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Home / Articles / Views / Weed Between the Lines /  MIG helps make marijuana businesses work
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Thursday, March 6,2014

MIG helps make marijuana businesses work

By Leland Rucker
Photo courtesy of Mike Elliot
Mike Elliot, Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group

Mike Elliott is executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association for cannabis businesses based in Denver.

He founded joined MIG as the Medical Marijuana Industry Group at a critical moment in the state’s cannabis movement.

The stampede of dispensary openings in Colorado that began in 2009 on the heels of the Obama administration announcement that it wouldn’t prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal spawned more than a thousand dispensaries across the state in less than a year, a majority of those in Denver. None were licensed, and the attorney general and law enforcement were ready to ban them all.

“That’s the environment in which my trade association formed,” Elliott told me recently. “We took the philosophy of ‘If we don’t hang together, we’re going to hang separately’ and pooled our resources.” The organization successfully lobbied to pass Colorado HB 10-1284 in June 2010, which created the licensing structure that forced medical marijuana businesses to submit to background checks and financial disclosures.

MIG now represents more than 50 licensed medical and retail marijuana dispensaries, grow facilities, infused products manufacturers, vendors and investors.

“I think with Amendment 64, we’re taking our heads out of the sand,” he says. “We’ve been fighting this war on marijuana for 40 years and spent a trillion dollars for the war on drugs. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and after all that, marijuana is still universally available. It’s still in our schools. It’s out of control. We’re not getting tax revenue, and everyone knows it hasn’t worked. The question has been, ‘What is the solution?’” And for right now, he explains, it’s dealing with 500 pages of laws.

“In many ways we’ve gone way, way overboard,” Elliott says. “But that’s OK, because people demand that we take all these public-safety issues very seriously. We’re coming up with good solutions. Business owners are completely transparent.

They’ve given up their lives, and there’s no hiding what they’re doing anymore. If they screw up, it’s not just going out of business. The reality is that they would be living the rest of their life in orange.”

On Feb. 17, the Washington state House voted to ban medical dispensaries and impose new restrictions on medical users. Elliott doesn’t think that will happen here or that medical is in danger of going away in Colorado anytime soon.

“Medical is the roots of this industry — those patients and maintaining those relationships,” he says. “A lot of people would say that medical is just a stepping stone to legalization, but those people forget the fact that there are sick people who do get a great benefit, and businesses want to keep catering to medical mar ijuana patients.”

Elliott says current rules encourage businesses to cater to both markets. Each city can choose whether to allow medical and/or recreational cannabis.

“So you have a community like Colorado Springs, which has allowed medical businesses but banned recreational,” he notes. “How do you make sense of Colorado Springs? It’s good to have medical businesses catering to patients. I don’t see anything big changing anytime soon.” One coming challenge to is codify some rules that differ for each market.

“It could be worse. We created two industries, one for medical and one for recreational,” he says. “There are a lot of similarities that make sense, but when we’re talking about 500 pages of law, there’s an awful lot in there.”

That said, there isn’t much appetite in the legislature for cannabis. “It dominated last year, and we’re in an election cycle. The tone is: ‘Why don’t we let things work and see what the problems are, and when they come up, we’ll address them.’” The most frustrating issue, of course, is lack of access to banking.

“The real reason is that forces outside of Colorado are interfering with this program, and in so doing are disrupting banking relationships, the relationship with merchant-services companies like credit cards, security companies and the armored-car companies,” Elliott says. “They’ve gotten threats from the DEA to drop marijuana businesses or else. We’ve heard, and I tend to believe it’s true, that the DEA is not out there saying they are doing this. But you put those industries together, and it starts looking and feeling that there are folks out there that are try ing to create public-safety issues, that are forcing us to be a cash-only industry that can’t protect itself.”

And, he points out, everybody is calling for banking clarity, including the governor and Denver mayor, who opposed Amendment 64, and the attorney general.

“Everyone wants to fix this problem — pro or against — because this is a public safety issue. This is about saving lives, and it’s also about accountability.”

Speaking of accountability, MIG supported Proposition AA, which placed higher sales and excise taxes at the state level and gave cities and counties the ability to add more, a position that was opposed by some in the cannabis industry but which was approved by 65 percent of Colorado voters last November.

