Shortly before dissolving Andrew Freedman’s position as Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, Governor John Hickenlooper stopped him outside a cabinet meeting to impart some career advice.
“He told me that he thought we should figure out how to take the lessons learned from Colorado and apply them to other states, governments and to private industry,” Freedman says. “His point was that this was a unique opportunity to be the connective tissue between all the different governments doing this and we could create a firm that does that.”
The formation of Freedman & Koski was announced almost immediately after news broke that Freedman, having completed his duties to the state, would be departing the governor’s office in early 2017. Co-founded with Lewis Koski, former director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, and John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management, the firm acts as an independent continuation of Freedman’s work in Colorado, lending expertise to government agencies and private businesses, just as Hickenlooper suggested.
Due to the divisive nature of the industry, Freedman believed one of the best assets he and his co-founders brought to Colorado was their shared agnostic stance on the legalization debate, which provided a foundation for the consulting firm.
“We don’t think it’s relevant; other people can be part of advocacy debates either way, but we’re not particularly interested in being advocacy people,” Freedman says. “There is a real need for somebody to be able to bring everyone back to the table after the decision has been made to implement. Advocates can’t do that.”
To separate Freedman & Koski from any possible conflict of interest, the company refuses to accept licensees as clients, preferring instead to focus on helping government agencies and ancillary businesses such as banks, data firms, law firms, accountants and other professional services navigate their way through the industry. Freedman says the decision keeps the firm “mission-driven,” and admittedly, a little less lucrative.
Freedman & Koski works to help implement cannabis policies that both opponents and advocates can agree upon, such as public health, social equity, public safety and smart economic development.
“We try to find commonality with missions going forward,” Freedman says. “If we could help shape this in a socially, morally and economically responsible manner, then we can do a lot of good for the world.”
One year after opening, Freedman says the firm’s most valuable asset has become the different perspectives its local partners in California, Ohio, Florida, Maine and Massachusetts have on issues, as well as the concerns stemming from ancillary businesses such as compliance firms, data firms, banks and insurance providers. The most rewarding part, he says, is the work itself.
“It’s rare something comes your way where you get to both do something that you think adds to the well-being of a society but also makes money,” he says.