The Colorado cannabis community – and the nation through it – lost a titan in the battle to end the federal prohibition on marijuana with the untimely death of Steve Fox. After helping pass Amendment 64 – Colorado’s earth-moving recreational marijuana voter referendum in 2012 — Steve was a managing partner of cannabis policy and public affairs consulting firm VS Strategies, along with being a leader at national cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP.
“Steve’s role in the cannabis community cannot be overstated. He was a trailblazer in the movement to end prohibition, and he was an architect and caretaker of the legal industry that is quickly replacing it,” a release from his firm states, “He beat the path, built the shelter, and worked tirelessly to make it as welcoming, accessible and beneficial as possible. He always put the mission — the well being of others and the betterment of society — ahead of himself.”
He was known for being down to earth and lighthearted, but ultimately Steve Fox was a listener. He was always studying his surroundings and people — truly taking the time to love others through hearing them and striving to understand them as they are.
While marijuana (and anti-marijuana) lobbyists are now more commonplace in Washington, Steve Fox was a trailblazer. Back in 2002, while working for the Marijuana Policy Project, he was the only full-time cannabis lobbyist at the US Capitol.
Steve may not have thought of or carried himself as a leader, but where he went, others followed. Lots of others.
“Steve was one of the first political professionals to enter the marijuana advocacy space. At a time when cannabis policy was just a blip on the political radar and most savvy up-and-comers were unwilling to dip a toe into the space, Steve dove in headfirst,” the statement continues.
He was eventually joined by other lobbyists. The un-glamorous work paid off.
Steve, and those who unknowingly followed in his footsteps, tasted some of the fruit of their labors last year when the majority of US House members made history by passing the MORE Act — the first time in American history either chamber of Congress passed legislation aimed at unwinding even a portion of the ‘war on drugs’ since its inception some 70 years ago.
“While many viewed it as a losing cause that wasn’t worth the fight,” the release reads, “he saw it as a cause worth fighting until it was won. And in working to legalize and regulate cannabis for medical and adult use, he found a way to fight simultaneously for several of his core values: To promote justice and compassion, to advance freedom and liberty, and to nurture and inspire the human spirit. Humbly righteous, judiciously aggressive, and relentlessly ethical, he was committed to doing the right thing, doing it the right way, and doing whatever it takes to get it done.”
While he was generally soft-spoken, his words carried weight and his opinions were cherished by his colleagues, friends and family. His dedication and boldness paid off.
As you likely know, other states followed the lead of Colorado – the lead of Steve. While it took some time and lots of patience, the nation’s political class eventually followed the lead of their voters. And those voters followed the lead of their hearts – hearts that, unbeknownst even to them, were touched by Steve’s soft-spoken advocacy.
Steve also helped found Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER). The group paved the way for legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado (and through it 1/3 of states). In 2009, he co-wrote “Marijuana Is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?” – a book erected on the foundation laid through the SAFER strategy.
His passion, faith and foresight are still tangible. Left in his tragic and mighty wake are the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Cannabis Trade Federation and the US Cannabis Council – all groups he was pivotal in thinking up, birthing and then caring for as they grew into the reputable organizations they are today.
Steve spoke at conferences. He leveled with low level Hill staffers. He lectured, even if they didn’t know they were getting schooled, some of the most powerful lawmakers in these United States. Put simply, he helped transform the American mind and through it our entire culture. People – our neighbors; our brothers and sisters – have been let out of steel cages because of his tireless dedication not to a plant but to the people Steve knew the plant could help.
His loss is being felt from coast to coast. But mostly, it’s his family’s loss, especially the wife and precious little girls he left behind. Though it’s also his friend’s loss. His partner’s loss. Our loss — America’s loss. We all miss Steve Fox, whether we knew him or not.
For those who knew him most, it’s a new chapter.
“We welcome the celebration of Steve’s life through the sharing of thoughts and memories, and we ask for respect and privacy for his family, friends, and coworkers who are still reeling from this loss,” the note continues, “We have also started a GoFundMe page to support Steve’s wife and daughters as they navigate their way through this extremely difficult time.”
Steve’s memory and legacy aren’t going away. He’s forever a part of us. He was — and still is — living on in many of us.