As the largest individual industry contributor to the Amendment 64 campaign, I have always been proud of what we accomplished here in Colorado. The cannabis legalization “experiment” has flourished into a national model, and for that, Colorado should be proud.
But recently, I have grown concerned. As the owner of Terrapin Care Station, a 10-year-old national cannabis company with six stores in Colorado and a medical operation in Pennsylvania, prudence has always been the name of the game. Terrapin carved a national footprint with 250 employees through conservative planning. We’re not unique. For most Colorado cannabis companies, revenue and measured private investment dictate growth. This is how Colorado has been able to ensure a responsible cannabis industry with opportunity for all.
But a bill in the Colorado Legislature moves away from this thoughtfulness and opportunity. House Bill 1090 would leap Colorado into a world of publicly licensed cannabis companies before the model has even been examined. House Bill 1090 sets the state on an irreversible path without any understanding of how the measure would shape Colorado’s cannabis landscape for decades to come.
The measure allows for Colorado cannabis companies to accept billions of dollars available from a frenzy of investments on the Canadian Securities Exchange. The shift has resulted in a consolidation of the cannabis industry in which larger companies are leveraging billions of dollars to squeeze out smaller companies. In some cases, investors are being defrauded, which has resulted in actions taken by the SEC. The issue is one of protecting business owners and consumers.
Since inception, I have supported additional capital for the cannabis industry. But it is foolish to assume that small- and mid-size companies would see a flood of investment by going public. They will be overshadowed by a powerful corporatization and homogenization that is well underway.
And as a cannabis business owner operating in a precarious and murky legal environment, I don’t want to raise any flags with the federal government. Colorado’s new U.S. Attorney, Jason Dunn, recently told Colorado Public Radio that House Bill 1090 “raises real questions” about whether bad actors can invest in the industry. We don’t even know how public cannabis companies would work absent of any cannabis banking, which remains illegal.
What’s stunning is that proponents of the measure want to lay the burden on Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. The Division has done a remarkable job with few resources regulating the first marijuana marketplace in the world. But it is an irresponsible ask for the Division to regulate billions of dollars in foreign securities. This falls well beyond its purview.
Before we rush to publicly licensed cannabis companies, let’s expand private investment opportunities. In the meantime, we can study what a publicly licensed model would look like by establishing a task force of economists, industry representatives, state leaders, and federal officials.
Until then, let’s do what Colorado has always done best — take a thoughtful approach to cannabis legalization by pausing on publicly licensed cannabis companies.
Chris Woods is the owner and founder of Terrapin Care Station, a 10-year-old Boulder-based national cannabis company with six stores in Colorado and a medical operation in Pennsylvania.