The momentum for pot legalization is getting an awesome push from an entrepreneur determined to make his company the Starbucks of marijuana. This is at The Stranger:
Jamen Shively, CEO of Seattle-based Diego Pellicer, announced plans this afternoon to invest $100 million over the next three years in the burgeoning “social marijuana” market with a national chain of marijuana stores. In doing so, the former Microsoft manager is not only taking a page from the Howard Shultz playbook for building Starbucks, he’s also testing the Obama administration’s tolerance for flouting federal drug prohibition.
“Yes, we are Big Marijuana,” Shively, 45, said unabashedly about ambitions to “be the most recognized brand in an industry that does not exist yet.” And in doing so, politically, Shively would also create the first consolidated economic engine that advocates for legalization.
At a press conference in downtown’s tallest skyscraper, Shively said he and business partners will begin in Washington State and Colorado, where rules for legal pot come online this year, and wait as voters pick off prohibition across the country. Flanked by lawyers, a state lawmaker, and former Mexico president Vicente Fox, Shively said he is a “couple weeks” from an initial $10 million milestone, and within three years, he fully expects to open—some medical marijuana and some recreational marijuana—a dozen branded stores in Washington State, another dozen stores in Colorado, and as many as hundreds in California (a state where only medical marijuana is currently legal but where voters are widely expected to legalize recreational pot in 2016).
To my mind, this is great news, and will help wind down the drug war in general, as Vicente Fox is noted in the article as observing:
Keeping his headquarters in Seattle, near Green Lake, Shively says that means employing about 1,000 people locally and 10,000 people nationwide. And sounding like Big Hamburger, Shively says he predicted “tens of millions” of customers will be served.
Former Mexican president [Vicente] Fox star-studded the presser to argue Shively’s investment in the United States’ pot market, an estimated $100 billion industry, is about more than lucrative returns. Fox said the business was “making history” by transferring the cannabis revenues from murderous drug cartels to licensed corporations. A legitimate “business investment… will bring a solution to Mexico’s huge crime problem,” Fox told me. “Criminals won’t be able to get the money because the money will be in the hands of people like Jamen.”
This is a matter of states’ rights. And with big business getting in on the act, even Republicans may back off on the matter of pot legalization and let it happen. This could definitely turn into a big national election issue in 2016 if any politician campaigns to stop pot legalization in states where voters want it. And to accommodate what individual states are doing, the federal laws need to start evolving now, so it’s time for President Obama to get out front on the issue.