‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s weekly column on cannabis politics and culture.
If you caught new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s debut press conference today, you know a few things about the Mooch. He is:
- A sharp dresser
- Reassuring in tone
- Handy with the quip and joke
- A big fan of President Trump
- Fox News’ idea of a devilishly handsome gentleman
- No longer available for that role as the third Shark in “West Side Story”
Say what you will about the man’s employment choices and his boss’s behavior: Mooch is a three-step upgrade for the shop that brought you Shrub-Hiding Spicey.
Not ten minutes into Scaramucci’s Briefing Room debut, though, the indefatigable Tom Angell resurfaced a tweet the Mooch sent out in October 2015:
New White House communications director Scaramucci tweeted that legal marijuana has created a “zombie apocalypse.”https://t.co/DXzUPxlVoJpic.twitter.com/oE8DZgjeuV
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) July 21, 2017
Scaramucci hardly strikes me as a Sessions-level prohibitionist. Honestly, if I caught sight of him around a friendly summer bonfire I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull a Pax 3 out of his pocket and offer it around.
Back in the pre-2016 era, ye olde “Everyone in Colorado is Stoned!” canard was standard fare for a lot of people who wanted to appear smart. The chattering class worried about people showing up to work stoned and growing fat because of the munchies. Tina Brown famously fretted that legal cannabis would harm America’s IQ, our slender figure, and our ability to compete with the Chinese:
…legal weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese
— Tina Brown (@TinaBrownLM) January 3, 2014
As one of Brown’s countrymen might say: Rubbish. Tosh. What rot.
One tweet does not make policy, and I don’t expect a tossed-off line from 2015 to crash our state-legal systems. But it’s worth considering the assumption underlying Mooch’s joke: How have cities fared in the aftermath of adult-use legalization?
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The Milken Institute’s “2016 Best-Performing Cities” report may be the best evidence available. That study, produced by an institute founded by 80s junk bond king Michael Milken, looked at “where America’s jobs are created and sustained.”
Denver, Seattle, and Portland were the three largest cities in the states with legal cannabis in 2015 and 2016. All three appear as Top 20 best-performing large cities, according to Milken. Seattle clocked in at #10, and top-3 in high-tech GDP concentration. Denver wasn’t far behind at #13, with a top-10 performance in wage growth. Portland came in at 14, with a ribbon for high-tech GDP concentration (#2, behind only San Jose, home of Silicon Valley).
In fact, the four cities with the highest concentration of high-tech GDP were all in states with either adult-use or medical legality. One through four: San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Boulder.
Those are some really freakin’ smart zombies.
What about city growth?
Let’s look at which towns are attracting the ambitious. Here Seattle is number one, with the fastest one-year growth rate among the nation’s 50 most populous cities between 2015 and 2016. Ask anyone who’s tried to buy a house in Seattle recently about the effect that’s having on the market.
Seattle’s premier employer used to be Boeing. Now it’s Amazon. Neither of these companies are hiring “stoners” or weed zombies. They are, however, hiring smart, educated people who may or may not consume cannabis once in a while.
Last year Amazon added 110,000 employees. That’s more people than live in the entire city of Pueblo, Colorado. The company now cuts paychecks to more than 341,000 people. Google is beefing up its offices in Seattle and in Boulder. Why? Because that’s where smart, ambitious young people want to live now. No, they’re not moving to those cities because cannabis is legal there. Legalization is part of the package: It goes hand-in-hand with the tolerance, progressive values, and belief in scientific evidence that defines the culture of those cities.
Welcome to the zombie apocalypse, Mooch. If I were you, I’d stop mocking it and start investing in it.