The Making of Colorado’s Marijuana Millionaires

I've seen a lot of marijuana over the past two weeks, but nothing like this.

Less than two miles north of Denver's central business district lies the headquarters of Garden of the Gods, one of the region's largest commercial cannabis operations. "We grow 280 pounds a month," its owner tells me as we stand in his office surrounded by a handful of administrative staff. And I believe him.

Unlike many of the smaller facilities I visited in Colorado last month for research on this three-part series, this massive operation situated in the heart of the state capital evidences all of the trappings of a professionally run enterprise. It's clean, well-organized, buzzing with activity, and bursting at the seams with marijuana plants. Thousands upon thousands of them; situated in more than a dozen 1,000 square-foot rooms dedicated exclusively to the latter stages of a cannabis plant's lifecycle -- there's a separate building on the property for breeding and cloning.

Walking down its main corridor, I can't help but think that this business, more than virtually any of its competitors, has truly uncovered the profitable sweet spot that exists in the legal grey zone between federal and state laws governing the marijuana trade. Indeed, one could even go so far as to say that this legal no man's land is the very reason that a small handful of well-heeled businessmen and women have been able to amass growing pot empires. 

An uncomfortable legal reality

As we make our way through the facility, the telltale signs of this uncomfortable legal reality are everywhere.

Security cameras are above every door, in every room, and along every hallway. The security guard makes himself highly visible and is outfitted for what appears to be an impending SWAT mission. To get past the front desk, you have to sign in and wait to be buzzed through a secured entrance. And in the principally cash-based business, a steel safe in the office is roughly equivalent in size to my law school apartment -- that is, very big for a safe, but embarrassingly small for an apartment.

An employee of Denver-based Garden of the Gods cleans and repaints one of 13 rooms for late-stage cannabis plants. Photo by author.

"The government wants our tax revenue, but regulates the industry as if we're common criminals," a grower in Colorado Springs emphasized to me earlier in the week.

To be clear, these aren't discretionary practices unique to the massive Denver-based facility I'm visiting. They're instead the consequence of a fragile accord between the federal and state governments over how to regulate the production, sale, possession, and consumption of medical (and now recreational) marijuana.

Traditionally, state and local governments enforced small indiscretions, while the federal government -- namely, the U.S. Department of Justice and its Drug Enforcement Administration -- prosecuted large operations reaching across state lines.

Get busted with a joint in your ashtray? You're headed to city or county court. Have a large shipment of weed intercepted by the DEA on its way from Texas to Minnesota? Put on your big boy pants, because it's federal court for you.

While this separation of responsibilities began to fray more than a decade ago with the passage of medical marijuana laws in multiple states, it's only recently become a focal point after both Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use as well. As we sit here today, smoking a joint in either of these states is legally indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from drinking a beer even though cannabis remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

Consequences of marijuana's legal grey zone

After speaking with numerous industry participants over the last few weeks, it's become exceedingly clear that the repercussions of this legal conflict are far from academic.

Most notably, it's why Colorado adopted such a stringent (and expensive) regulatory regime and why a business like Garden of the Gods is run with the clinical efficiency of a Swiss watch manufacturer. Application and licensing fees add up to tens of thousands of dollars, dispensaries and cultivation facilities must be equipped with sophisticated security and product-tracking systems, employees in the industry are screened by the state before getting cleared to work, and only a fraction (30%) of a cultivation facility's harvest can be sold to third-party dispensaries.

These measures are in direct response to the Justice Department's recently announced policy of avoiding marijuana-related prosecutions "based on the expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems."

A jar of medicinal marijuana at Rocky Road Remedies. Photo by author.

The legal divide also explains why most banks won't service businesses linked to the production or distribution of marijuana. Under the Bank Secrecy Act, federally insured depository institutions can't accept deposits from businesses engaged in federally proscribed activity. The same prohibition holds for checks, debit cards, credit cards, and wire transfers.

"In short, federal law says any entity that holds deposits from another person, transfers funds between parties as in checks, debit cards, wire transfers, or otherwise is connected to the payments system -- the movement of money from one financial entity to another party -- must abide by federal law," Don Childears, the president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association, told the Denver Post.

And along these same lines, it's why many of the ordinary and necessary business expenses incurred by a retail dispensary aren't deductible from federal income taxes.

Under section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, businesses are precluded from deducting expenses related to the "trafficking of controlled substances ... which is prohibited by federal law." This has been interpreted by at least one federal tax court to capture all deductions for expenses related to retail establishments that derive the majority of revenue from marijuana sales.

"There's simply no question that the banking ban and uncertainty around taxes are the two biggest issues facing the industry today," the owner of the second-largest dispensary in Southern Colorado told me.

How legal ambiguity is shaping the marijuana trade

One of the most interesting, albeit unintended, consequences of the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws is that it's carved out a protected haven, if you will, around a small subset of businesses in the industry -- namely, those with access to private in-state capital.

Under Colorado's rules governing the sale of both medical and recreational cannabis, current industry participants are heavily insulated from competing against well-financed, out-of-state entities with large shareholder bases -- think publicly traded companies like Altria, the domestic distributor of Marlboro cigarettes, or Lorillard, the proprietor of Newport cigarettes, among others.

This follows from the requirement that every application for a medical or recreational license must contain "the names, mailing addresses and owner's background applications of all persons owning any of the outstanding or issued capital stock" (emphasis added).

On the flipside of this, however, is the fact that capital to finance a marijuana business is uniquely difficult to come by.

