Will Colorado Be the First State to Send a Cannabis Businessman to Congress?

Washington State Governor Announced Plan to Clear Marijuana Convictions
Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Colorado can lay claim to a very limited resource in America: a seat in Congress that’s a weed vote.

Rep. Jared Polis was a reliable pro-marijuana vote in Washington even before he and three other representatives founded the Cannabis Caucus. And so with Polis now plotting a run for governor, it stands to reason that his successor will be 420-friendly. It’s just a question of how friendly.

Surely, there is more than marijuana on Todd Mitchem’s mind. Mitchem is a motivational speaker and author—he just penned a tome all about changing routines called You, Disrupted—but he is undeniably inextricably tied to cannabis. He’s a marijuana entrepreneur, the former chief revenue officer for Denver-based O.pen Vape and the founder of Tinder-but-just-friends-but-for-stoners app High There! What would he do in Congress? Could there really be a marijuana businessman roaming the halls of the Capitol?? Colorado may yet find out.

Earlier this month, Mitchem announced his candidacy for Polis’s seat earlier this month, as Denver’s Westword reported. And lo, it’s weed that compelled Mitchem to enter the race, he told the paper—the Trump administration’s bellicose stance on weed.

“I’ve done a lot for work in the [marijuana] industry, but when Trump was elected and I saw the mess around Jeff Sessions and the pushback against the industry, it just showed how much of a mess the federal government is,” Mitchem told the paper (for whom he’s also penned an op-ed slamming Sessions and pointing to the recent prosecution of a state marijuana official as a sign that the legal marijuana industry is working out just fine and doesn’t need to be dismantled).

“But what’s really motivating me isn’t just marijuana issues,” he added. “It’s all these issues impacting our community. What’s affected me the most is health care. My family’s premiums have risen about $700.”

Mitchem would represent Colorado’s second district, which includes Boulder and the suburbs to the north and west of Denver. Running as a Libertarian—the same party affiliation as other prominent politicians who associate themselves with pot, among them former New Mexico governor and erstwhile third-party spoiler Gary “What is Aleppo?” Johnson—Mitchem enters a field that’s so far uncrowded. Only two other candidates have officially begun runs, though it’s early. The election isn’t until November 2018.

Mitchem served as the chief revenue officer for Denver-based O.pen Vape, one of the larger and more out-there vaporizer pen/cartridge companies and the same firm that unsuccessfully tried to buy the naming rights for the Denver Broncos stadium in 2016, for a little under a year before departing in 2014—following, because this is the 21st-century, a Twitter spat. Mitchem feuded, online, with some other marijuana industry figures over O.pen Vape’s drug-testing policy. Yes, a cannabis company had a policy forbidding some controlled substance use (but not cannabis).

Mitchem believes running as a Libertarian can itself be a form of disruption. Sen. Bernie Sanders is an independent, but ran as a Democrat. Our president-for-now, real-estate grifter and reality-television one-trick-pony Donald Trump, is ostensibly a Republican but would be challenged to identify a conservative principle unless it appeared in meme form. As Mitchem pointed out in a press release announcing his candidacy, almost half of voters identify with neither mainstream political party.

“These numbers combined with a record low congressional approval rating demonstrate it’s truly time for our entire country to rethink the kind of leaders it picks,” he wrote. At the same time, Mitchem is staying true to the Libertarian bits of Republican dogma. He says rising healthcare costs and tax burdens nearly put him out of business. OK, so—small government, lots of weed and… well, we’ll worry about details, like healthcare, later.

Along with weed, one thing you can expect from Mitchem’s campaign are buzzwords. Like disruption! Silicon Valley’s favorite word a few seasons ago, disruption as it pertains to politics is also what propelled Trump to the White House. Draining the swamp. That, and outright bigotry, misogyny and Vladimir Putin.

So far, disrupting government hasn’t really worked out well for Americans (though you could argue that by merely putting a disruptive and disinterested lumpenfuhrer in charge, the experiment hasn’t quite yet been tried).

“The disruption effect is something our government can learn from. The way I define disruption is not destruction—it’s breaking or changing something to make it better. If you’re looking at our government lately, what they’re doing isn’t disruptive, it’s destructive. They’re not fixing anything,” Mitchem told Westword. “Marijuana’s important, but it’s not the most important issue of every American, and certainly not the citizens of [Congressional district 2]. Certainly, we have bigger problems, like health care and everything from Charlottesville to the climate.”

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