I am going to provide you with the reality of the marijuana industry and I am going to dispel some myths. I will give you a glimpse “under the tent” as only an insider can.

I am a marijuana lawyer. I did not mean to become one; I don’t use the product. I don’t have time to use it recreationally, and thank heavens I don’t need it as a patient. For me, marijuana is a business. I help people get into — and stay — in this business.

I would like to believe I saw this opportunity as a lawyer years ago. But alas, I simply ain’t that bright. What really happened is about seven years ago, I heard Colorado Springs was putting together a medical marijuana task force. I had never heard the words “medical” and “marijuana” together in the same sentence. I thought to myself, “Here is a bunch of stoners trying to scam the system.” I was intrigued. So I went to the meeting and I was selected to be on the first task force to regulate medical marijuana. The individuals involved were not at all what I expected. Certainly, there were some people who simply wanted to smoke marijuana without facing jail time. But for the most part, I was way off base about the people I have met and represented. The marijuana industry is full of entrepreneurs, risk-takers and business people of the highest caliber.

Seven years later, the “yo-dude” types are gone and have been replaced with exceptionally intelligent, astute, driven business owners. They invest millions to subject themselves to the most highly regulated industry on the planet, all for the chance to make their dreams come true. They come from every walk of life. They come from every ethnic background, both genders and all levels of the socioeconomic scale. Some are driven by an almost fanatical passion to help patients and some by purely economic reasons. They do not meet the stereotypes associated with cannabis. They are rich; they are older than you think or younger than you think; they have creative business minds that rival any other captains of industry. Indeed, many have quit their jobs as financial planners, certified public accountants, doctors, CEOs, CFOs and even regulators to pursue this career.

As a business attorney, I do not have the luxury of dreaming about what “should be.” I am forced to deal with what is — the hard reality of starting and running a business that has limited access to banking, virtually no access to traditional funding sources and ever-changing rules and regulations. Because I am too busy dealing with “what is,” it is unlikely you will find me standing on the steps of the State Capitol giving some rousing speech in support of marijuana.

What you will find me doing is working with clever business people in conference rooms and board rooms — planning their next expansion, dealing with human resource issues, business plans, financial forecasts, commercial real estate financing and leasing, corporate structure, taxation and myriad regulatory hoops. This is a business and those who wish to remain in business must act and think like shrewd business people.

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My clients are not criminals. The patients and customers who use marijuana in this state are not criminals. They are the very best of what business has to offer in terms of personal resources, business acumen and passion for what they do. They are honest and moral to a fault. I am proud to have the privilege of representing them. They have become my friends and my inspiration. It is rare to find a group of people willing to risk it all to be in the forefront of a new industry. I will never apologize for what I am doing in the cannabis industry. I am proud of what I do and I am proud of who I represent.

It is exciting. There are myths aplenty about what goes on behind closed doors. I hate to burst your bubble, but there are no crooks here, no nefarious dealings. My clients have way too much to lose by trying anything that even remotely looks illegal.

If you have a chance to get your nose under the tent, you will find creative, hard-working individuals who want to be treated just like any other business owner.

Welcome to the business of marijuana.

Charles Houghton, a local attorney for more than 30 years, has served on two City Council medical marijuana task forces. He can be reached at cthlaw@msn.com.