COLORADO: One is a former oil man. Another was the president of a company that produced baby sleep positioners. There’s a boutique real estate developer of an Aspen hotel and a 32-year-old former commercial banker who opened her own consulting company.
The names of some of Colorado’s biggest marijuana moguls are not well known outside the industry — or in some cases, even inside it. Some like it that way, preferring a low profile in a risky business.
One thing those on the list 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.
“You will find that the successful ones are professionals,” said Chris Walsh, editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily, an industry trade publication. “They’ll wear a suit to a meeting. They understand their company’s books and finances. … These guys picked up pretty quickly that you’ve got to be professional in this.”
Through information obtained in public-records requests to state regulators, The Denver Post has been able — for the first time — to identify several of the leading medical-marijuana business owners in Colorado. Because of new laws that give preference to owners of medical-marijuana dispensaries, these owners are well positioned to jump into the state’s newly legalized recreational marijuana market.
Put another way: If Colorado’s groundbreaking new laws on marijuana create pot barons, they could very well be these folks.
Most of the larger dispensary owners are guarding their business plans for post-Amendment 64 Colorado — or waiting to see what kind of rules municipalities adopt governing recreational pot shops.
“We have been discussing it since the morning after 64 passed,” said Brooke Gehring, a member of a group that owns four dispensaries, some of which once teetered on the brink of collapse. “We see it as an opportunity for another new market that’s opening up, and we’re going to have the real estate, strategy and systems in place to continue to be an industry leader.”
The list of owners provided to The Post comes with significant limitations.
One quarter of the state’s roughly 500 medical-marijuana dispensaries don’t have a state license but are instead operating under a pending license application. Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division officials, saying those applications are not public records, will not provide the names of the dispensaries’ owners.