Marijuana Industry Group Shakeup: Michael Elliott Out

On the website of the Marijuana Industry Group, among the most powerful cannabis business organizations in Colorado and the country as a whole, executive director Michael Elliott remains front and center.

Elliott, who's headed MIG under both its current name and its previous moniker, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, is featured in a Denver Post video on the home page — it's one of many appearances he's made for online, cable and broadcast news agencies — and is atop the staff list. His bio points out that he "worked on several political campaigns" prior to becoming executive director more than five years ago. "Most notably, Michael managed the campaign that defeated a proposed ban of medical marijuana centers in El Paso County (Colorado Springs)."

But Elliott, who has not responded to interview requests at this writing, is out at MIG in a development that's spurred rumors that the organization as a whole is on the verge of collapse.

Not so, insists Bruce Nassau, an executive for Tru Cannabis who's the newly elected Marijuana Industry Group chairman of the board. According to him, "The MIG is stronger than ever."

Here's how Elliott introduced the Medical Marijuana Industry Group to readers in 2011:
Elliott describes MMIG as "a membership organization" made up of "fifteen to twenty businesses." The group's website puts the total at 23 centers located in Garfield, Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, Weld and Larimer counties and serving approximately 31,000 patients — but Elliott notes that not all of the members own dispensaries, grow facilities or infused-product firms. Some are associated with collateral businesses, such as accountants and attorneys who work with the MMJ industry. When asked to sum up MMIG's mission, he says, "We welcome sensible regulations and the responsibility that comes with it."

To accomplish this goal, Elliott points out, MMIG employs "statewide lobbyists who lobby on our behalf" — and he also speaks to issues such as the THC driving limits proposed by Representative Claire Levy. In his testimony on HB 1261 last week, he emphasized that "we support the concept of the bill. We want to do everything we can to make sure our patients are safe drivers, and we share that concern with the sponsors of the bill." However, he goes on, "we want to make sure that any state DUI standard should be measurable and based on sound science." He adds that "there's a lack of research on this issue, and what we're most concerned about is edibles and the appropriate time frames for safe consumption when it comes to impairment."
Today, the MIG no longer lists its members online — but there's no doubt that the organization has grown following the legalization of limited recreational marijuana sales, and so has its influence. Elliott has represented the group's interests when it's come to virtually every rule-making and regulatory challenge in Colorado, including debates about pot edibles, plant counts and more. And while MIG's business-oriented approach has rubbed some cannabis activists the wrong way, Elliott has been a consistent advocate for the industry, as witnessed by his list of eight reasons why legal sales were working 100 days after their launch.

What led to Elliott's split from MIG? Nassau, corresponding via e-mail, doesn't get into details.

"Mike Elliott is no longer the executive director for the MIG," he writes. "Other than that, we don't discuss personnel issues.

"Mike was a dedicated and talented ED, who made many outstanding contributions to the organization, the industry and the people of Colorado," Nassau adds. "Mike left the MIG in excellent shape, and we are continuing to work on the issues important to the industry and Colorado."

As this last comment implies, Nassau shrugs off whispers that MIG is on shaky ground in the wake of Elliott's departure. In his words, "We are excited about the future of our young industry and our organization. MIG is committed to work with our industry partners, state and local regulators, and members of the communities where we live to ensure that we have a well-regulated, responsible and vibrant industry."

Nassau maintains that MIG's "mission is to ensure that we have a responsible, tightly regulated, socially responsible and fair system that is the envy of the world.

"We have done an excellent job of helping create a tightly controlled, responsible regulatory system. We have created numerous strong relationships with regulators, community members and businesses across the state. We have brought together and represented a diverse set of industry voices and helped address their individual concerns. As with any industry organization, we need to continue to adapt so that we can take advantage of new opportunities and address challenges and concerns as they arise."

MIG is currently looking for a new executive director. As for Nassau, he notes that "my goal as chairman is to continue the excellent work of the organization, open more lines of communication with regulators, other industry organizations, community groups and anyone else that wants to work with us to ensure that we have a fair, responsible, tightly regulated system that people from all over the world want to emulate."

Here's a video of Michael Elliott on C-SPAN circa 2014.