As I've mentioned, financial regulations preclude banks from loaning to businesses that violate federal law. In addition, all of the capital invested in a retail dispensary or commercial growing facility must come from inside the state, curtailing the involvement of Wall Street and other out-of-state financiers.

This leaves local businessmen and women with no disqualifying criminal history or personal enmity to quasi-illegal drug dealing as the sole source of capital. For his part, the owner of Garden of the Gods financed his operation with cash from the sale of his commercial janitorial company.

Consolidation around two centers of gravity

It's for this reason that the industry is beginning to consolidate around two distinct centers of gravity. The first consists of early adopters that have built up sufficiently large cash flows to finance increased regulatory burdens and further expansion.

This is the case for Rocky Road Remedies, one of the largest retail dispensaries in Colorado Springs, the state's second biggest city. Aside from a couple of recently purchased 2014 Porsche Cayenne's for the company's co-founders, it's reinvesting the lion's share of operating cash flow into a new cultivation facility that will more than double Rocky Road's current capacity.

The second center of gravity consists of newer but deeper-pocketed local entrepreneurs. "This is the traditional story of the haves versus the have-nots," said Roberto Lopesino, vice president of Advanced Cannabis Solutions and one of the sharpest minds in the industry.  

One of 13 rooms at Denver-based Garden of the Gods, dedicated to the late stages of a cannabis plant's lifecycle. Photo by author.

The prototypical example is John Lord, who's purported to be the state's biggest pot baron, according to an analysis by the Denver Post.

Before getting into the marijuana trade, Lord was president of Denver-based Basic Comfort, a manufacturer of baby sleep positioners and other products, which sold to a competitor in 2008 for $6.5 million. Today, he has ownership stakes in more than half a dozen retail dispensaries scattered along the Front Range -- an offshoot of the Rocky Mountains stretching from Casper, Wyoming, to Pueblo, Colorado.

Another example is Elliott Klug, one of three owners of the Pink House Blooms chain of retail dispensaries. Along with money from friends and family, Klug financed the venture with proceeds from the sale of a small oil company that he founded years earlier.

"One thing those on the list [of Colorado's biggest marijuana moguls] share is a wealth of management experience in fields unrelated to marijuana, showing that making it in the legal pot industry today is as much about business acumen as it is about growing good weed," wrote the Post's John Ingold and Eric Gorski.

The commercialized future of pot

As my tour of Denver's massive Garden of the Gods facility ends, the owner asks me what I thought. "It's impressive," I say. "If you think that now, then you should come back later this year," he responds. "See that parking lot there? We're about to fill it with 70,000 square feet of greenhouses, effectively tripling our output."

This, folks, is the future of the marijuana trade. Big, efficient, commercial operations; run by a handful of wily (and increasingly rich) pot barons that jumped headlong into a still-uncertain legal grey zone. As the old saying goes: the greater the risk, the greater the reward.

For more on John's exploration of this booming industry, click here.

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Read/Post Comments (55) | Recommend This Article (88)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 10:38 AM, maryjane77 wrote:

    Probably one of the main reasons to open up the possibilities for this industry has been money. Think about what the government is going to be collecting of taxes. With the legalization and reform of cannabis spreading across the world, many wonder exactly who it is that will be targeted by this flourishing industry. It may not be who most people would think.

    A well established argument in the repertoire of the old school prohibitionists is that cannabis poses a threat to the children. Legalisation, they argued, will get pre-teens hooked and lead to rampant childhood addiction. Well, nothing could be further from the truth: new research suggests that it is actually the older adults that are showing the most marked increase in heavy cannabis use.

    A demographical shift

    Recent research shows a large and quite sudden change in the demographical use of cannabis over the last year, shifting from 12-21 year olds, to the over 50’s. What’s more, over the last year, daily use of cannabis in Americans aged 18-21 has dropped from 26 percent to 21 percent, while use by those aged 22 and over rose from 63 percent to 72 percent. These are significant findings that show that the legalisation of cannabis doesn‘t increase youth use. (original article: http://www.zamnesia.com/blog-majority-of-us-cannabis-users-a...

    makes total sense. If you look at the Netherlands, where people have been able to legaly purchase pot, the general usage has been the lowest in Europe in the last 12 years.

    In the Netherlands about 5.5 percent of the population uses cannabis while in the UK 6.6 percent of the population smokes cannabis and in the USA this number is even higher with 14 percent of all Americans smoking cannabis.

    (More info on Stats Annex-consumption: http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/WDR2011/Sta...

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 4:59 PM, BelegdeBoterham wrote:

    Yup Maryjane, Dutch men here, in the Netherlands the use of Cannabis is small, but the Cannabis nowadays is very 'strong'

    Legislation is a good start to prevent criminal activities on the long term! If something is 'hard' to get it will be worth a lot of money and don't forget al the policepower tot sustain a prohibit...

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:03 PM, kejpm007 wrote:

    Anything that decreases the power of the drug cartels and stops filling our prisons with people doing no one any harm is fine by me. I imagine the alcohol industry is having lots of strategy meetings right about now. I am sure they are more than a little nervous.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:07 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    Before legalization will come decriminalization. There is a long way to go before legalization is mainstream. Good luck to the investors.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:30 PM, herzele wrote:

    There are names of people behind the curtain that are getting rich. You just don't know who they are.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:37 PM, jc09058 wrote:

    As businesses go, this would be an interesting one to see what happens over time as laws and people attitude changes. While there is a potential here, I wouldn't be looking into this an investment idea. There are no wide moats to prevent entry (thinking back to college days in the 80's, there were a lot of people growing where ever they could in the houses or apartments).

