Boulder, Colo.-based Terrapin Care Station, a national cannabis company, announced today that it has guaranteed a minimum wage for its employees of $15/hour companywide.

The move comes as the Denver City Council debates whether to gradually raise the minimum wage over three years. A proposal before the Finance and Governance Committee today would raise the minimum wage in Denver to $12.85 in 2020; $14.77 in 2021; and $15.87 in 2022, largely mirroring state law. A vote is scheduled after today’s 1:30 p.m. hearing at the City and County Building. Terrapin didn’t want to make employees wait for three years to see a living wage, which is why the company is guaranteeing a minimum wage companywide of $15/hour.

“Terrapin wants to lead by example, which is why we are doing this on our own, regardless of what happens with Denver’s minimum wage proposal,” said Chris Woods, owner and chief executive of Terrapin Care Station. “We know that this is the right thing to do to retain employees and provide a living wage as the cost of living continues to spike.”

Terrapin’s new minimum wage policy applies both to employees in Colorado and in Pennsylvania, where it operates a medical cannabis grower/processor facility. In Colorado, Terrapin operates six retail stores along the Front Range, as well as four cultivation facilities and a processing laboratory. Pay raises will be seen by all departments, including retail, production and some management. The policy will serve as a template for new markets, as well.

Luis Cendon, a retail-level worker, or “budtender,” at Terrapin’s store at 1795 Folsom Street in Boulder, knows all too well the importance of a living wage. Cendon moved to America in 2015 and secured political asylum after fleeing a corrupt government in Venezuela. Before moving to America, Cendon worked as an attorney for the Public Ministry of Venezuela. In his role, Cendon oversaw public contracts with private entities, such as contractors. He noticed that there were no service guarantees in many of the government contracts he oversaw. Alarmed by this, Cendon raised the issue with his superiors. He was told to write the contracts without the service guarantees, something that made him uncomfortable, and which would have broken the law. After blowing the whistle, Cendon was fired, forcing him to seek asylum in the United States.

“I struggled as a cook in the area after I unsuccessfully applied for jobs all over Boulder,” said Cendon, pointing out that he wanted a job interfacing with people so that he could work on his English. “The same day I applied at Terrapin, I got a call back.

“My goal in this country is to be a translator,” Cendon continued. “Working at Terrapin is a first step to do that. It’s a perfect place to improve my English. Terrapin changed my routine in that way. While I’ll still need a roommate, $15/hour will help me to budget better with more flexibility, which will help me to achieve my goals in this country.”

Terrapin understands that $15/hour is just a start. With housing prices spiking and the cost of living jumping overall, more needs to be done to address systemic issues. We are hopeful,however, that an initial increase in pay can help employees sustainably budget. While Terrapin supports the minimum wage proposal moving through the Denver City Council, it encourages businesses to independently do the right thing by their employees through raising wages. This will level the playing field for all.

“Raising the minimum wage companywide isn’t going to solve all of the problems associated with the skyrocketing cost of living we’re seeing, but it’s an important tool to provide some comfort for people as they struggle to make ends meet,” Woods added. “We value our employees, but more importantly, we understand the uphill battle that many of them face every day. We hope to inspire other business leaders to create a level playing field for all as the living wage debate builds nationwide.”