"I found my way home," says Michael Huttner, who got his start as a troublemaker as a Westword intern. After that, he added much more illustrious lines to his résumé: as a lawyer, founder of ProgressNow and, most recently, CEO of Fenton, the nation's largest social-change agency.
To take that gig, though, Huttner had to move to New York City last year, leaving his family in Boulder. But now he's back in the Mile High City as the CEO of Powerplant Strategies, a national cannabis communications and public-affairs firm that he helped found last fall, which provides strategic advice to investors in the cannabis space. Powerplant is a sister company to Fenton, and Huttner will remain the political director of Fenton, working with new CEO Ben Wyskida. But right now, he's focusing on the marijuana industry — and the politics around it.
"I've met so many people...who have shared their personal stories of how cannabis has helped them and members of their family alleviate serious pain, symptoms from autoimmune diseases, epilepsy, Parkinson's and PTSD, and has bettered their overall quality of life," Huttner said in announcing the move. "The medical health benefits, the once-in-a-lifetime chance to address our nation's flawed drug polices, the opportunity to reduce our prison populations and to help minimize the impacts of our country’s opioids crisis, improve veterans’ quality of life, along with the tidal wave of emerging business opportunities, are just some of the reasons why I am excited to return to the industry.”
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Huttner is working out of the Vicente Sederberg LLC offices in Denver; so far, his main Powerplant missions have involved working with the Oakland-based Arcview Group, the largest collaborative of cannabis investors in the country, and the New Federalism Fund, "looking to get people across the aisle to make sure the Justice Department and new administration respect states' rights," he says, "and also to revise 280E, a tax penalty on the industry."
Huttner isn't a newcomer to cannabis advocacy. In January 2010, he convened a small group of drug reform and policy leaders in Colorado, which laid out a blueprint for how Colorado could become the first state to decriminalize cannabis in the country. Two years later, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64. Vicente Sederberg was part of that meeting; at the time, the firm had just a few lawyers. Today it has around thirty.
The firm will be part of the network of experts that Powerplant will rely on in its ongoing work; more members of that group will be announced soon. In the meantime, here's the agenda for that 2010 meeting: