Matt Brown: Leading Lawmakers Through Uncertain Territory

There are now four states in the USA that have voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use. But how do the finer points of legalization get defined (from a legal perspective) once the voters pass a bill?

In the third segment of our interview with Matt Brown from My 420 Tours, Matt discusses what it was like being intrinsically involved in the process of determining the legal structure that Colorado constructed during its bid for legalization. He also goes into detail about how in some cases, successful negotiations with nervous lawmakers depended largely upon the rhetoric that was used.

Listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

Matt Brown Interview, Part 3:

First time here? Go back to Part 1. Part 4 of the Matt Brown interview is coming soon!


Matt Brown: So that started as dispensaries have to grow their own, and to a legislature that doesn’t know any better and doesn’t really give a shit about pot, that sounds very rational-

Ganjapreneur: -sensible.

Matt Brown: Right, sensible. And Chris Romer’s an economist. He studied economics at Stanford, he considers himself an economist.

Ganjapreneur: That’s how he- yeah. He doesn’t bill himself as a politician.

Matt Brown: He fancies himself as an economist, and so for him, very early on in the process- and this was clearly a sticking point, I started using the term, “vertical integration” and he’ll defend his economic sensibilities. You cannot find an example of mandatory vertical integrations in the United States. It is, from freshman year economics onward, an option of a company in a normal market that should have the option to vertically integrate or horizontally integrate or however they went, but you would never force it. And he got that, and by calling it vertical integration it changed the argument that then-

Ganjapreneur: So in a sense, you put it in a more familiar context? That he could kind of see it as- Yeah. Not so much as a sensible policy but as an economic tenant he didn’t want to violate.

Matt Brown: Drilling for oil versus energy exploration. Yes, exactly.

Ganjapreneur: And so your intent there was to sort of color-

Matt Brown: To get it to go away entirely.

Ganjapreneur: To color it to the point where it’s just distasteful?

Matt Brown: Right. When it became clear that some form of what we would call vertical integration was going to be required, then that was the ace up my sleeve that I used and abused for the entire rest of the process. Any time they would start to vote something too stupid, I would be able to come back and say, “Listen, the vertical integration thing that you’re forcing is the absolute toughest thing for me to sell because it doesn’t make any sense to anybody. There’s no support for it.” Like, “I can keep fighting the fight for you, Chris, but this is a big deal.” And so we got all sorts of other incremental horse-trading maneuvers because they’d said so early on in the process that they were not willing to go past 70 percent of the vertical integration.

Ganjapreneur: Right.

Matt Brown: Some form of like a, “In case shit happens, you can wholesale,” but they were very much opposed. So the MMIP [medical marijuana infused product] license was my work, because no one had ever done marijuana-infused food like this before.

Ganjapreneur: So what were they considering for food? How did hash get mixed into that? I think that’s a really interesting side.

Matt Brown: What happened was, again, I did tours. I took ?[Rep. Tom] Massey tours, I took Charlie Brown on tours, and I think what happened was-

Ganjapreneur: Now how did you arrange these? Were these just dispensaries that you has business relationships with and you were like, “Hey, I know you’re a good spot, can I bring some people through to show them something exemplary?”

Matt Brown: Exactly. Friends and clients. I went and sat in on a couple of the work group sessions for City Hall, and the important part here is the State of Colorado’s legislature only meets from the third week in January to the third week in May, second week in May, something like that. And this all came to a head starting July 20th. By the fall we had hundreds and hundreds of these statewide. The number was something like 700 by the end of the year.

Ganjapreneur: 700?

Matt Brown: Dispensaries statewide.

Ganjapreneur: And in a period where the legislation the couldn’t make rules.

Matt Brown: Exactly, they were not in session.

Ganjapreneur: That’s why that happened. I did not know why that happened.

Matt Brown: Mm-hmm!

Ganjapreneur: How much of this was pure luck, how much of this was the connections–the unique connections that you had, and how much of this was just being that guy who showed up and had something smart to say?

Matt Brown: Equal parts one and three, a little bit of two, and I’ve spent years off and on trying to deconstruct how much of that it is and I don’t know, so the way I see it was I was in the right place at the right time.

