University of Wyoming College of Business students recently got to tackle a topic that has received a lot of attention recently- marijuana- and the business aspects of legalizing it.

Kent Noble, Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics at UW, said the purpose of the panel discussion was to look at the business perspective of marijuana. The panel, sponsored by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the College of Business, posed a hypothetical situation to students in the business ethics course and asked them to consider the benefits and drawbacks of the marijuana industry from a business angle.

“I asked the students, my students, to approach this from the perspective that they are a partner in an investment firm, and their firm needs to take some position on the marijuana industry,” Noble said. “Our goal was to bring in some experts to bring in some experts to give us some facts, some data, that we could use to help us to determine whether this is an industry that we want to offer to our clients and if so are there some parameters we want to put on it or do we just want to offer the full menu of opportunities that involve marijuana.”

The panel brought in four leading experts from a range of areas to present facts to the students, such as Ashley Kilroy, director of marijuana policy for Denver, CO; Christian Thurstone, an Anshcutz Medical Center doctor and a national leader for youth treatment and addiction issues; Mitch Morrisey, former Denver district attorney, who prosecuted criminal behavior involving marijuana before and after its legalization in Colorado and Rich Todd, CEO of Innovest Portfolio Solutions.

Students then decided, based on the principles of socially responsible investing, if they would in fact invest in marijuana. After the presentations, 87 percent of students decided they would either not invest in marijuana or would only invest in a medical product derived from marijuana after it had been approved by the Federal Drug Administration and prescribed by a doctor. Noble estimated that about 135 students participated in the panel, which was held in the UW College of Business Scarlett auditorium.

Noble said marijuana was the chosen topic because it is such a high profile issue, with Wyoming’s neighbor to the south having legalized marijuana, as well as 22 other states and the District of Columbia having legalized marijuana in varying degrees. Noble also said the topic was ripe for a business ethics discussion.

“I thought it would just be interesting, you know we try to cover a lot of different topics in our class but marijuana is one we haven’t dealt with. And because it is so in the news, I thought, this will really be an interesting one,” Noble said.

Noble said this is the first time the business ethics course has had a panel discussion to explore a topic in-depth. Noble said it is something he hopes to continue to do. He said each panel would discuss a different topic.

UW is one of 11 schools in the region that are affiliated with the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative. The Daniels Fund funds a representative position at each school and provides resources to put on events like the panel discussion. The business ethics program in the UW College of Business was launched in 2005 and was endowed by the Daniels Fund and is run through the Bill Daniels Chair of Business ethics.