Factory of pot: Business booms as Colorado prepares for legalization
In less than a month, recreational marijuana use will be legal in Colorado and Washington and marijuana producers are preparing potentially big business.
Andy Williams is out to become captain of the country's newest growth industry: Colorado's legal recreational pot business.
"It is a factory of pot. It certainly is," Williams says.
The 'Medicine Man' will be selling to users, up to an ounce to Colorado residents and a quarter of an ounce for out-of-staters, as long as they're over 21, starting January 1.
According to industry watchers, it will be the first time ever, in the world, that marijuana has been regulated from seed to sale, turning Colorado into a Silicon Valley for pot.
Williams isn't alone. He says he's bulking up to stay competitive. He plans a state-of-the-art facility that's so advanced, he expects tourists, and it may not even be enough.
"Yeah. And this is not enough to meet demand next year. We need to expand more," Williams said.
He'd like to triple his supply for a reason: the industry is expected to grow from just over a billion dollars in sales nationwide to 10 billion by 2018.
Companies in Colorado are sinking millions into figuring out how to consume pot in new ways.
Open Vape extracts oil from marijuana and puts into a sort of E-cigarette form, giving the user an exact amount and producing almost no smoke.
Todd Mitchem owns Open Vape and says in 2013, they saw serious growth: 1600% in one calendar year.
"We'll do another 600 percent in revenue growth next year," Mitchem said.
He says he plans to double his workforce in 2014 and has brand new offices that are right out of the dotcom playbook.
"You know there's a bunch of stereotypes," Mitchem says. "You think it's a bunch of guys smoking pot sitting around in their offices. It's not like that. This is real business. We are building a culture of excellence around cannabis."
Open Vape plans to expand to a 160,000 square-foot showcase facility on the 'cannabis corridor', aka I-25. The facility includes a cannabis museum and gift shop.
Taxes on recreational marijuana products, from smoke-able stuff to chocolates and soda, are expected to generate tens of millions of dollars for the state.
It's already creating jobs but getting one requires a few hopes. Every morning, the state's Marijuana Enforcement Division is jammed with people hoping to get their licenses to work in the new industry. The agency is overwhelmed with applications and every aspect is closely regulated.
Possession of an ounce or less is legal anywhere in the state but most counties and cities have either banned or not yet decided if they'll allow pot sales.
For many, it's baby steps and it could be the model other states follow.
"What we're hoping is that we can provide a model for other states as they elect to move forward with their own marijuana policy," Lewis Koski with Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division said.
The seed has taken root and is growing in other areas as well. The Denver Post has hired a recreational marijuana editor while people like Matt brown of My 420 Tours says non-Coloradans are excited to experience a new Rocky Mountain high.
"We anticipate just our firm easily two-to-three-thousand people on our guided tours, which are all inclusive multi-day packages."
Don't forget about cooking cannabis. Classes are being already offered and being taught with Chef Blaine Alexander saying his dream would be to open one, all thanks to marijuana.
"I would love that. That's always been my goal."