    I'm sure there are a number of other issues impacting this business that wouldn't normally other kinds of business but if they follow similar procedures as the drug companies do (i.e. Pfizer, et. al.), they should be reasonably protected but it would raise costs up to be sure.

    I do wonder how health insurance companies would handle this for there plans in the future?

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:38 PM, brandonmfool wrote:

    I agree with some other comments. There are way too many people incarcerated right now and pot only causes issues due to the cartel, guns, and large bundles of cash. Tax it and other states just need to follow their lead.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 5:40 PM, wjcoffman wrote:

    Ah, the proverbial camel has worked his nose ('medical (medicinal?)' marijuana) and entire head (recreational marijuana) under the tent. The camel will be fully in the tent soon - when will the "hard" stuff (cocaine? heroin? meth? other?) be legalized?

    Never mind, I'm an extremist - and at least now I'll have more than just my wife and close personal friend telling me that . . . as well as lesson(s) on the difference between innocent, harms-no-one-marijuana and the '"hard" stuff.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 6:20 PM, twobeerjohn wrote:

    I was in high school back in the 70's and I remember burn-outs. Pot isn't good for you, and who is going to pay the disability benefits for people who indulge to the point that they can't function? My brother-in-law works in Colorado and said that when they came up with the medical marijuana law, everybody was trying to get a card, and those that did, just get high all the time. Who is going to do the work when we have all of these incapacitated people? I don't want them working next to me. How about driving next to me. This is a disaster. Society is doomed!

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 7:16 PM, Rodgereiss wrote:

    I have read all the comments and some are good some naive ~ I wrote a paper in 1970 in business school on the economics of marijuana and thought it would be a handful of years until the reality took form. 45 years later we are still toying with the concept. I went into the liquor business where I worked as a senior executive for Seagrams then Pernod Ricard and can tell you that the boys in the booze biz have no interest nor clue as to what the weed industry is about. I think it is interesting and about time but unless you own the farms, the sledding will be rough.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 8:43 PM, mapartha wrote:

    Marijuana is drug business. It is a vice industry. It is not advisable for Motley Fool to recommend such businesses only to make money. Sticking to ethics is more important than making money anyhow.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 9:29 PM, scottsims wrote:

    I think this is the first step to ending the prohibition of Marijuana that has lasted way too long in this country. The war on drugs may be a god idea for harder drugs but Marijuana is harmless and actually helps those that need it medically and allows the common citizen to relax in a way that is very beneficial. If the Federal Government wakes up and realizes that legalizing would eliminate so many unnecessary arrests and help to fight the cartels and not to mention provide endless amounts of tax revenues if they treat it as the other legal vices then this country will be better off then we are today.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 9:54 PM, trwnaman wrote:

    So, here's what I'm wondering:

    If it's true (as I believe it is) that the only people who really made money out of the Klondike Goldrush were those that sold the "forty-niners" their shovels (and other equipment), who are the equivalent ** suppliers ** in this goldrush, those who will make money no matter which growers (if any) eventually come out on top?

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 10:19 PM, TMFDukenewkirk wrote:

    Interesting, or at least somewhat ironic thoughts from a fellow whose username had to include the word beer in it. Dysfunctional potheads is a ridiculous notion fueled by Hollywood comedy. It's certainly not based in reality. Any idea how many lawyers and doctors are pot smokers? Or how many athletes choose pot as their vice of choice over beer belly inducing, brain function reducing alcohol? Ask a doctor or nurse what ratio of pot vs alcohol based complications exist for folks in hospital. My wife, a nurse hasn't been struck by one spazzing pothead in all her years. Think she could say the same about alcoholics over a period of even a few months? And hey, I recognize you're two beer john, presuming you're a reasonable beer consumer. Two joint jimmy's are just as, or more probable as a norm also.

    Just take a trip to Holland. Lovely country and one that will teach you through a practical, real life experience, rather than conjecture fueled witch hunt research, that the end of times does not follow pot legalization. Alternatively, save some cash and just watch as Colorado benefits financially while the entire state actually 'doesn't' go to hell in a hand cart. Soon enough the proof will be right under your nose. Heck, come up to BC. Half our province is stoned half the time it seems, and our American neighbors find us amusingly polite even.

    There are extremes to be dug up on any subject if you hunt for them, but pot is no match for alcohol when it comes to potential for the destruction of family and segments of society. I bet 10 unproductive or abusive drunks can be found for every helpless pothead...lol

    In fact, keeping it illegal and as a growth driver for criminal organizations is by a long shot the main problem with this particular drug.

    Now, to the business of investing, presumably the reason we all began reading here in the first place. Anyone have any useful insights as to how an investor could benefit through this changing landscape at this point in time? It seems this particular industry is nowhere near ready for prime time since my understanding of this article suggests we won't be seeing any public access to shares for an ordinary investor such as myself. Otherwise, I'd be very interested to invest alongside an intelligently run business in this space.

    To the reasonable point above regarding moats, I'd liken the situation to video piracy. Netflix has, and I believe will continue to thrive despite readily available and easily accessible pirated content. If convenience and price are reasonable, I tend to think the largest market for any product will be one that is indeed most interested in staying in the good graces of the law. Efficient, legal grow ops should be able to compete nicely with potential customers friends of friends who know a guy. The mere fact that alcohol and tobacco, far more volatile and dangerous substances have proven to be great investment vehicles already, offer us a road to success already well traveled.

    Rob

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 10:30 PM, TMFDukenewkirk wrote:

    PS..while writing my epic comment I missed out on one stating the Motley Fool should take some moral high ground and stay away from the subject.

