Pot Business Pipe Dreams
It's time to take a trip into the future. It's no longer 2014. It's the year 2030. We are chauffeured in driverless cars. The Chinese now occupy most of the Middle East and have made peace with the Israelis by offering them unlimited sweet-and-sour chicken by drone in under 30 minutes. Vladimir Putin, who at the age of 78, is still president of Russia, has come out of the closet and legalized gay marriage. Wearable technology has become so advanced that our clothes are making dates with themselves. People are legally smoking pot in the U.S., and Colorado, the first state to allow this, is the center of the pot world. Seth Rogen is president.
And you are rich. You saw what happened in 2014 in Colorado, and you made your move. You're not a big pot-smoker, but you realized that it isn’t every day that new industries are born. Back then, you were a risk taker, more mobile and entrepreneurial. You had some time and energy and a little cash to invest. At the time, most of the media were paying attention to the little retail shops and pot growers. But you saw other opportunities. Many opportunities, actually.
You were the first to recognize the tourism potential of the Colorado Cannabis Country. You saw the popularity of those wine-country tours in the Napa Valley. Why not Colorado? So you started your own marijuana-country tours near Denver. You opened hotels. You gave guided tours. You partnered with marijuana farms to provide pot tastings and growing lessons. You brought in visitors from all over the world to enjoy the natural pleasures of the Colorado marijuana industry. You also bought the rights to every Cheech and Chong movie. Genius.
You realized the need for equipment and transport. You saw that a growing industry of marijuana production would need an efficient supply line. You bought trucks and fitted them for the specific purpose of distributing marijuana throughout Colorado and to the other 48 states (Floridians still can't decide) to maximize shelf life and quality. You invested in companies that made lighting and manufacturing and storage equipment needed by pot growers.
You bought shares in big tobacco. You realized early on that once the production of marijuana took hold and grew, it wouldn't take long before big companies jumped into the game. And what big companies are better for the production and distribution of marijuana than tobacco-producing companies like Philip Morris and China National Tobacco Co., who manufactures 43% of the world's tobacco? They've got the infrastructure, the know-how, the people, the money and the desire to diversify too. Your investments have quadrupled in value.
You went into the financial-services business. You realized that, big company or not, there will be plenty of small companies, farms, retail shops and other services looking to profit from this infant industry as it grows. They will need equipment and warehouses and people which will all require working capital. And you were there to provide it to them. You loaned money. You took a few equity positions. You competed with some banks. You partnered with others. You helped to drive the growth of the industry.
You started a myriad of consulting firms. You knew that the pot-growing industry would be rife with issues. Issues that would need experts to solve. There would be environmental concerns. Legal problems, both state and federal. The industry would need to double down on its political-action activities to fight those that opposed it. Existing and new companies would need specialists to help them with market research, business law, accounting, warehouse management, security, waste management, labor issues, human resources and other problems. And you were there to help. You brought in these experts. You started some of these firms.
You became a marijuana tech god. You realized early on that the companies who were manufacturing and growing marijuana products would need software to help them manage their operations, everything from inventory and cost controls to sales orders, general ledger and payments. And that retailers would need point-of-sale and security systems. You saw the need for hardware, particularly bar-coders, routers, wiring, devices for input and, yes, even servers to store and process transactions. You also took advantage of the growing demand for Colorado marijuana throughout the world where every country, with the exception of Mexico (Wait. . . What?) has legalized pot and people are clamoring to get a taste of that mountain-grown weed. So you helped build successful ecommerce and informational websites mainly because you employed absolutely no one who was involved in the 2013 Obamacare rollout.
It is now 2030 and you have proved yourself to be a smart person. You were entrepreneurial back in 2014. . . at just the right time! You are rich and life is good, so go ahead, kick back, fill up your bong and treat yourself to a few episodes of the Kardashian Grandchildren in Vegas. You earned it.
GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.