In August 2010, the members of the Department of Revenue's medical marijuana working group were announced with some hoopla. But what a difference a year makes.
Twirling Hippy confections' Jessica LeRoux, one of the 25 original members, would like to continue working with the group, but she can't get answers about whether she'll be allowed to do so, or even when it'll meet next.
According to LeRoux, the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division contacted members about taking part in a second round of panel discussions. "They asked us to give our qualifications and why we should be brought back," she recalls.
LeRoux penned a letter making her pitch -- it's on view in its entirety below -- and sent it to the Medical Marijuana Division's Dan Hartman and Mia Tsuchimoto in late June. Then, after three weeks of radio silence, she sent a followup letter. "I wanted to make plans for the summer, but I also wanted to be available to the group," she points out. "And I was told to go ahead and make plans. They said, 'We'll let you know if we need you' -- which gave me a vague feeling they weren't going to bring me back."
Another clue: "MMED said a committee would meet to decide who would be brought back," she notes. "I asked to let me know if they wanted me to be on that committee, because I would help out, and I never got a response about that."
Because meetings were slated to begin in August, LeRoux is baffled about what's going on. But she'd still like to participate, in part because she feels she brings a different background than the others on the original panel, many of whom she describes as "lobbyists" or "people who are in business relationships together."
In contrast, she says, "I'm on the ground, delivering to rural parts of the state in person, and I talk to a lot of small, rural business owners who don't have anyone representing them on the panel. I'm one of the only small investors. I stand alone, and I feel like there should be representation from someone who's been fighting for medical marijuana. The only two other people on the panel I knew who had done any type of medical marijuana activism prior to 2009 were Rob Corry and Brian Vicente.
"I'm never going to be named Miss Congeniality," she concedes. "But I'm trying to empower everyone in the industry to act and know the law for themselves. That's really my goal. The big lobbying businesses aren't going to support me, but if the little, independent people survive, I'll survive. So that's my goal -- to empower the independents."
Page down to see a list of the original committee members and LeRoux's letter about continuing as a member of the group.
Original members of the Department of Revenue's medical marijuana working group:
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Norton Arbelaez, River Rock Wellness Center (large dispensary/optional grow license)
Betty Aldworth, Full Spectrum labs (laboratory)
Greg Goldfogel, owner of Mangia Ganja Gourmet Edibles
Jill Lamoureux, Colorado Dispensary Services (large dispensary/optional grow license)
Barb Visher, Tender Healing Care (small Dispensary Owner)
Nicholas King, Alpine Herbal Wellness (small Dispensary Owner)
Brian Vicente. (patient lawyer/advocate)
Jessica LeRoux, Twirling Hippy Confections, LLC (edibles)
Ryan Vincent, The Health Center (small dispensary/patient)
Bob Dill (attorney)
Rob Corry (attorney)
Cheryl Brownm MMBAlliance.Com (association affiliate/dispensary owner, herbalist)
Edward Bruder, MMJ patient
Paul Bregman (doctor)
Dr. Alan Shackeford (doctor)
Ann Hause, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Jeff Lawrence, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Tom Butts, Tri County Health
Ernie Martinez, President of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association
James Alderden, Larimer County Sheriff
Matt Brown, Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation
Bruce Grainger, Herbal Connections (caregiver/patient advocate)
Kevin Bommer, Colorado Municipal League
Eric Bergman, Colorado Counties, Inc.
Bryan Swanton, owner of several dispensaries
Letter from Jessica LeRoux to the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division:
This letter is to ask the MMED to allow me to retain my seat at the table for the MMED rules workgroup. I am ready and available to pick up where the group left off last December and of course I will have lots of thoughts and opinions to share!
In my original capacity I was asked to join the panel as a representative of the MIPs portion of the industry; but I feel that I contributed on quite a few other levels as well, especially health/safety and rural issues. I have been working 1 on 1 with patients for over a decade, and I understand their needs and their culture. I feel the panel would benefit from a few more patient activist voices, especially people who have contributed their time and activism prior to 2009, before MMJ became a for profit business in Colorado. In my opinion the skew of panel members is currently too oriented to newcomers to this industry who are motivated by a host of things other than altruism. At this time when some of the very members of our panel have had to sell out or consolidate amongst themselves to survive the rules they made in round one, I feel strongly that having multiple members from any business lobby or members employed by other panel members is a conflict of interest. It is important to me that the members who are brought back be those who did the homework and participated in person, at each and every meeting, with feedback from their community as they had been charged to do by the recently decamped Mr Cook in session one. As I recall we were instructed by Matt to "reach out to the members of the industry we represent" I did not think that meant profiteering by selling exclusive "compliance packets" to the very people that are being terrified by the laws we helped craft.
I am currently one of very few sole proprietors left in this business, and the only one on the panel. I serve approximately 100 MMCs from Durango to Ft Collins with only 2 part time employees (I used to have 4 employees, but sales are down everywhere state wide on all types of meds). I am the only panel member who actually handicrafts and makes every single product their company sells myself. I am the only member who is every week on the ground making my deliveries in every rural part of the state in person. I am talking to patients and center owners statewide every week about the impact these laws have on them. I have made it this far through the hoops on strength of my sales and extremely hard work, with NO outside investor money; I think I am the only one on the panel who can say that. I am 100% patients before profits. I do the homework myself, and I bring something to contribute to every single meeting. In short I understand this business from the patients to the employees, on up, inside and out because I do every single job required of my business myself, right down to scrubbing the toilets.
I have been sending all my clients and approximately 150 other various MMC, OPC, & MIPs owners, trades people, industry workers etc... a weekly newsletter for over a year, to help my colleagues stay compliant at every step of this process. I include compliance tips, support info, networking assistance, and a lot of tongue in cheek humor about the new rules. whenever there is new info my readers know I will give them a thorough review promptly. I spend about 5-10 hours each week helping members of my community for free with issues over the phone and in person when I am out on my rural deliveries. I do talks all over the state in centers for patients about infusion uptake methods and edibles and I usually end up being there for hours afterwards answering peoples one on one questions. Nobody can deny that I am passionate about this Industry and its survival.
Admittedly i can be somewhat "abrasive" with some of my colleagues on the panel, (I've heard a rumor or two that some of them have whined about it...) but in my defense I come from Marijuana's original background, Hippies. In MY professional background a "hippie" does not allow untruth to go unchecked, straight up calling people out in a humorous way is more respected than phony-ass "tact"! I understand that you are asking me to enter a new more professional world, and i think I do a pretty good job of playing that game 99% of the time, but being somebody other than who I am is not for me. I am asking you to respect the background of that which you wish to regulate, you guys really NEED a Hippie (or two)(and not just for the comic relief)... So please save my seat for me!
sincerely, (except for the parts where I want you to laugh, there your should laugh!)
Jessica LeRoux Twirling Hippy Confections, LLC
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division forms stir debate 8 days before MMJ laws take effect."