This past summer, I was lucky to get a glimpse into the world of a cannabis accounting pioneer, Jim Marty, the CEO and Founder of Bridge West LLC. Bridge West is a CPA and consulting firm that has been entirely devoted to serving cannabis and hemp professionals since 2009.
Jim began his practice with his first client whom he met at a Grateful Dead show in the summer of 1984 at Red Rocks. It’s only fitting that this story starts off at a Dead & Co. party at the Marty’s residence in Longmont, Colorado.
I headed out to Jim’s house for the Dead & Co. shows in Boulder, which was an event I’d been looking forward to all year. My intent was to stay through the weekend to catch the shows; however, Colorado is so beautiful, I made a last-minute itinerary change and extended my trip in the Mile-High State for an extra week.
Kicking the day off with the Marty’s
It was a Wednesday. I kicked off my day at 8 AM with a bowl of home-made yogurt and granola, fresh fruit, and coffee with Jim’s wife Maureen. I tended to my emails in the kitchen as Jim took a few calls in his home office down the hall, a cozy and bright office space with a mini Grateful Dead library lining the back wall.
At 9 AM, Jim and I packed up and headed into his black Suburban with his driver Rodrigo. Without pause, Jim cranked up the volume on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead channel, opened his laptop, and began taking business calls. We were on our way to Denver to visit a new Bridge West client. During our hour-long ride, Jim gave Rodrigo and me bite-sized history lessons on whatever Dead song was on the radio. If you hang around Jim long enough, you’ll become a Deadhead too.
We pulled into the dispensary parking lot at around 10 am with our ID’s ready, signed our names onto a sheet of paper, and headed through an Employees-Only labeled door. The owners of the dispensary met us in their modest office and told us about their successes and struggles thus far as cannabis growers and business owners – all of which already seemed so familiar to Jim. Two of the three business leaders had been in the cannabis industry for years. Because of their experience, they’re not only able to anticipate their profitability obstacles, but they’re able to grow cannabis so good that it’s pre-ordered by celebrities. These cannabis business owners were smart to hire someone like Jim Marty. With ease, Jim pinpointed the specific tax issues that could set back a dispensary like theirs. And without giving too much away, gave us all an overview as to how to mitigate them.
We paused our meet-and-greet conversation to visit the grow rooms in the back of the dispensary. I’ve spent a summer in Colorado before, so I’ve seen a cannabis plant, but I’ve never seen cannabis plants as beautiful and aromatic as the ones at the dispensary that Jim and I visited. We walked around three grow rooms, each of them playing different music to ‘keep the plants happy.’ Jim showed me how to pinch the top of the cannabis buds, then smell your fingers, to identify the terpenes present within the different plants. By the end of our tour, my hands smelled strongly of orange, jasmine, and lemon. Surprisingly, cannabis up-close doesn’t have the same smell as someone lighting up a joint.
Before leaving the dispensary, we returned to their front office to sign paperwork and obtain Jim’s retainer. And as you may [or may not] have imagined, the payment was entirely in cash. The general manager grabbed rubber-banded wads of cash, amounting to a couple thousand. I assisted him in counting the cash by hand, and with the help of a money-counting machine.
Rockmount Ranch Wear
Jim wrapped up his client meeting, and I thanked their team for our great visit. Next, we were headed to Rockmount Ranch Wear to inquire about custom Western shirts for the Bridge West team. Rockmount Ranch Wear is one of Jim’s favorite stores, and it’s rich with history. The family-owned store popularized Western fashion (you can read more about it here). Jim met with the owner, bought me a signature snap-button shirt as a gift, and showed me around the store’s museum before heading to lunch.
Lunch at My Brother’s Bar, no sign out front
Jim treated Rodrigo and I to lunch at one of the most classic burger joints in the city of Denver. He told us to order whatever we wanted, and still ordered us sides and appetizers on top of our meals.
Working in Cherry Creek
Our next stop was to Jim’s Denver office in Cherry Creek, an upscale and renewed neighborhood in Denver filled with high-end shops and restaurants. Jim and I worked together for an hour in his satellite office, a newly renovated space with drinks and snacks available, and an on-site staff to assist with any request.
We wrapped up our work for the day and headed to Jim’s regular Wednesday spot: Elway’s. Once a week, on the same day and at the same time, Jim reserves a long table inside Elway’s for anyone to join and have dinner and drinks with Jim and his business friends. Each week there’s a different dinner group in attendance, but usually a few regulars. The group is always taken care of by their favorite waitress, Jennifer. Jim and I scouted-out the live band that was playing in the outdoor area, and Jim showed me his engraved wine cubby aligning the right-hand wall upon entering the restaurant. A space engraved just for Jim, that is directly adjacent to John Elway’s own engraved cubby.
Unfortunately, I had to part ways from the group at Elway’s, and Jim, to catch my 11 pm flight back to San Francisco. I really wanted to extend my trip; however, it was time to get back to the real world. After spending a full day with the Jim Marty, you can see that he’s a bit of an enigma. He can make you feel distanced from his intellect while being so down to earth with his love of great music, race cars, and most of all, his family and friends. Jim makes you view the work / life balance not as a pendulum, but as a never-ending circle where life and work are mixed, in a way that feels like it’s not so bad, but good, that the two are totally entwined.
Looking forward to my next visit. Until next time…