    If it's legal as alcohol, tobacco and hundreds of polluters and so accused exploiters are, then the pot business is fair game. The Motley Fool offers focus on ethical investing and takes initiatives to help society for those who are interested. But that choice belongs to us as philanthropists and investors. The Fool should not dumb down its services to meet all or any possible whims or political opinions. If it's legal, a responsible, and in my opinion, truly effective or useful investment service will bring to light all the best ideas they find.

  • Report this Comment On January 06, 2014, at 10:47 PM, dalemx wrote:

    LEAGALIZE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 5:22 AM, masssgt wrote:

    Marihuana is following the same path as liquor and prohibition. The legitimate manufacturers, distributors and sellers of liquor after Prohibition were, at one time, comingled with the illegal alcohol trade and all the murder, corruption and crime necessary to make distribution so profitable. The huge monetary rewards reaped by organized crime during prohibition found their way into legitimate businesses after repeal of the law.

    What was once considered money-laundering may be evolving into business capital. We maybe witnessing an historical transition from Traffickers and co-conspirators into CEO's and investors.

    But lets not be Foolish and transform this into a moral tale and miss the obvious rewards that are about to unfold. We should go for it !

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 8:52 AM, WyoOil wrote:

    Is " twobeersjohn" the only person that is sensitive to the social implications of legalization. Go to virtually any junior high school in Colorado and the teachers will tell you that pot use is increasing among 11-13 year olds.

    Sure, we have laws that makes the sale or use of pot illegal if you're not 21--but how do you enforce that when the kids follow the behavior of their parents--or older siblings.

    If you believe we have an education crisis now, just wait for a few years as these student matriculate into society--educationally impaired to the point where even entry level jobs, including the military, require basic skills and the ABILITY to learn.

    We already have young people smoking joints on the sidewalks of downtown Denver--and that's illegal too. If we enforce these laws the pro-pot folks will claim the police are being draconian and the liberals will demand the cops back-off. Same will go for traffic enforcement of those under the influence.

    We have opened Pandora's box for a stream of social issues we are not prepared to address. The money to be made will benefit few--but we will all be impacted by the social issues.

    Get ready--y'all haven't seen anything yet.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 9:41 AM, Hubie337 wrote:

    As far as marijuana being a big revenue generator for the Federal Govt I just don't see it.

    First, the cigarette tax only brings in about 8.5 to 9 billion a year to the Treasury. Sounds like a lot but with the size of our deficits every year, it really isn't that much. Based on this, just how much revenue do you really think a tax on pot could generate?

    Second, as already discussed, pot is WAY TOO EASY to grow. Furthermore, residents of Colorado are allowed to grow I believe 6 plants at a time for personal consumption so its not even illegal. This pot will not be taxed.

    Third, I would assume that the proliferation of pot smokers would have a negative effect on the consumption of alcohol. Why get drunk legally, when you can get high legally? I don't imagine it would be a huge drop off in alcohol consumption but I have to believe there will be some.

    At the State level, I can see a tax helping state budgets to some degree. Most States are required to operate with balanced budgets so any revenue increase helps.

    Only issue is will there be an additional cost for governments due to the increased use of pot by its citizens which could nullify any gains thru tax receipts? If alcohol consumption were to go down because of the increase in pot use, I would say local and state law enforcement agencies would actually save money. The over consumption of alcohol and the related issues it causes have been shown time and time again to be very costly to families, law enforcement and health organizations.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 10:17 AM, hamerhokie wrote:

    The problem with these big operations is they make an attractive, economical target for the DEA. Enforcement policy shifts with the political winds. Obama was against prosecuting medical marijuana providers, then he was for it, now he's on the fence. This big distribution nodes are low-hanging fruit.

    The way to force the federal government to legalize pot is to break the DEA's back - make it too hard to enforce the stupid pot laws without local police support. The DEA does not have the resources to go after individuals and small operations. The more distributed the network, the less likely the DEA can keep up.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 11:25 AM, szcz wrote:

    If smoking cigarettes damages your lungs, wouldn't smoking marijuana also damage your lungs? How can inhaling any kind of smoke not damage your lungs.

    Again, you lefties always whine about corporations fouling the air that you breathe, but you do it voluntarily by smoking dope. You're such hypocrites.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 12:52 PM, StimULater wrote:

    to szcz. It's not the smoke that gives you cancer it's the carcinogens that are often added to cigarettes to(for example) to make them burn even etc.Marijuana at this stage doesn't contain them. It would be helpful if you had even the slightest clue before you go around making accusations & calling people names. You're only exposing your own ignorance. We don't expect more than that from a self proclaimed non-"lefty"

    With that said I'm wondering how I as a resident of NC (which will probably one of the last states to make recreational marijuana legal) can profit from the states where it is legal. How can I invest in pot without investing in cigarettes?

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 12:59 PM, Megatron916 wrote:

    @twobeerjohn

    You're a funny guy, I'm sure you've never had a beer (or two!) and jumped behind the wheel of your F150. NOT YOU!! Every 15 seconds someone is killed from an alcohol related car accident, and that doesn't include all of the other alcohol-related deaths.

    As for in 'incapacitated pot-smoking workforce' you anticipate; there are more jobs being created by the cultivation, sale, taxation, and research of marijuana then there has been from keeping it Illegal.

    let's expand our minds shall we?

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 1:18 PM, Rick1635 wrote:

    Marijuana use has been going on for as long as humans have discovered it. It is only recently that is has been made illegal...