Ganjapreneur: For sure-

Matt Brown: I was here in Colorado, I was the only business consultant who put business out there. You have Warren [Edson] tell it… Ryan Vincent really loves telling this story: I put up four Craigslist ads in a month and a half and I was banking, like ten grand a week, twenty grand a week on just incorporation. It was copy and paste, find and replace in Word, and then have the same talk for hours on end with people over and over, teaching them. Here’s how you co-opt any other rule that exists for any other industry that looks like ours. So if you’re selling edible products, why don’t you go ahead and get ahead of the curve and follow the food handling rules that you would if you were selling cookies at 7-Eleven. I found there was some selection bias in the people who chose to pay me, so it was the right place and the right time. I also give at least equal credit to myself for recognizing I had a very unique voice and approach and angle. There was this metaphorical rope ladder hanging right there just out of my reach. If I jumped a little bit I knew I could not only get it, but I could climb up to the top bigger and better than anybody had done before. And… I was a national champion debater. Two time nationals in high school. I was ranked fifth in the nation.

Ganjapreneur: That’s why you said before you were a debater–you weren’t scared to go- okay.

Matt Brown: Yeah. I was raised from- I actually, in middle school, my gifted teacher, because I was in the gifted class-

Ganjapreneur: So you’re from Massachusetts? You went to school-

Matt Brown: Missouri.

Ganjapreneur: Missouri, okay. Missouri public schools produced this?

Matt Brown: Yes.

Ganjapreneur: Way to go, Missouri.

Matt Brown: Kansas City, Missouri has four of the top ten most competitive high school debate districts in the country. It is an incredibly intense Midwestern debate legacy that goes on.

Ganjapreneur: Interesting.

Matt Brown: Churned out a lot of politicians, a lot of lawyers, a lot of business people, because, if nothing else, you spend your high school learning how to build and deconstruct arguments on the fly and more importantly, you learn how to tailor your message to your audience.

Ganjapreneur: Yeah.

Matt Brown: From freshman year on I spent literally, it was the longest athletic, because it was considered an athletic- it was from the first week in October through the end of April, I had tournaments every single week except for two weeks off over Christmas, and from freshman year on, you had to look a stranger in the face and start to make assumptions and just read their body language and their everything to see, okay, is this a college kid who’s probably a former high school debater? Then I can speed and spread, talk fast, hit them on technicalities, do this, or is this somebody like my mom and I need to slow down, be more emphatic with my voice, drive home points that make sense?

Ganjapreneur: So now the question is this: when you’re debating someone in that context, right, is that like a boxing match where you’re trying to beat that person, or you’re trying to win over judges? Well, I guess it helps- it’s like a boxing match. You’re doing both.

Matt Brown: When you have a reputation… So, my event- so I did cross-X debate, standard high school debate, which was two people, you and your debate partner against two other high school kids on the same topic all year long, and you get cases of evidence where you have to cut cards, and so I had to learn how to synthesize an entire article into one or two of those quotes you’d cut out that fit an argument, so that when somebody would talk about Tesla coils vis-a-vis renewable energy, I could open up a box and have ready to go evidence where I’m quoting citations and sources.

Ganjapreneur: And that certainly helps when appealing to authority.

Matt Brown: Certainly, because you learn how to build an argument which is not the same as being a scientist who is proving fact.

Ganjapreneur: No.

Matt Brown: It is rhetoric. And you can abuse rhetoric, or you can use rhetoric for incredible amounts of power.

Ganjapreneur: And at the same time what I found among many people speaking at hearings before me in tie-dye t-shirts with pot leaves is there is no sensitivity to audience, number one, and number two, there’s no sense of building a rational argument. And when it comes across-

Matt Brown: It’s burying the facts, with frustration because we know these facts are fucking true!

Ganjapreneur: And regardless of that, that’s not an effective way to commit- and then there’s also the vinegar-honey argument, like, calling someone a fucking asshole fascist is really not going to convince them to see your way…

Matt Brown: …however having someone who otherwise should be on your team screaming through the windows with a bullhorn saying that everything that’s going on is fucking fascist certainly helps me look far more moderate.

Ganjapreneur: Right!

Matt Brown: Which is what we had with Robert Chase, literally screaming through the windows on the big hearing at 4/20.


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