I arrived at the Phoenix Business Journal “Power Breakfast: Marijuana” event this morning a few minutes early. To my surprise the Phoenix Art Museum’s parking lot – where it was held – was already packed. Mind you, it wasn’t even 7:30 a.m. yet and the panel discussion wasn’t going to start for another 45 minutes. There is no denying marijuana is a hot topic in Arizona – and even that is an understatement.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by business leaders I have worked with in the real estate industry to the animal welfare space. While there was an eclectic mix of over 165 professionals in the room, everyone had one thing in common – they wanted to know how Prop 205 could impact their business.

The event was kicked off with remarks by presenting sponsors Sebastian Losch of Turin Capital and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

The panelists featured included J.P. Holyoak, owner of Holyoak Wealth Management, and the campaign chairman for the Marijuana Policy Project’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol; Robert Hoban, managing partner with Hoban & Feola, and the principal and owner at Solana Business Solutions which offers consulting services for the commercial cannabis industry; Brett Johnson, partner at Snell & Wilmer, representing businesses and individuals in government relations matters; and Jo McGuire, president of Jo McGuire Inc., an advocate for safe and drug free workplaces and communities.

While not a debate per se, both sides of the argument were eloquently presented. The key takeaway everyone agreed upon: each voter has a responsibility to read the initiative and vote in November.

During the discussion, good points were raised and great questions were asked. General highlights from Hoban, for example, include his assessment that Prop 205 was carefully drafted to be a consumer-friendly public policy measure, for which employers are empowered. He teaches policy at the University of Denver and recently published an article in the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Law on an objective study with findings on the positive impact that cannabis legalization has had both on the economy and on usage and possession rates.

Holyoak pointed to the tax boom Colorado had as a result of its marijuana legalization, and how that effectually trickles through all aspects of every business in the state. He concludes that cannabis legalization replaces the black market with a highly regulated market.

In the end, the only conclusion is that marijuana is a part of our society today. No different than alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Our current system has failed – just look at the fortune being made in the black market – so how can we all work together to address the matter head on – and regulate cannabis responsibly.