AURORA | For more than two decades at Ball Aerospace, Laura Davis’s days were filled with security clearances, spacecraft and defense contracts.
These days she’s more worried about sprawling marijuana gardens cranking out Grizzly Purple Kush and Alien Dawg indica.
“It is a different industry,” she said with a grin. “But I like that.”
After 24 years with Ball Aerospace, Davis recently left the high-tech firm for a job with local marijuana retailer Good Chemistry. The company announced earlier this month she had joined their executive team as the new director of compliance.
While the industries are obviously different, Davis said the job at Good Chemistry is in many ways similar to her work at Ball. There, she helped the aerospace giant navigate environmental, health and safety regulations.
At Good Chemistry, Davis is again tasked with navigating regulations, but this time she has the added challenge of doing it in an industry that’s still in its infancy.
Because the industry is so new, the rules and regulations that govern it are often still being crafted, which makes figuring out how to stay in compliance with the rules a daily challenge, one Davis likened to “drinking out of a fire hose.”
Still, that challenge is part of what drew her to Good Chemistry in the first place.
“How often do you get to be on the ground floor of a new industry,” she said in an interview at the pot shop’s Aurora location near East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road.
In addition to her time at Ball, Davis served five terms on the State Board of Health. That experience means she not only knows her way around environmental and health regulations, she has good relationships with state regulators themselves.
Because the legal-pot business in Colorado is still so new, Davis said few people in the industry have those sorts of relationships with regulators and she hopes to change that.
“I’d like the industry to feel more comfortable approaching the regulatory agencies,” she said.
Stephen Spinosa, vice president of retail operations for Good Chemistry, said hiring Davis brings a degree of seriousness to an industry that just a few years ago was mostly small mom-and-pop shops.
“We are running a legitimate business and we need legitimate people,” he said.
The state’s booming marijuana industry pulled in almost $1 billion last year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
It’s a staggering figure and a sign that the industry, while still in its infancy in many ways, is becoming a major economic force.
Spinosa said that with that breakneck pace of growth, the company has realized that they need to add some expertise in a variety of positions that in the early days they never dreamed of.
“Just because we are a marijuana company doesn’t mean we are any different from any company,” he said.
Davis said her former colleagues in the aerospace business weren’t surprised when they heard she made the leap to Good Chemistry. Instead, across the board, people have been supportive of her making the switch.
She said many of the people in the cannabis industry are in the same situation as her: people who switched careers and came into the industry later in life.
So far, the switch has been a satisfying one, she said.
“I’d been doing the same gig for 24 years,” she said. “It was time for a change.”