Colorado 'Green Rush' Pot Entrepreneurs Gear up to Open Shop, Face Hurdles

Image: Colorado 'Green Rush' Pot Entrepreneurs Gear up to Open Shop, Face Hurdles Jan. 26, 2013 photo taken at a "grow house" in Denver shows marijuana plants ready for harvest.

Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 11:57 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Since Colorado legalized pot for recreational use in November, legislation that will take effect in 2014, entrepreneurs in the Rocky Mountain state have been gearing up for "Green Rush" production, a billion-dollar industry in coming decades.

"Green Rush" entrepreneurs, as the business people are nicknamed, are flocking to the state to turn their plans into reality. Because medicinal marijuana is legal in the state, producers have already laid the foundation for entrepreneurs.

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Despite the prospects, "Green Rush" entrepreneurs have several hurdles they must overcome before they can open up shop. For one, most banks are opposed to giving loans to pot-related startups. Some even reject business owners from opening bank accounts with them, The Washington Post reported.

The banks' hesitance stems from an uncertainty about whether the federal government will swoop in unexpectedly and seize clients' money, effectively nullifying the controversial legislation.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would soon issue a response to the legislation, which passed in Colorado and Washington last year, The Post reproted.

Washington passed the measure on a ballot vote last November.

Kristi Kelly, a 35-year-old former ad agency executive who started a 65,000-square-foot "grow facility" in Colorado three years ago for medicinal marijuana, said she has had a hard time with local banks.

"The people who are lucky enough to have bank accounts guard them with their lives," Kelly told The Post. "I tend to stay as conservative as possible on as much as possible. We’re not those Woodstock hippies who have had secret grows in the mountains for decades. We’re business people."

In Colorado's constitutional amendment, the government would "regulate marijuana like alcohol." Adults can buy the drug in small amounts. Dispensaries must register with the state before transactions can take place.

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There are more than 500 businesses selling medical marijuana in Colorado. Last year, $186 million worth of cannabis was sold for medical purposes, according to tax receipts.

The figure could rise to $920 million next year, the Colorado Legislative Council estimates, once the amendment allowing for recreational use takes effect.

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