    That being said, it is a proven fact that marijuana, is not harmful to those who do not abuse it. It is however, harmful for those whose brains have not yet fully developed (kids). This drug has far fewer negative side effects than most other drugs wether used recreationally or prescription based. Think of the pharma commercials that tell you of all the side effects of using ED drugs!

    If legalized, marijuana use would probably spike initially then level off just like alcohol. The revenue that could be generated would be amazing. The culture would be no different from the culture of say...wine enthusiasts. The medicinal advantages of pot are now coming to light and can replace a panoply of pharmaceutical drugs that tend to have some very bad side effects.

    This is good business and good ethics.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 1:30 PM, RxPro wrote:

    @szcz and stimulater,

    szcz was asking a good question about the health effects of marijuana and stimulater, your answer was not correct at all.

    Smoking tobacco actually can cause up to 3 times as much tar to be inhaled compared with tobacco. And you need to keep in mind that "pot" users commonly inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in longer than tobacco users. The National Institute of Drug Abuse says that marijuana smoke has up to 70% more cancer causing substances than tobacco smoke.

    However, studies have shown that 1 joint per day (for 7 years) did not result in decreased lung function, but heavier use does.

    Unlike tobacco, marijuana use is associated with impaired thinking skills and memory deficits. When you look at marijuana and how it impairs people, it varies widely. Some people it only impairs slightly, while others are dramatically affected. For example, marijuana use has been found to be related to mental disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and panic attacks as well.

    I just wanted to provide a little medical information, not start a debate, certainly not a moral one as that is a personal decision for each person. I hope this helps!

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 1:53 PM, damilkman wrote:

    When I was 15 my 13 year old friend told me never try POT because you will never stop and he did not want me to be like him. I have lost so many people physically and spiritually to drugs legal and illegal it makes me sick to see people talk about making money on others misery.

    Did anyone every consider that part of the contribution of the wealth gap is the acceptance of drugs for solace? If your primary motivation is chemical induced euphoria why bother improving yourself? The fact that people are willing to stand in line for hours should give insight to their priorities.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 3:54 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    Our economy would would be much better off if we could somehow expand the businesses of alcohol, drugs, gambling and lotteries. The more people involved in those industries the better. Society would obviously prosper.

    I hope there are lobbyists out there working hard to mainstream prostitution because I am waiting for The Fool to write an article about how disciplined and clean they are.

  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 4:53 PM, szcz wrote:

    to simulater:

    Sure - marijuana smoke is as fresh and pure as mountain air. It's the only kind of smoke you can place way down in your lungs. I'll bet it even improves your lung capacity over time.

    I'll bet you were stoned when you responded to my initial comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2014, at 2:41 PM, MDMDoyle wrote:

    Few things...

    1. Beer is easy to brew and everybody still buys beer at the beer store every weekend. Enthusiasts will not hurt the overall marijuana industry.

    2. I have smoked pot since I was 13 (although I don't really do it much anymore). I am now 28 getting married, own property, a business and work in a large engineering firm and make six figures a year. I am also not even close to the most functioning pot-head in my group of friends. I have friends who are lawyers and doctors who smoke more than I ever have still to this day and are some of the greatest minds I know. I do however know all kinds of alcoholics who's lives and families are basically ruined though.

    3. If marijuana only brings 1/100th of the tax dollars of the alcohol an tobacco industry it will save tens of billions of dollars in tax dollars used for incarnation and prohibition of non-violent (usually contributing) members of society.

    4. This is a great investigation series by Motley Fool because it is potentially an entirely untapped industry ripe for investment. Although it may be years away, we are closer than ever. It is interesting to read about the litigation. If nothing else it is a nice change of pace from the Amazon, Netflix and Tesla recommendations you read daily on here. I'm still waiting for 2 out of 3 of those stocks to plummet back down to earth.

    5. What exactly is immoral about marijuana compared to oil companies that wreck out planet daily? drug companies that charge fortunes for cures that cost pennies to produce? Banks that wreak havoc on your economy with terrible lending practices and a plethora of other high class white collar crimes? Companies than run your privatized jails and are profiting off arresting as many pot-heads as possible to suck the government for every subsidized tax dollar they can? Get off your high horse and keep your moral compass in your pocket.

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2014, at 7:58 PM, VisualRhino wrote:

    Thanks for the article, very interesting...

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2014, at 8:53 PM, bumblebee wrote:

    I didnt read this complete article but surfed through it to try to see if this business is available in a stock. Does anyone know if it is, and if so what is it called? Thank you and happy healthy new year((:

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:07 AM, Johny205 wrote:

    I have worked construction for many years and I would say that about 40% of construction workers smoke pot. I would also estimate that about 1 in 4 workers smoke pot at work everyday. Some of the pot heads I've worked with work harder than the other workers that don't smoke and the do good work. Just because someone is high does not mean they are a retard! They would probably only smoke a little bit--I don't think they smoked an entire joint before work. Next time you see guys pouring concrete, or painting, take a look and think about who couldn't do that when they are high, especially if the guy has 15 years experience doing that repetitive crap for 50 hours a week!

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:15 AM, MDMDoyle wrote:

    It is not advisable to smoke pot and operate heavy machinery or work construction. That is Ludacris.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 10:30 AM, eltabor wrote:

    MJNA in the neighborhood of 20 cents a share. Legalize it all. The people with a problem will die or defeat the demons. I defeated the demons, but grass was not one of them and I have been around it and people who partake for 40 years.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 6:07 PM, ABNMEDIC wrote:

    Thanks for the research but I'm still on the fence on investing in this field. Bottom line can the right investment choice in this field produce revenue in say the next five years?

