Medical Marijuana Industry Group likes not always flattering Newsweek "pot barons" article
Newsweek may be abandoning print at year's end, but the venerable magazine remains an actual publication -- and its current cover story, "The New Pot Barons," shines a light on a major player in the Colorado weed biz: the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. The resulting article doesn't always cast MMIG in a flattering light, but a spokesman isn't complaining.
At the top of a piece featuring the subhead "Businessmen Bank on Marijuana," writer Tony Dokoupil writes about Denver "drug dealers" putting money into envelopes. But these aren't your typical pushers. The group includes a "finance veteran, two children of the Ivy League, multiple lawyers, and the son of a police chief," joined by "a Pulitzer Prize-winning communications consultant, two state lobbyists, and a nationally known political operative. And the guest of honor: a state senator who likes the look of those envelopes being stuffed."
The participants aren't named, but as is clear from subsequent conversations about "a youth drug-abuse-prevention program and a bill to define 'drugged' driving," they are clearly industry heavyweights of the sort who make up the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, whose Norton Arbelaez serves as Dokoupil's de facto tour guide through much of the article.
The piece documents how Arbelaez and Jon Salfeld, pals from Tulane Law School, moved to Colorado in 2009 and set about pushing legislation that simultaneously professionalized the industry and wiped out half of it, all in the name of potentially monstrous profits and buy-ins from the likes of Philip Morris, which is rumored to have leased warehouse space in these parts.
When Dokoupil floats the prospect of whether "Colorado's burgeoning pot business could be the basis for a third huge, blood-sucking vice industry, dependent on converting kids and supporting heavy users," Arbelaez shrugs off the possibility, stressing that his peers "have families, and they employ families. They're about helping people, not hurting people." But the reporter has his doubts while hanging with the high-rollers at the Churchill Bar after an MMIG board meeting. "As a Bond-girl waitress delivered round after round of top-shelf conviviality and an electronic joint prototype appeared," he writes, "it was easy to see my hosts thirty years from now, when legalization is here, sitting in the same woozy affluence -- fatter, balder and famously rich."
Continue to read the Medical Marijuana Industry Group's take on the article.