Matt Brown: The Birth of the Marijuana Industry in Colorado

In the second segment of our interview with Matt Brown of My 420 Tours, he goes into detail about the circumstances that unified the Colorado cannabis industry and propelled the state into the national spotlight when it legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012.

In this clip, Matt Brown and Ganjapreneur contributor Mitch Shenassa talk about the early stages of a unified industry, working with the Colorado Department of Health, and coordinating with other medical industry businesses and activists for the first time. As a business consultant and friend of many key players in the push that ultimately led to the passage of Amendment 64, Brown relates the story from an insider’s perspective and the interview brings details to light that have never previously been reported in the mainstream media.

Listen to the audio or read the transcript below:

Matt Brown Interview, Part 2:

First time here? Go back to Part 1. Part 3 of the Matt Brown interview is coming soon!


Matt Brown: So it was kind of one off and I was at the July 20th Department of Health, 2009.

Ganjapreneur: I recall that one,  that was my first one.

Matt Brown: Yep and then— it was the first one I’d been to, I had been kind of paying attention to it by this point and my plan—because, you know,  it had gotten rescheduled like 3 times—it was supposed to be the beginning of the year.

Ganjapreneur: Yeah.

Matt Brown: But I was there, I remember being so overwhelmed.

Ganjapreneur: That was the one where I feel like I had to wait till like 4:30 to get my chance to say anything and by then it was like such a moot point.

Matt Brown: Yeah. I was probably closer to 8. I was like, I think my number was in the low thousands.

Ganjapreneur: Yeah.

Matt Brown: The thousands single digits or something and then passed. Bruce Granger was there, owner of Kind Love [dispensary], he was kicking the tires. That was the first like not-friend, or friend-of-friend I ever said, “Hi, my name is Matt Brown, I’m a cannabis consultant”, and I’ve known him ever since, I mean, Rhett Jordan, I incorporated him—[from] Native Roots Downtown.  By the end of that year…

Ganjapreneur: I mean those two are some of the, you know cause this article’s gonna be read by people all over, those are definitely 2 of the biggest in Denver.

Matt Brown: Yeah.

Ganjapreneur: You know of the non-chain ones or the single store ones I would say they are the 2 that come to mind if people are like what are 2 dispensaries that I can go to that are not shit.

Matt Brown: Right!  Uh, You know Andrew Boyens um, at uh, the one right above Sonota on Market street. 15th and Market?

Ganjapreneur: I don’t know Denver streets too well.

Matt Brown: Um, Native?

Ganjapreneur: Natural?

Matt Brown: Natty Rems. [Natural Remedies]

Ganjapreneur: Oh yeah Natty Rems is the third on that list.

Matt Brown: Yeah, Natty Rems, that was my first outside incorporation. I went to his house, his dad was in a neck-brace, and like sat down with his parents, we did the board meeting.  Because when I figured out what my niche was—after, from July 20th through the end of October, I shut it down to start CMMR. People would come in, they’d pay me for consulting, I would explain the law to them, I would take where Warren [Edson] left off…  Warren would scare the crap out of them with the law, and he said what it is and what it isn’t…

Ganjapreneur: Well that’s his job as an attorney.

Matt Brown: Exactly.   And then he said you know, there’s nothing preventing a for-profit business the way California did, but he wasn’t business attorney.

Ganjapreneur: Right he was a criminal attorney.

Matt Brown: And there was no checklist you know, a lot of these people wanted the same kind of guidance you could get from somewhere if you wanted to open a Subway franchise or a clothing store, whatever there’s like a checklist.

Ganjapreneur: Right, right right, this is what you need, get this, get this, this is where to order your display cases, this is where to order your jars.

Matt Brown: And here’s what the government expects.

Ganjapreneur: Well yeah.

Matt Brown: How to get your sales tax license, what you have to pay on the state…

Ganjapreneur: Oh for sure—what documents you have to file—go Secretary of State, go IRS.

Matt Brown: Yeah. I figured out classification to get  people sales tax IDs, when the city of Denver was still, there was one clerk at the office who was denying and I came up with like an herbal supplement something.

Ganjapreneur: That’s why….

Matt Brown: As far as I know I was the one who read the zoning code and found out about the plant husbandry license. Because I remember going to Warren and asking about it and the definition said, a license to take seedlings or cuttings and start new plants and there were over 100 plant husbandry marijuana licenses issued by Denver before the city council found out that they were issuing them at all.

Ganjapreneur: And then they didn’t revoke them, of course.

Matt Brown: And that was what I’d hoped, was that we had this inertia by the time the government figured out what was going on that, so that led to end of October when Josh [Stanley] and Wanda [James] and a group of people asked me to start this group—to go lobby for us, the legislature was going to start January.