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 4:17 PM, cmalek wrote:

    @RxPro:

    "The National Institute of Drug Abuse says that marijuana smoke has up to 70% more cancer causing substances than tobacco smoke."

    I would not trust their "statistics" any more than I would use "Reefer Madness" as a true portrayal of pot smokers. Maybe you should look up the statistics from DEA.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:28 PM, valeriemichelle wrote:

    Getting back to the business side of marijuana, acquaint yourself with a CPA firm highly experienced in this industry (no pun intended). I highly recommend neweracpas.com - good luck and prosper! Our Nation needs the revenue!

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 5:41 PM, TMFDukenewkirk wrote:

    Perspective folks.

    Don't look too hard into issues of ethics or morality if you intend to have much success investing. Nearly anything profitable is either 'also' causing some kind of harm while improving some other aspect of life on our planet, or merely exists to profit off the back of fixing what ails our world. Life saving medicine needs a disease, what cleans our environment needn't exist at all without a pollutant. In my humble opinion ethical investing is a sweetly naive fantasy at best. When human life expectancy isn't at all time historic highs, I may revisit my attitude.

    As for ingested drugs and poisons; everyone should be far more concerned about their diet pops and candies...

    From your FDA itself. This should be far more frightening than even alcohol, never mind weed. Yet I've heard few up in arms over the fact that SodaStream uses primarily Aspartame based/like sugar substitutes. I wouldn't feed the stuff to my worse enemy since shooting them would be more humane at least. ;)

    http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/jan03/012203/02p-...

    http://www.rense.com/general74/lyw.htm

    Perspective

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 6:57 AM, ukreader wrote:

    Over the last few years more quality research about the medical benefit of Cannabis has helped to challenge much of false information which has been written about the drug. I believe it's this research which is forcing law makers to look how to best cope with the issues of the drug being legalized in many parts of the world and balance that with the pressure of politics and the demands from the pharmaceutical industry.

    In the UK, GW Pharmaceutical (http://www.gwpharm.com/ ) grows Cannabis to produce treatments for a wide range of medical conditions. The company is quoted on NASDAQ and LSE.

    Clearly, as more people get to know about the wonders of this natural pant, demand will increase and this will inevitably lead to less reliance of on conventional medicine which will lead to a reduction in revenues for pharmaceuticals. Hence, pharmaceuticals have a vested interest to try everything to ensure it does not become widespread use.

    Politicians have always played the 'Tough on Drugs' card as this is what law enforcement requires and in general they have acted on the available biased information. This is done purely to win votes and over a long period of time the politicians have told people Cannabis was bad for them and that incorrect message cannot be corrected overnight.

    So, this is where is at, how long will the pharmaceuticals with their lobbyist and politicians who knows no better, continue to fool most of the people? With the growth in the use of the Internet, a lot more people will get the correct message, but the opposing side will not give in easily, they will contradict any good message about the drug, so this will be long battle over the next 20 years or so.

    Congratulations to these US pioneers. I'm sure the Marijuana business will be very profitable in years to come.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2014, at 9:17 AM, Smiffys wrote:

    The reality is the US is criminalising and imprisoning (at great cost) a large proportion of its population over a drug that is known to be considerably less addictive or harmful than either tobacco or alcohol. What is wrong with legalising a drug (that was legal prior to 1970), if it results in the reduction of crime and potentially reduced tobacco and alcohol use?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rational_scale_to_assess_...

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2014, at 11:50 PM, Orpheus21 wrote:

    I just have to wonder though whats going to happen in 2016 when we have a new administration in the white house. Will the white house release their DEA attack dogs on Colorado and Washington? I for one don't trust Hillary or Chris Christy.

    Elect Rand Paul 2016!

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2014, at 12:37 PM, eltabor wrote:

    Definitely can't trust that crazy man from Kentucky . If I invested based on my norms and mores I wouldn't own much, if anything. I wouldn't doubt the DEA wanting to put a stop the Colorado and Washington eating into their profits

  • Report this Comment On January 18, 2014, at 4:48 AM, Paulyc33 wrote:

    I smoked pot 25 years ago, I liked it, was harmless, but it was illegal. So I quit.... I drank beer to the extreme, and so did 80% of all people I know. This debate is an absolute no-brainer, alcohol ruins lives, and kills people. Pot, well, let's just put it this way for all you old timers & conservatives(which I used to be) who do not understand(or are just plain stupid?)...I would jump in a car with somebody who smoked a really good joint, before I hoped in a car with someone who drank TWO beers, period. And as far as opiate pain killers compared to pot? Another absolute no-brainer! I got ADDICTED to pain killers, (back problems) know numerous others who also got hooked(78 year old woman, 66 year old man, etc.) but I thought it was OK because a "caring Dr," prescribed them and it was "legal" Understand this, Oxycontin is a highly addictive drug(as is Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) and is considered "Pharmacutical Heroin", basically there is no difference between the two. Now, to my point...100+(or whenever) years ago when the government made pot illegal, it is for one reason & one reason only, and it is so simple, but, I feel I need to say it because of some of the clueless/"pot is bad" posts...Pot grows out of God's Green Earth people, no money can be made off it,(by the government that is) period. Simple. What if they made pot legal back then, and alcohol illegal? Think hard about that question....society would think exactly what some of these naïve/uneducated posts said, only alcohol would replace the pot in this debate. Please, think hard about that. I quit drinking, quit pills(after 3 years of going through absolute hell) and I recently started smoking pot. I will say it again, alcohol/opiates ruin lives, pot make you want to live life! I ask all you anti-pot people to give it a try, just once, and see if you change your mind? 90% of you will, the other 10% got bad weed! :) As far as investments go, GWPH is only stock I own(up 156%), watch MDBX & CBDS, both are risky, but have made huge moves, and have potential....Stay away from MJNA, CBIS, PHOT, NVLX, ETC. It will be interesting to see what big players come into the pot market once it is legalized in all 50(matter of time) This is our generations chance at The Goldrush, The Internet, ETC. Hope this woke a few people up to reality

