Take a good look at Kris Krane — you might be staring at the new face of the marijuana trade in Massachusetts. Articulate and buttoned-up, the cannabis activist turned businessman came to prominence this year as one of the most effective voices in favor of legalizing the sale of the drug in Massachusetts. Now, Krane is preparing to lead his investing and consulting company 4Front Ventures into the nascent recreational marijuana market. He recently spoke about his two decades in the world of marijuana.
1. In 1994, as a 15-year-old sophomore at a Manhattan high school, Krane traveled to Prague for an exchange program. He was surprised to find that Czech teens openly drank alcohol on a regular basis. The experience shaped his later views on marijuana.
“Kids would leave school during lunch and have a beer at the pub down the block, with their teachers in the same pub. We didn’t need to sneak around. I experienced what it was like to be treated as a responsible person. And that very much informed my opinion of marijuana: If we treat these things as taboos and drive people who want to use it to the margins of society, they are invariably going to be used in a way that’s far less responsible.”
2. When Krane was 8 years old, his father died of a rare form of emphysema not caused by smoking. Before his death, Krane’s father would smoke marijuana — which proponents say can act as an anti-inflammatory — to breathe more easily.
“I didn’t know what marijuana was. I just knew that joints were Dad’s medicine, and that when he was having a horrible breathing attack he could light one and actually draw breath. Then I’d go to school and we’d hear the typical War on Drugs nonsense: ‘People who use marijuana are bad, they get addicted to heroin,’ all that stuff. I just didn’t believe it.”
3. Krane attended American University, where he helped lead a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. Upon graduation, he had two job offers: run a chapter of NORML for about $19,000 a year, or take charge of the university’s donation-soliciting “Phonathon” for up to $40,000 a year.
“Ultimately, I felt a passion for what I was doing at NORML. There were very few drug policy jobs available at the time. I never expected an opportunity to do it professionally.”
4. Krane held several jobs at marijuana advocacy organizations, including leadership roles at NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. But he left for the private sector in 2009, convinced that companies — not nonprofits — would drive the next wave of change.
“Dispensaries were demonstrating to the public that marijuana could be distributed in a way that was responsible and professional. They changed the image of a street-level drug deal to a beautiful, well-run retail environment.”
5. Having worked in both camps, Krane said he’s trying to soothe growing tensions between longtime marijuana activists and businesspeople who are entering the industry now that legal restrictions are easing.
“The advocates feel like these business guys are getting rich off the laws they created. It’s a little bittersweet for them. It’s like Lucy didn’t pull the football this time, and they don’t actually know what to do with it. I occupy sort of a unique space where I can traverse both sides of it. It’s important to build bridges.”Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.