“We ultimately would like to be treated with fairness like other businesses and industries,” Elliott says. “So the taxes, from that perspective, seem too high.”

But there’s more than that going on. “There are a lot of legitimate concerns that people have about keeping it out of schools, doing education prevention and treatment,” he says. “There are public-safety issues, like keeping it from going out of state, and research. All of that needs funding, and it makes sense to have this industry pay for it. We’re going to be partners, and we’re going to use the money that these businesses have been making to invest back into our communities to address issues and to do the job that prohibition never did. Prohibition was a failure, and we’re going to be part of the solution.”

Tips, suggestions and criticisms to weed@boulderweekly.com.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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MIG and its predecessor, MMIG, have consistently sabotaged patient's rights and caregivers' prerogatives, pandered to the prohibitionists in the General Assembly, attempted to criminalize driving with non-impairing levels of THC in the blood, has consistently supported the cartelization of cannabis, and generally harmed the cause of ending Prohibition in Colorado (still going strong -- as of last July, you can commit a Class 1 felony withe cannabis).  If patients who use cannabis or informed consumers in general were to organize, MIG's members would be out of business.  It's worth asking your dispensary if they are affiliated and looking for another if they are.  Elliott is an exemplar of what is wrong with the movement to end Prohibition -- he supports it exactly to the extent that it benefits his clients.  MIG does not fight against Prohibition or felonies for cannabis; that is all anyone who uses cannabis should need to know about the organization!

 

Just telling it like it is , now back to your moms basement with your Pop tart , Blueberry

 

The drug can affect more than your physical health. Studies in Australia in 2008 linked years of heavy marijuana use to brain abnormalities. This is backed up by earlier research on the long-term effects of marijuana, which indicate changes in the brain similar to those caused by long-term abuse of other major drugs. And a number of studies have shown a connection between continued marijuana use and psychosis. Marijuana changes the structure of sperm cells, deforming them. Thus even small amounts of marijuana can cause temporary sterility in men. Marijuana use can upset a woman’s menstrual cycle. Studies show that the mental functions of people who have smoked a lot of marijuana tend to be diminished. The THC in cannabis disrupts nerve cells in the brain affecting memory. Cannabis is one of the few drugs which causes abnormal cell division which leads to severe hereditary defects. A pregnant woman who regularly smokes marijuana or hashish may give birth prematurely to an undersized, underweight baby. Over the last ten years, many children of marijuana users have been born with reduced initiative and lessened abilities to concentrate and pursue life goals. Studies also suggest that prenatal (before birth) use of the drug may result in birth defects, mental abnormalities and increased risk of leukemia1 in children.

 

