UW Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Panel Discusses Legalization of Marijuana

One dollar invested in tobacco stocks in 1900 would be worth $6.2 million today. With cigarettes responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths each year, would the profit gained from investing in the product be worth the loss of life?

University of Wyoming students participating in a recent panel discussion, sponsored by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the College of Business, were asked to consider if the profit to be gained from a similar product -- marijuana -- would be worth the medical, social and legal impact the drug has on society.

After hearing presentations from leading experts, 87 percent of students indicated that, based on the principles of socially responsible investing, they would either not invest in marijuana, or would only invest in a medical product derived from marijuana if it had been approved by the Federal Drug Administration and prescribed by a doctor.

“The panel included an expert in marijuana policy, a physician who specializes in mental health and youth addiction, the former district attorney of Denver and a leading financial professional who specializes in socially responsible investing,” says Kent Noble, Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics at UW. “The class focuses on business ethics, so the students used the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles as a framework from which to base their conclusions.”

The panel discussion was co-sponsored by the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. Presenters were:

-- Ashley Kilroy, director of marijuana policy for Denver, who is responsible for administering and overseeing all aspects of medical and recreational marijuana in Denver.

-- Christian Thurstone, an Anschutz Medical Center doctor and a national leader in the treatment of mental health and addiction issues involving youth.

-- Mitch Morrissey, former Denver district attorney, who prosecuted criminal behavior involving marijuana before and after its legalization in Colorado.

-- Rich Todd, CEO of Innovest Portfolio Solutions, who uses the principles of “impact investing” to explore the ethical issues of investing in the marijuana industry.

Kilroy told students that the marijuana industry has a relatively small impact on Colorado’s economy. The state’s gross domestic product is $324 billion, and marijuana accounts for approximately $1.3 billion -- less than one-third of 1 percent of the state’s economy.

Thurstone added that today’s marijuana is typically 10 times more potent than strains of the drug available in the 1960s and 1970s. He said that hospitals in Colorado are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of young people admitted for treatment for psychosis, and a growing number of young people in drug treatment programs because of marijuana.

Morrissey said that Colorado ranks near the top of the nation in terms of the number of young people using marijuana, and that the number of traffic fatalities involving marijuana is growing dramatically.

Todd provided the statistics on the rate of return on tobacco stocks and then provided the criteria that his firm uses to evaluate socially responsible investing. He said that a growing number of investors seek to ensure that their investments have a positive impact on society, as well as have a positive rate of return. Todd said, after careful evaluation, his firm categorizes marijuana in the same category as gambling, pornography, tobacco, alcohol and other similar industries.

For more information, call Noble at (307) 766-3444 or email knoble@uwyo.edu.



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