Peter Marcus, Chuck Smith, Jesse Choe and Tiffany Phillips talk about the business of marijuana in Colorado.
BY FREDA MIKLIN
Coloradans have a muddled relationship with marijuana. Voters approved the use of medical marijuana by prescription in November 2000. Twelve years later, 1.3 million residents of Colorado voted yes on Amendment 64, permitting the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Sometimes it seems like no one knows who any of the folks who voted yes were, or why they cast those ballots. Even so, it is a robust and growing business in our state.
On April 13, the South Metro Denver Chamber held a panel discussion on, “Marijuana and Its Impact on Colorado Business,” at its offices at the Streets of Southglenn. RTD board chair and South Metro executive V.P. of Economic Development, Doug Tisdale introduced the program. Panelists were Peter Marcus, former political journalist and current communications director for Terrapin Care Station, a multi-location seller of recreation and medical pot, Chuck Smith, president and CEO of Dixie Brands, Inc., a large manufacturer of marijuana edibles, who also heads up Colorado Leads, a “pro-business alliance created to help educate the general public about the economic and community benefits of a safe, regulated medical and recreational cannabis industry.”
Rounding out the panel were Jesse Choe, a mortgage broker who specializes in cannabis industry employees, and Tiffany Phillips, marketing director of Springfield Wellness Center, which offers a nutritionally-based treatment for addiction and other health problems.
Every state in the U.S. except Idaho, Kansas and South Dakota has legalized marijuana in one form or another. Smith told the audience that the industry has produced $1 billion in taxes for our state since 2014. He also said that the cannabis industry has created 39,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs in Colorado. On the subject of safety, he pointed out that marijuana users cause far fewer traffic fatalities than do drunk drivers. According to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report, “Evidence from Colorado shows that marijuana legalization does not lead to increased teen usage, does not lead to increased homelessness, and does not lead to societal breakdown.”
Marcus told the government and business leaders that the marijuana industry is a business like any other that offers well-paid jobs and health insurance to its employees. He said his company was partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and CDOT to address impaired driving. The cannabis industry does not take a position on whether individual employers should or should not drug-test their workers, Marcus pointed out. He emphasized the role of marijuana in treating opiate addiction, seizure disorders and PTSD suffered by veterans.
Though sellers of marijuana products are all committed to keeping their wares out of the hands of minors, everyone on the panel and in the audience agreed that in addition to the inability to legitimately use the banking system, a huge problem is the prohibition against government-funded research by legitimate institutions to study the long-term effects of marijuana use on the human brain, particularly that of teenagers. A representative of Colorado State University stood up to say that both CU and CSU have been trying to conduct marijuana research, but due to current laws, CSU could lose up to $500 million in federal research funds by doing so.
Listening and learning were city council members Cathy Turley, Candace Moon and Mike Sutherland from Centennial, Peggy Cole from Littleton, Randy Weil from Cherry Hills Village, Wynne Shaw from Lone Tree, and Arapahoe County Commissioners Jeff Baker and Kathleen Conti.
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