As Eight More States Legalize Marijuana, Political Consultants Offer Advice

On November 10, the International Association of Political Consultants, which is holding its annual gathering in Denver, offered a panel on The Politics of Marijuana. Four experts from various areas of the cannabis industry addressed an audience of about forty, describing how consultants can help the eight states that just legalized marijuana — four medical and four recreational — cope with the inevitable changing landscape.

"This last election was a true political tipping point. That is, we're going to have such a large market with so many states involved, it's going to be difficult for the government to try and do something against it," said Ted Trimpa, principal and CEO of Trimpa Group.

As these states take on the difficult task of regulating a new industry, panelists offered advice on everything from the regulatory challenges that Colorado experienced to issues with licensing to where the industry is going.

Neal Levine, Senior VP of Government Relations at LivWell Enlightened Health, said that states just beginning to deal with the cannabis business should look to others who have already been through it for guidance. "Talk to the actual industry, talk to people working in your state, talk to people who are dealing with these regulations and can give you some insight," Levine advised.

Amanda Gonzalez, CEO of Kaya Cannabis and Southwest Alternative Care, also emphasized how important it is to create those partnerships. "We're wanting to work with regulators and community groups well in advance of anything going wrong," she said. "Emphasize having that communication early on."

Attorney Brian Vicente, co-founder of Vicente Sederberg and one of the primary authors of Amendment 64, noted that whenever a state legalizes marijuana, it looks to Colorado when establishing a regulatory structure. "Colorado's become the mentor to the world on how to regulate marijuana," he said. "We've been doing it longer than anyone else."

The industry has an obligation moving forward, Levine said. Now that a majority of states allow medical marijuana in some form and as companies work with regulators to establish institutional structures to support the cannabis industry, it's important for marijuana businesses to maintain integrity and present themselves in the best light.

"Be the industry you want to see," he advised.