Psychedelic vision

Colorado Governor Jared Polis made a fortune earlier in his career understanding how to capitalize on the will of the people. His visionary stance on psychedelics will soon be conventional wisdom.

Polis earlier this month told thousands of Psychedelic Science conventioneers in Denver that when it comes to issues related to mental health and plant-based therapeutics, it is the people rather than the politicians who lead the way. This includes insurance coverage so his constituents “don’t have to go to Mexico or Colombia” to get treated with psilocybin and other psychedelics as they become federally rescheduled.

“We want to say Colorado got this right,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll get a few things wrong, but we will learn from them and build from them.”

A serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist who started and sold multiple Internet companies for more than $800 million before elected to statewide office in 2000 at the age of 25, Polis, who is often described as a “libertarian democrat”, is pro both free market and free lifestyle (disclosure: Polis invested in a company I co-founded during the dot-com era).

He has friends and detractors from all sides of the political aisle for his leadership on issues ranging from gay marriage to relaxing mask mandates during covid. Whatever stance Polis takes on psychedelics and cannabis (Colorado is a $2 billion legal market) will be adopted by other elected officials in the months and years ahead.

Beyond the social and medicinal benefits of expunging records of those convicted for possessing plants no longer deemed illegal by the state, Colorado’s economy and higher education research infrastructure will benefit from the clear, courageous and common sense conviction of its capitalist chief executive.

Go Gov!

Wisconsin’s weed welcome mat up in smoke

When Minnesota expands to adult-use cannabis legalization in the coming weeks, Wisconsin – where you can still do time for smoking a joint – will be alone on an upper Midwest island.

Other neighboring states Illinois and Michigan have growing markets, approaching $2 billion each, bolstered to some extent by Wisconsites going across state lines to legally purchase recreational reefer. The state legislature this week again voted down a bill that would legalize cannabis and make the plant as permissible in Wisconsin as it is in states like Alabama, Mississippi and both Dakotas.

With overwhelming support from voters as well as decriminalization policies in municipalities including Milwaukee and Madison, it is likely that Wisconsin will soon join the nearly 40 other states in the union with legally regulated marijuana markets.

In the meantime, this Chicago-based reporter who visited a small resort town on the other side of the border last week with designs on inconspicuously smoking a joint during a weekend of rest and relaxation, mysteriously was greeted as the second coming of Tommy Chong. A note slipped under the hotel room door stated that “weed is illegal in Wisconsin” and that my group should “go to the beach to cheech.”

While the heads up and hospitality is appreciated in a land with a considerable amount of breweries per capita, drafting and signing a better law that catches the state up with the rest of Western Civilization is a better use of any ink on a page.

Will Illinois be the epicenter of the cannabis industry circa 2030? Or will it be left behind…again?

Currently, Illinois has as much right as any region to stake a claim as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.” Five of the 10 largest U.S. cannabis companies operate out of Chicago as do dozens of businesses and nonprofit organizations that have grown up to service the nascent industry.

Will Illinois be able to say the same thing in 2030?

There are two facts that will shape the answer to that:

  1. Status quo in an emerging industry brings slow death;
  2. There’s a leadership vacuum in the cannabis industry that needs to be filled and will continue to stunt the industry’s growth until it is.

To ensure that the state remains at the forefront of the industry and fills the leadership void, the Illinois cannabis industry needs to act…NOW. The action has to be inclusive and intentional. That can’t happen without a plan.

As the industry’s connector and catalyst, Grown In is bringing together all industry players with a stake in seeing the cannabis industry shake the doldrums and revitalize the momentum that has allowed us to become a $30 billion industry in scarcely more than a decade in spite of a headwind of federal resistance. That’s a good start, but we’re struggling to sustain the momentum. If we truly become a mass consumer market, $300 billion should be in our sights.

Join us on July 27 and August 10

If you want to help shape the future of cannabis, and the role that Chicago and Illinois will play in that future, put these dates on your calendar, NOW. Grown In will be convening the State’s cannabis leaders to begin the process of developing and executing a plan to exert Illinois’ cannabis leadership and drive the industry’s growth and development.

To be patterned after the Burnham Plan that was responsible for reigniting the commercial development of Chicago in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire, our Burn ‘Em Plan™ will be the roadmap to drive the cannabis industry to fully recognize its potential with Illinois remaining in the leadership position.

The last time Chicago had a head start on a new industry was 30 years ago when the commercial internet was invented at the University of Illinois. But industry pioneer Marc Andreessen was not supported by local investment, corporate and civic communities. He took his talents and his company, Netscape, to – you guessed it – Silicon Valley.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.