Marijuana is dangerous and it kills: it is a leading cause of injury crashes. Sure, marijuana may have never killed anyone as proponents often claim – just as a bottle of whiskey has never killed anyone. What kills people is when someone smokes the marijuana, drinks that bottle, or both at the same time, putting their own and the lives of many innocent people in critical danger. Here’s some examples of people killing and maiming others when under the influence of marijuana with or without combining with alcohol: 16 year old Teen Dies after Rolling Car off Cliff – Marijuana in System Woman Kills Self and 7 others While High on Marijuana On August 29, 2009 Diane Schuler, while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana drove the wrong way on a freeway killing herself and 7 others including her 2 year old daughter, 3 nieces and 3 men in the SUV she hit head on. She smoked pot one hour before driving. Man Attacks Flight Crew after Eating Marijuana Cookies Man “screamed, dropped his pants and attacked crew members on a cross-country flight, forcing its diversion to Pittsburgh, the FBI said”. Kinman Chan later claimed he had eaten marijuana cookies before his flight. Source ‘Psychotic Pothead’ Shoots Pentagon Police “…John Patrick Bedell liked it (marijuana) too; in fact, he was a marijuana addict. But he inflicted a lot of pain on other people, including the two guards he shot at the Pentagon.” Young Man Kills 9 and injures 5 while another Kills 2 Wounds 13 – Both avid marijuana users “…The pain has also been evident in other cases, such as admitted pot lover 16-year-old Jeff Weise, who murdered nine people and injured five others in Red Lake, Minnesota and Charles “Andy” Williams, a regular marijuana user who smoked the drug just before killing two schoolmates and wounding 13 others in a San Diego suburban school…” The August 2009 La Brea raging fire in Santa Barbara County was touched off by a “cooking fire in a marijuana drug trafficking operation … believed to be run by a Mexican national drug organization.” Man Kills 4 Children on Freeway – Nickname is “Smokey” “…four children and the driver of a van died when the van hit a concrete bridge abutment after veering off the freeway. Investigators reported that the children nicknamed the driver “Smokey” because he regularly smoked marijuana. The driver was found at the crash scene with marijuana in his pocket. (COMMERCIAL) Woman Hits Man, Leaves Lodged in Windshield in Her Garage Two Days Until He Dies “…after a night of smoking marijuana, drinking and drugs, a former nurse’s aid hit a homeless man with her car. “Jurors saw pictures of the twisted, bruised and bloody body of a homeless man today as a former nurse’s aide went on trial on charges that she hit him with her car, drove home with his body lodged in the windshield and left him to die in her garage.” (NY TIMES) Man Kills Two in Head-On Collision George Lynard was convicted of driving with marijuana in his bloodstream, causing a head-on collision that killed a 73 year-old man and a 69 year-old woman. Lynard appealed this conviction because he allegedly had a “valid prescription” for marijuana. Lynard appealed this conviction because he allegedly had a “valid recommendation” for marijuana. A Nevada judge agreed with Lynard and granted him a new trial. The case has been appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. (DEA) Mother’s Day Bus Crash Kills 22 People “Frank Bedell should never have been behind the wheel of a bus on Mother’s Day… He was high on marijuana and dizzy from Benadryl. The Mother’s Day bus crash near City Park that killed 22 passengers is being blamed on driver Frank Bedell, who police say was seriously ill and under the influence of drugs when he got behind the wheel of the motor coach that morning. Safety experts say stricter federal rules governing the inspection of buses and the screening of drivers might have prevented the accident.” (NOLA). Teenagers Judge Calls “Hyenas” Murder Father of Three They are not hard to find. Every few days brings a fresh tale of feral youths meting out random acts of violence with unfathomable intensity. Apart from the shocking brutality, the speed with which a seemingly trivial argument or confrontation can assume murderous proportions, the stories have a common theme: the perpetrators of the violence, often in their very young teens, were high on ’skunk’ at the time.

 

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Marijuana also affects brain development, and when it is used heavily by young people, its effects on thinking and memory may last a long time or even be permanent. A recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.

 

Garbage! Not only does your rant have exactly nothing to do with the article, it is bogus science.

 

Could you possibly be more obtuse? Have you still not read the article? You must not have even taken in the title if you are anti-cannabis but think it is "Just telling it like it is"! As for "now back to your moms basement with your Pop tart , Blueberry" -- what, are you in high school?

 

Absolute nonsense! I am mystified as to why you are posting stuff like this in response to an article pumping the MIG; its intended audience are people who accept the People's decision of two years ago to legalize some limited use of cannabis by adults. Your ravings are way out of touch with reality, even as it is perceived in Boulder.

 

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How Does Marijuana Affect a User’s Life?

Research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, more relationship problems, and less academic and career success compared to non-marijuana-using peers. For example, marijuana use is associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. Several studies also associate workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover.

 

Joseph Goebbels? You are off-topic too.

 

Research also shows that criminalizing marijuana has been a spectacular failure, ruining far more lives than the drug could ever do, costing governments millions of dollars. What research? Starting with the La Guardia Commission in the 1940s, government studies of pot concluded the most dangerous thing about pot is its illegality. By far.

 

The only lives that been ruined they ruined them selfs !

 

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Hey Bob get a clue pot is bad for you , losers like you spreading garbage , 

 

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The crazy-high prices drove a lot of people back onto the black market, thus neutralizing one of the major reasons for legalization, getting the supply out of the hands of criminals. I've told many of my pro-legalization friends this would happen and that de-criminalization was a better way to go, unless of course you are wealthy. The black market will function unabated unless legal pot prices are competitive.

 

 
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