STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The co-founder of Steamboat Springs’ first marijuana dispensary has been appointed second in command of one of the world’s largest cannabis companies.
Kevin Fisher, previous owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies on the west side of Steamboat, now serves as the chief operating officer for Parallel, a global company with headquarters in Georgia. His goal as COO is to expand markets across the world and develop new ways for customers to consume marijuana.
Fisher and his business partner, RMR co-owner Ryan Fisher, announced their decision in July to sell their shares of the dispensary to the owners of Green Cross Colorado LLC, which operates eight dispensaries around the state under the chain name, Tumbleweed. Kevin Fisher said they expect to close on the deal in the next week or two.
Fisher left RMR to serve as the executive director of Parallel, which changed its name from Surterra Wellness in October. His promotion to COO comes as the company looks to grow its footprint and customer base.
Parallel currently operates in four states, including Massachusetts, Nevada, Florida and Texas. The company also has international operations in Hungary and Colombia. Fisher said Parallel is in the process of trying to expand business in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where medical marijuana is legal but not recreational marijuana.
Across the country, Fisher said people are warming up to the use of marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. He argues the substance is less harmful than, say, pharmaceutical drugs or alcohol.
“There is a certain proportion of the population who seek an escape from the human condition,” he said. “We believe cannabinoids are the safest way to get that escape.”
Growth has not come without setbacks. A recent mysterious lung illness, which has been attributed to nicotine and marijuana vaping devices, has killed at least 40 people across the country and sickened thousands more.
Marijuana vape sales tanked nationwide amid the scare, with some states reporting as much as a 60% drop in sales. Massachusetts, one of Parallel’s domestic markets, announced a four-month ban on product sales in September.
Fisher said his company, which offers a broad range of marijuana products, has not been hit as hard by the drop in vape sales, which account for about 20% of Parallel’s business. He stood by the safety of his company’s vape devices, arguing well-made vapes in the legal market are not the problem.
Federal officials have come to similar conclusions.
On Nov. 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report linking vaping illnesses to vitamin E acetate. According to the CDC, this is a sticky, honey-like substance added to some illicit vaping cartridges to dilute the marijuana oil and increase profits. Most of the people who have fallen sick obtained vapes illicitly from friends or on the street, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement urging people to stop using vaping products until more research is done.
According to Fisher, Parallel’s vaping cartridges abide by strict regulations and use only a marijuana distillate, which he said makes it “the same thing as smoking regular cannabis.”
Looking to the future, Fisher aims to bring innovations to the way people consume cannabis products. He has been researching ways to speed up the effects of certain edibles, which can sometimes take hours to take full effect. That makes it hard for people to get the dose they want and sometimes, can cause consumers to over-indulge.
One product line of beverages infused with THC, the cannabinoid that gets people high, is designed to take effect in as little as 10 minutes, according to Fisher.
Amid these changes, Fisher expressed gratitude to the Steamboat community for the support he received as a budding cannabis businessman.
“It was a very high-risk environment back then,” he said.
Though most of his work happens outside Colorado, Fisher still calls Steamboat home.
Asked about potential moving plans, he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”