  • Report this Comment On January 18, 2014, at 5:31 AM, Paulyc33 wrote:

    PS. My comments are simply the truth, written in a somewhat easy way to understand, I hope? Twobeerjohn your comments are what is wrong with this country, people like you..."who is going to pay disability benefits to the point they can't function" "burn outs" & "potheads".....Wow, I don't know 1 person who smokes pot that "can't function" but I know 3 people on disability because of alcohol? Just an insanely naïve and just plain stupid statement

    Who is going to pay for your disability when you have "twobeers" and drive your car into a tree? or worse? Or fall off a barstool and hit your head? Maybe that's what you need to do to wake the f**k up! You are right about one thing "Society is doomed" but it is because of thinking(or not thinking AT ALL) like you

  • Report this Comment On January 18, 2014, at 8:17 AM, KevinHyland wrote:

    In agreement with the post just before this one, Yes! there is an investment opportunity in cannabis. GW Pharmaceuticals stock symbol GWPH or just go to www.gwpharmaceuticals.com. Four months ago it was selling for $10 now it is selling for $50 as of mid January.

    GWPH has been in business since 1998 and has been given an exclusive license to grow cannabis in the UK. They are the first movers on the medical aspects of cannabis and have a pipe line of cannabis based products. The delivery system is an oral spray and it does not get you high (cannabis only gets you high if you heat it, unheated you can eat raw pot buds as big as your head and you will not get high. True fact).

    GWPH is presently distributed to 29 European countries and it is in it's third phase trials in the U.S. for the treatment of the pain of gleoma brain cancer. The name of the product is Sativx and it is pure cannabis extract from plants specifically grown to poses high concentrations at a 1 to 1 ratio of both THC, the stuff that makes you high and another non psychoactive chemical called canabadiol or CBDs. CBDs are not only non psychoactive but they are anti psychoactive. That is to say, if you were to get high by smoking a joint and then spray Sativx in your mouth, the CBD aspect of Sativx would actually make you un-high.

    The fact of the matter is that cannabis was in every doctor's black bag before 1937 which is when marijuana (the Mexican name for cannabis) was demonized. It is one of the most medically efficacious plants in the world used on everything from minstrel cramps to crhon's deasease, ulcerative colitis and schizophrenia. Presently GW Pharmaceuticals has licensed Sativx for use in spasticity caused by Parkinson’s disease and for malignant glioma cancer pain. But the fact of the mater is that it will cure much much more that just these few things.

    If you would like to find out more about cannabis and it's medical use please check out youtube with the search terms “marijuana/cancer” and you will get tons of presentations which talk about it extensively and link you to medical papers on the subject from educational institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.

    Dr. William Courtney, who is also on youtube, seems to be curing everything under the sun with raw marijuana juice extraction and has convinced the country of Luxembourg to begin commercial cultivation of medical cannabis.

    I began researching it to find a form of pain relief for a man that lives in my town, but I must say that what I have found has blown my mind. Good luck in your research.

  • Report this Comment On January 18, 2014, at 10:15 PM, BovineJoni wrote:

    It is truly just 100% impossible to make a rational argument against marijuana when alcohol and nicotine are legal and so highly abused. I can empathize with those that fear change and/or have believed in all of the ridiculous anti-marijuana propaganda that has been thrown in our faces over the years. I'm sure it's very surreal to them, and they're now experiencing a world that completely contradicts what they've been taught their entire lives, but I can agree with many of the posters here and assure you that it really is going to be alright. As a vice, it's a much more intelligent choice, and many of our best and brightest partake.

    I live in Denver, and from what I've seen, the entire process thus far has been calm, orderly, and full of smiles from all walks of life. I can assure you that there are currently no signs of our city turning into an oasis for unemployed schizophrenics. I know, I know, it's early, but I'm pretty confident that we've got this thing figured out.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 6:22 PM, dlwatib wrote:

    The feds prohibit banks from accepting drug money and then they wonder why the velocity of money falls so sharply. Well, duh! Check the stacks of cash just sitting in drug safe houses waiting to be laundered back into the system.

  • Report this Comment On January 21, 2014, at 4:54 PM, serina wrote:

    isn't it the problem that the banks are bound by federal rules and not only state laws?

  • Report this Comment On January 23, 2014, at 3:44 PM, SkyRgr wrote:

    Legalize all drugs. Just another way for government to control you and your blind if you can not see it for what it is -- another form of dependency on big brother. Ok, got it the federal government is opposed to the legalization; but, they also opposed Civil Rights, Gambling, Abortion, Catholic, Jews, Black and so on. Eventually the Feds give in and will regulate cannabis like corn and wheat. State and City councils will eventually regulate where and when you can buy and use the drug. Advocates will continue to spout their Propaganda on the medicinal benefits after all it is a natural herb? I think while we are at it we should legalize real coca tea the benefits of this drink have been used by the Indians of South and Central America for 1000's of years.

    Look, in the end we should determine the limits as a society morality being a criteria and not the cannabis propaganda. Advocates should remember what the tobacco corporations did to our parents and grandparents. What will cannabis smokers do to the long term health on the nervous system to themselves and their offsprings.

