Colorado’s grand experiment in legal recreational marijuana is nothing short of an economic, political, social and medical revolution.
I have been in the pot business for five years. Family and friends initially considered my career choice an odd and perhaps risky move. But rising to that type of challenge has always run in my blood.
I got into the business simply to make money. We began with a "pot soda," which we produced in three flavors out of a 400 square-foot garage, which was located in a part of town that made me nervous about being discovered – not by law enforcement, but by people in the neighborhood who might be tempted to rob me. But even then, I could see that there was a future in marijuana.
What I didn’t anticipate was just how rapidly marijuana – as a business – would grow. I didn’t anticipate how important pot would be to Americans' health and well-being. It didn't take long for me to understand and see firsthand the tremendous impact that this plant could have on people who really needed and benefited from its medicinal qualities. Five years later, I have seen and heard from thousands of people who thank me my company, Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, for our products. Their letters and notes have brought me to tears.
After understanding the medical impact marijuana legalization could have, I gravitated toward fully understanding the potential social impact of legalizing pot. When you think about the downstream impact removing hundreds of thousands of people from our judicial system (mostly young men of color) for the "crime" of marijuana possession, it becomes dizzying to consider that the lives of those individuals could be permanently changed. Removing the burden of prosecuting pot crimes would help our penal and legal systems. And finally, we can also take some of the money that legalization actually generates and apply them to critical social and community needs like education or infrastructure.
I would propose that at this point, despite valid concerns about the lack of data -- or that some users may face addiction (though far fewer than alcohol) -- it is virtually impossible to deny the net benefit we can recognize as a country through full legalization.
There’s tremendous momentum in the debate, given that many public figures, including the likes of Dr. Sanjay Gupta and even our president, have pulled back the veil of ignorance and fear that has shrouded marijuana.
I recognize that public opinion is fickle and that we are always one incident, or one politician, away from rolling things back.
And it’s also not simply flipping a switch: A lot of thought and infrastructure needs to go into legalization. We understand this in Colorado. However, hard work shouldn't be a reason to deny common sense and a chance to fundamentally rewrite history for the greater good.
With every passing day, one more person breaks the “stoner” stereotype; one more smart businessperson creates a new and dynamic company adding jobs to our economy; one more parent, friend, neighbor falls ill and suddenly understands the health benefits of cannabis.
When I consider it all, I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to participate, no matter the scope, in such massive and historic change.
Tripp Keber is co-founder and CEO of Dixie Brands, Inc. The company's flagship brand, Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, makes more than 100 marijuana-infused products, including sodas, chocolates, topicals and tinctures. Dixie started in 2009 with two employees, and now has more than 50 employees and operates in a new 30,000 square-foot facility in Denver, Colorado. He is one of the businessmen featured on msnbc's "Pot Barons of Colorado," premiering Sunday, Nov. 30 at 10 p.m. ET.