Government Collaborations for a More Cannabis-Friendly Community
Kris Teegardin’s Cannabis Government Outreach Campaign
Kris Teegardin was the mayor of the first city to codify recreational marijuana – Edgewater, Colorado. Before his decade-long political career, Teegardin served in the mental health sector and spearheaded criminal justice reform, as well as facilitating improvements in integrated care.
Refusing to confine himself or his service to a niche, Teegardin devoted himself to getting involved in any area where he believed he could make a positive difference.
When Amendment 64 was passed in Colorado allowing adults to possess recreational marijuana and establishing the need for a state-wide regulatory structure for retail sale, Teegardin was on the city council.
As the concept of becoming cannabis-friendly morphed into a tangible economy, Teegardin led the charge in shaping a harmonizing relationship between the city government and the booming cannabis industry.
The Future Takes a Cannabis-Friendly Shape
Teegardin knew that his best bet for helping his city of Edgewater benefit from the emerging cannabis industry while still allowing for regulation and protections was to take a “least-restrictive approach as possible.”
Despite the fact that Edgewater is a city of less than one square mile (445 acres, to be exact) and has a population of roughly 5,500 people, the bill paved the way for the opening of six cannabis stores.
From those six stores, the tiny cannabis-friendly city of Edgewater enjoys a $6.5 million operating budget – 20 percent of which comes from the cannabis industry.
In the span of just a few years, the revenue and taxes from the cannabis industry in Edgewater allowed for the building of a brand new civic center, which included a city hall, public library, fitness center, and police station (irony be damned).
Working with The Machine
So, how did he do it? Teegardin’s “least-restrictive approach as possible” explains the wildly prolific growth and development of Edgewater, but how did he accomplish that while keeping law enforcement, concerned parents, and various naysayers content?
Here’s what Teegardin recommends to facilitate a healthy, open-dialogue that will serve as the foundation of successful cannabis policies:
- Recontextualize your government so it is not seen as hierarchical, but collaborative.
- Build strong relationships within the community. Ask business owners, law enforcement, parents, educators, and others for their input.
- Include the naysayers in the conversation. Make sure their concerns are heard and considered.
- Include those who are most concerned, like parents and people whose livelihoods will be impacted by the presence of the cannabis industry.
- Include stakeholders who can contribute knowledge to the conversation, including experts in real estate, law, HVAC, electricity, construction, retail, and marketing.
- Form policies around the needs and desires of the community, especially with regard to licensing to ensure your cannabis-friendly community isn’t overrun by corporate enterprise.
- Start with the least restrictions possible and trust in the knowledge that if problems arise, you can always add regulations, later. Beginning with heavy restrictions limits potential for positive impact without solving any real problems.
By bringing everyone’s concerns to the table and launching the Edgewater cannabis industry from a place of relaxed but vigilant regulation, the cannabis-friendly city was able to accomplish massive success while busting numerous myths townspeople held about the potential impact.
Busting Myths & Opening Doors
People assumed that when Edgewater became cannabis-friendly, the number of DWIs in town would increase. While Teegardin notes that there was an increase in total DWIs following the passage of Amendment 64, there was also an increase in vehicular traffic as people from surrounding communities traveled to Edgewater to visit one of their six cannabis stores.
In fact, Teegardin recalls, “marijuana was rarely the main factor causing contact with police.”
Many naysayers also assumed that public consumption would be a major problem and urged city leaders to pass mandates prohibiting public cannabis use. However, despite the lack of any such ordinances, public consumption wasn’t an issue in Edgewater.
Rather, the city saw far more benefits from the cannabis industry than challenges. Visitors would bundle their cannabis shopping with other errands, so businesses near the cannabis shops saw an increase in foot traffic and business.
Also, many people enjoyed a sense of peace and a deeper connection to the community following the Edgewater community block party, which included the police department, fire department, a local bar, and a dispensary.
Government CAN Be Cannabis-Friendly
When you approach governmental regulation of the cannabis industry from an objective lens and with a cool head, “cannabis becomes part of building a comprehensive community strategy,” Teegardin tells us.
“There are resources available. Use them!” Teegardin says. “Our goal is to create relationships with legislators and stakeholders so everyone is taken care of. For instance, social equity programs allow us to give back to the public and create a level playing field for all.”
If your community would benefit from a more amicable relationship between government and the cannabis industry, get in touch with us. Our government outreach program, led by Kris Teegardin, helps communities benefit while maintaining safety and order alongside a healthy cannabis industry.