Who profits if Colorado legalizes pot for recreational use? A Newsweek cover story explores this question, showing the tension between the polished public persona of pot entrepreneurs and the “shadowy roots” of the industry. Reporter Tony Dokoupil introduces readers to young, articulate, clean-cut “pot barons” who “chose to enter the pot business because they see it as a boom market, miracle cure, and social movement decades in the making.” The story follows the Colorado lobbying ventures of Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG) and its efforts to make marijuana a respectable, legalized but regulated industry.
It’s also a profitable industry. In Colorado, the for-profit marijuana business employs more than 4,000 people and garners $200 million in sales to 100,000 medical marijuana patients. Industry profits will explode if Colorado legalizes the recreational use of marijuana—an estimated extra billion dollars in revenue. One board member admits to Newsweek, “I think we all saw dollar signs in our eyes.” Tobacco companies are rumored to be making plans to cash in, and marijuana sellers will have to start cultivating “heavy users” to sustain profits. Dokoupil writes, “Colorado’s burgeoning pot business could be the basis for a third huge, blood-sucking vice industry, dependent on converting kids and supporting heavy users.”