Published November 09, 2012
To whom it may concern: Chris Walsh is a talented business journalist who does not smoke pot.
If you give Mr. Walsh a pre-employment drug test, the only thing you will find in his pee is newspaper ink.
Mr. Walsh is the son of a longtime correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. He started out as an intern for the New York Times. He worked at two formerly great newspapers where I also had the misfortune to work: the Gazette in Colorado Springs (whose parent company went bankrupt) and the Rocky Mountain News (which no longer exists).
Mr. Walsh moved to Seoul for a time, to redefine his career in an ailing industry. He became business editor of an English-language publication called the Korea JoongAng Daily.
If that's not exotic enough for you, when Mr. Walsh returned to his native Colorado last year, he found a job as editor of the Medical Marijuana Business Daily. He also organized the National Marijuana Business Conference 2012 in what Coloradans like to call the Mile High City.
The conference is drawing more than 350 attendees to the Sherman Street Event Center this week. It is geared toward investors, entrepreneurs, lawyers and other professionals who are contemplating the very uncertain future of this budding industry.
Voters just approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington state. Additionally, Massachusetts became the 18th state to approve marijuana for medical uses.
Yes, it's all still a crime as far as the feds are concerned. But that hasn't stopped entire industries from emerging around weed. Mr. Walsh just happens to have landed one of these new, green jobs.
I know what you are thinking: Did he have to fail a drug test to get this job?
"People...ask if I now have an uninterrupted, free supply of marijuana that I can share with them," he said, "and they are dead serious."
He swears he does not sample the merchandise. He does not write product reviews. Dope is simply the beat he covers. "I've covered lots of things that I haven't done," he said. "I've covered airlines, but I've never flown a plane."
Mr. Walsh is close to finishing his MBA at Regis University. I know him well enough to assure you he is about as clean-cut a guy as you can find in this gritty profession we share. His only weakness is that he looks more like a cop than a business reporter, which can work to his detriment.
During a meeting he once attended with some marijuana business people, "one person pulled me aside and said, "You better not be a federal agent,'" said. "They thought this whole thing was a front. They thought I was the FBI or something. It was very odd."
The Medical Marijuana Business Daily, like most trade publications, has many serious questions to explore.
For instance, now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, why do they need medical marijuana dispensaries anymore?
Also, is the federal government really going to respect states that decriminalize pot? Or will it deploy sporadic law-enforcement crackdowns, as it already has with state-legalized medical-marijuana dispensaries?
And how does any marijuana entrepreneur secure financing, insurance or even retail space in such an uncertain environment?
Eventually, the answers will come. And I am sure Mr. Walsh will report them as doggedly as he has reported many other bites of business news.
Anyone considering Mr. Walsh for a job in the future (perhaps to cover an industry with fewer legal problems, like...um, um, um...I can't think of one at the moment), please know that he has my highest recommendation.
The Medical Marijuana Business Daily isn't High Times, featuring glossy centerfolds of kind buds. It's not even printed on hemp paper. It's just news about an industry as it slowly finds mainstream acceptance.
"I really don't know how this will affect my career if I eventually decide to move on," Mr. Walsh said. "I'll have to hope people will look past the publication title and take me seriously."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)