Ganjapreneur: Which group was it?

Matt Brown: Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, CMMR. And we had 4 lobbyists: 2 democrats, 2 republicans.  This was the first time openly, publicly, we all used the term “the marijuana industry..” And that was, I probably viewed myself as probably more like Frank Luntz than anything. That it was to set the language, and then context that we were talking about, then to sort of shape those legislative—it was Me, [Chris] Romer, [Tom] Massey and Matt Cook, in the early days, figuring out where you know, the structure—the stuff—you know,  where they got the law.   And so that was when I first became known, within the industry—November 2009 I went full-time.  And from then through May, that was my full-time job, I got up in the morning and usually there was a call from Michael Roberts at like 6:45 in the morning.

Ganjapreneur: From the—the Westword Reporter??

Matt Brown: Yep. House Bill 1284—that was my baby— my six months.

Ganjapreneur: I remember the first time I met you was when I hit up Ian Silverii at the, who was my friend who worked at the Capital.

Matt Brown: Yep.

Ganjapreneur: And I was like dude there’s all these different fucking splinter groups, everyone needs to come together and at least sit around the same table and people need to figure out who’s playing with who.

Matt Brown: That was the moment when I gained legitimacy in the eyes of—I mean certainly [lobbyist] Fuffy [Mendez].

Ganjapreneur: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly—that was…

Matt Brown: …where Ian worked.   And with the legislature. She had arranged a meeting with Romer, this was before Massey came on board with that bill, and Romer was gonna be there, they wanted quote, unquote all the groups in the room.

Ganjapreneur: Right.  I feel like that meeting was somehow like this,

Matt Brown : It was a seminal moment.

Ganjapreneur : Yeah, yeah, not a tipping point but a seminal moment indeed, that’s correct.

Matt Brown: It was a seminal moment in that that was when, for me that was the turning point when I started getting the calls from Chris Romer’s personal cellphone and his personal Gmail account, saying Matt I need your help. That was when I became—they knew I was going to play ball, that’s how I would put it more than anything else, that I was the one who would…

Ganjaprenuer: That’s… it was a moment where, in my opinion it’s what made the progress we made so quick possible, it was a pull away from the reactionary all or none approach and you know there’s still people who criticize it and you know, I respect them for their integrity.

Matt Brown: And a lot of my most vocal critics at the time have been able to come around, like Miguel Lopez.

Ganjapreneur: Yeah.

Matt Brown: I was banned from the 420 [rally at the state capitol].

Ganjapreneur: Yeah Miguel Lopez was clearly very vocally opposed.

Matt Brown: And he and I over the last year and a half, since I moved back from Vancouver have been very good friends, well I mean we don’t hang out all the time but like we had a making up moment, we talked directly and with a little bit of time and a little context with how it all came together, both were in agreement. I have often said that from that time the one thing that helped me and my voice, and by extension, the CMMR, the moderate voice of 1284 to exist, to win and I did not realize at the time—it was very personal and painful at the time—was we had the Miguel, Kathleen Chippis, , and the Laura Krihos, and— we had that wing, which in the mind of the legislature became equal and opposite to the cops and the Attorney General and all of that helped.

Ganjapreneur: The complete opposite of the law and order.

Matt Brown: And they both just faded away like a movie moment of just complete irrelevance.

Ganjapreneur: They balanced each other out right?

Matt Brown: And I became that person who was in between the two.

Ganjapreneur: Yeah.

Matt Brown: And they never really— Romer, Massey, whomever—never really stopped and seemed to step back and fully appreciate that I was a half a step inside of so many of those people.

Ganjapreneur: Right.

Matt Brown: Even if there was some horse trading that had to be done and you know… “Vertical integration” was my term—I applied it to what at the time was just called “you got to grow your own”.

Ganjapreneur: And, you know, I gotta say vertical integration, that’s still a hotly contested issue in some parties.

Matt Brown: Absolutely.

Ganjapreneur: And that’s a matter of pure economics.  The people who are opposed to it lost a livelihood.

Matt Brown: Yes.  And you know what I think what was under-appreciated at the time was the point of view that I lobbied from, which was as a patient first who had a seat helping people figure out, and to define our industry as a Colorado industry, which by definition was a 2.0 California.

Ganjapreneur: Right.

Matt Brown: It was different.

Ganjapreneur: It was not the same for sure, we were not doing the same things again.

Matt Brown: It was a graduation, it was the next step.

Ganjapreneur: Right an evolution perhaps.

Matt Brown: And there was a feeling from the very beginning, yeah, that this was big, that there was weight to what we were doing here.


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