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Ganjapreneurs flock to Colorado following marijuana legalization

 
 
Posted Wednesday, January 29th 2014 @ 10am  by Abby Haglage, Caitlin Dickson

“The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades,” croons Peter Williams, the 46-year-old chief of operations at a Denver dispensary that hopes to be known as the IKEA of Weed.

Spoken amidst blinding high-voltage light at The Medicine Man’s 20,000 square-foot grow facility, Williams’ reference is appropriate. Thousands of baby cannabis green plants are blooming—but the vision of what they’ll reap has already blossomed. Despite being one of the largest dispensaries in Colorado, Medicine Man will soon double in size. Call Williams—and his co-owner brother Andy— “ganjapreneurs.” But they’re not the only ones.

Just 27 days after Colorado opened the doors to recreational marijuana stores, gutsy weed pioneers are flooding the centennial state. From tour guides to chefs, glass blowers to club owners, they each tout different talents to hit the jackpot.

Long a destination for young men answering Greeley’s call to “go West,” Colorado’s status as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana sales has taken its desirability to a new, ahem, high. Mike Maciag, data editor for the state and local government-focused magazine Governing, says an estimated 36,284 people moved to Colorado in 2013, almost 8,000 more than the year before. The number places Colorado in third place as the state with the most domestic in-migration (following North Dakota and Washington, D.C.). With 300 days of sunshine, 54 peaks above 14,000 feet, and a marijuana market poised to bring billions, Colorado is America’s treasure chest—the gold rush gone green.

“Once legalization happened, I knew Colorado was the place to be,” says Max Patton, a 26-year-old Denver newcomer. Weeks after moving from Oklahoma in November 2013, the skiing aficionado launched maxqualityglass.com—a company specializing in high quality, and high priced, glass pipes (still advertised strictly for tobacco). With a love for marijuana, a background in business, and a first-hand knowledge of the glass market, Patton knew he’d be an asset to dispensaries. He was right. Just two months in, the former land management worker says he’s raking in $12,000 a month and then some. “It’s a great job,” he says. “I get to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Nipping at his heels for a whiff of something smokin’ are Jennifer Defalco and Olivia Mannix, two 24-year-old east coasters who met at UC Boulder and have since created the ”first recreational marijuana branding agency”, Cannabrand. Jumping on the phone while racing from one meeting to the next, the best buds are nothing if not enthusiastic. “The world perceives cannabis consumers as deadhead, unemployed people—our mission is to change that,” says Defalco. Representing all things cannabis from clothing stores to parties, they’re now major players in the weed world. “Nothing is certain, but everyone in the industry is so friendly,” says Mannix. “It’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

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