    Got it stoners you've been smoking since the 70's and it's done nothing to you; but, in the end the cannabis industry should be one step ahead and identify and inform their loyal potheads of the warnings and dangers of smoking "WEED". Inform the base to allow them to make INFORMED decisions vs. the propaganda to influence and reinforce changed behavior.

    To me it is quite hilarious that the counter-culture is embracing capitalism in the name of getting high

    http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-947...

  • Report this Comment On January 24, 2014, at 4:42 PM, JoeyB wrote:

    If you look to invest check out CANN on the OTC buy now could go up to 25 in coming month's, look for quick profit and move on..................

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 3:38 PM, johnnyboy12345 wrote:

    Hey Twobeers " Pot isn't good for you, and who is going to pay the disability benefits for people who indulge to the point that they can't function?" The same people that pay for alcoholics will pay for pot addicts aka the tax payers. Meanwhile the law makers could call pot addiction a disease just like alcoholism.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 3:39 PM, johnnyboy12345 wrote:

    If you legalize marijuana, who will the police arrest?

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 10:09 PM, blake6572 wrote:

    eltabor, MJNA was at around .20 but has since jumped to .31 as of today which is a nice gain. From my research they don't really have much to do with recreational marijuana although the hype from the legalization seems to be pushing the stock higher. I have to agree with those of you who compared marijuana to alcohol. I think we will see similar drawbacks and similar rewards from legalizing it.

    Blake

    http://topstockpickstoday.blogspot.com/2014/01/mjna-will-hyp...

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 9:56 PM, Wills61 wrote:

    Down here in Florida we have a politician that is afraid if marijuana is legalized for medical use then there will soon be a pot store on every corner.

    What a jackass. There are already pot stores on every corner..just not legal ones! He needs to look next door in his exclusive "HOOD". Behind the gates are those who partake also.

    I do not smoke or plan too...I'm not 13 anymore. Oh, I don't really drink accept for medicinal purposes rarely. One to three drinks per year. Oh, I fired my doctor because she had me on multiple drugs which I quit over three years ago yet I have not died yet. I do have a lot more money to invest which makes me feel GREAT!

    I also have lifetime friends who are engineers, doctors, barbers, teachers and so on. They have been smoking pot for over 40 years. They also drink a fair share. I am not the advocate...but they make a lot more money than I do and they have better education. Hmmm?

    Their parents were rich or well off. Some of their parents smoked in the 40's, 50's, 60's. The parents were Realtor s, Grove owners, Pilots, Artists, Business owners...

    I am for MM because it can't be worse than the crap the FDA mainlines into the doctor's offices.

    Maybe no one will sue God if they have a side effect from Hemp Oil...speaking of which the El Stupid o Government is trying to develop a safer hemp product. What a bunch of dodo birds!

    Governments were designed to keep the troglodytes enslaved! They need us dependent so that they may reap the benefit.

    Go watch Reefer Madness and the other Government propaganda films on marijuana produced in the 1930's -1950's.

    I am glad Dr Sanja Gupta and others are speaking up.

  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2014, at 12:11 PM, a2mfk wrote:

    As an investment, way too risky for me other than a pure gamble of a few bucks I can lose. Long term, if federal legalization occurs, I think and hope this will become a mom and pop, locally-based business. Your average gardener could grow enough for themselves and all their friends anyway. I hope it does not turn into big tobacco.

    I don't encourage anyone to drink alcohol, use tobacco, eat unhealthy food, or use pot. But I do all of these on occasion, and do so responsibly and usually at home after a long day of work and hitting the gym. I understand the risks of all of these behaviors. I am a college-educated, professional adult, and believe in personal rights and responsibilities. I would like the government and other people to not be my mom and dad and tell me how to live my life, in-so-much that it does not affect other people.

    Anyone who has been around or used alcohol or MJ knows which one is more dangerous. Hard liquor can be some scary, scary stuff if used irresponsibly. Been there and done that more times than I would ever want to admit. MJ is some pretty strong stuff these days too, and should be used responsibly by adults only; but, it is in a different, much lower class than alcohol.

    Make it legal at the federal level already and stop wasting time and money. You can control it, tax it, and try to discourage its use, especially among those under 18/21. Use the tax money to treat abuse of all drugs and alcohol. The war on drugs is a failure because it is too focused on the supply and not the demand. Stop locking up petty street dealers and users for long sentences, treat the actual problem- substance abuse. Not everyone who picks up a beer or joint ruins their lives. Focus on those that can't put it down. There are plenty of economic studies that support the idea of treating drug/alcohol abusers as a medical problem and not a criminal problem will end up costing us less as a society. There was a whole story on that on NPR yesterday in regards to reducing the ridiculous prison population by treating these lower level, non-violent, drug-related criminals differently. Reducing mandatory sentences for low level drug crimes to keep room in prison for the violent offenders is another way to tackle this problem. They said a federal prisoner costs $30k a year. Do we want MJ dealers doing federal time??

    I would hope that everyone can see that prohibiting things that a lot of people enjoy is a failure in legal enforcement terms, and is not what our society should strive to be about. Let our cops keep us safe from real criminals, not from ourselves. Focus on discouraging abuse of unhealthy food, tobacco, alcohol and MJ, not on banning it.

    I know its anecdotal, and I try to stay away from that in discussions, but it was always easier to access MJ when I was under 21 than alcohol. People selling pot do not check IDs. Making it legal, and there are some studies that back this (yeah, I know, there is a study for everything), could actually decrease access of MJ to minors.

    In terms of cost to society and overall deaths, banning most unhealthy foods would be better policy than banning MJ. By a long shot. Heart disease is #1.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm

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