sits on the Board of Directors of.
One year after opening Sexy Pizza, Kayvan co-founded and became Operations Manager at Denver Relief, which is now the longest continually operating dispensary in Denver and the second oldest in Colorado. Denver Relief takes to the industry a unique approach that encourages a change in the perception of cannabis in an effort to help normalize the industry and integrate seamlessly into our communities. Denver Relief has remained vocal and has received as much media attention as any dispensary in the U.S., solely to drive that message.
This mindset is what led to the development of the GREEN TEAM in 2009, a community outreach program that coordinates urban gardening efforts, free bicycle and wheelchair repair clinics, food, coat, clothing and hygiene product collection drives, trash pickup at events and more. The GREEN TEAM is also currently raising money to pay for an underprivileged student to attend college and is in the process of being converted into a 501(c)(3) to expand this network nationwide. The GREEN TEAM was recognized in 2015 by the Denver Post Cannabist for Community Involvement, has more than 1,000 active volunteers and works with more than 40 supporting businesses.
Kayvan is a founding board member of the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America and currently serves in the same role for the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra. He has also been a “big brother” mentor for Denver Kids Inc. since 2007, and has been guiding his three current kids since 2009. Kayvan has also been appointed guardian of these children upon the passing of their adoptive mother who is currently in her 80’s.
With a successful dispensary and a brand that had the potential for expansion, Kayvan and his business partners found themselves in a position to start a new chapter. Considering the growth of national and global medical and recreational cannabis programs, they decided to pursue a sort of model expansion as opposed to brand expansion and began to focus on consulting services that promote progressive best practices and technologies that focus on environmental stewardship, science based research and the promotion of well-intending people within the core of the cannabis space.
Denver Relief Consulting was formed in 2012 with the mission to assist other states by helping them accomplish what Denver Relief has in Colorado. More so than any other consultants in the industry, Kayvan and his team spoke about the need to normalize this industry and to give back. They now have clients in 13 states, Washington D.C., Canada, Colombia and Australia. Their consulting services range from state application submissions, facility design, policies and procedures development, employee training, regulatory navigation, research and development, vendor relations, cultivation guidance and more.
Kayvan’s consulting specialty is a comprehensive approach to the business side of cannabis and provides his services for the multitude of documents, licenses, records, and accounting that are necessary to ensure the future viability and legal protection of any medical cannabis business. He also helps lead the following organizations:
- National Cannabis Industry Association – Board Member
- Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation – Board Member
- Illinois Cannabis Industry Association – Board Member
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy – Board of Trustees Member
- C&C of Denver DEH Environmental Stewardship Committee – Committee Chair
- C&C of Denver Mayors Office Marijuana Work Group – Member
- C&C of Denver Neighborhood Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program – Committee Chair / Lead Proponent
- Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe – Board Member
- Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra – Board Member
Kayvan was also a candidate for one of Denver City Council’s two at-large seats in 2015 and was unsuccessful in that bid, but operated a campaign that was largely noticed and unique in its approach and ability to reach otherwise disengaged voters.