With marijuana ballot initiatives leading the polls in nine states, the biggest winners in the November 8 election could be Silicon Valley venture capitalists funding “ganjapreneurs.”
U.S. legal marijuana sales hit $5.4 billion in 2015. Legalizing medical marijuana is on the ballot in the five states of Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota; while Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada are set to pass laws legalizing adult recreational use. After November, the marijuana industry, led by California, is expected to more than quadruple in five years, according to a report published by ArcView Market Research.
Mid-October national surveys by the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of American adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, versus the 60 percent of Americans that were opposed to legalized pot just 10 years ago.
It should not be surprising that the home of the entrepreneurial class looking to dominate the new industry is Silicon Valley. The biggest activist for the passage of California’s Proposition 64 initiative is billionaire former Facebook President and Napster founder Sean Parker. He has donated over $8.5 million of the $16 million raised toward passage recreational pot use. He alone swamped the opposition’s $1.6 million in fundraising.
Another big Silicon Valley player supporting Prop 64 is Nicholas Pritzker, former CEO of Hyatt Hotels and Chairman of San Francisco’s Tao Capital Partners, who donated $250,000 to Prop 64 passage. Tao is a major venture capital investor in MJ Freeway, a firm providing software to help players in the legal marijuana industry track and report sales to government regulators and tax authorities.
Despite the fact that marijuana is still categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 drug, like heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote, the Bay Area has spawned a large number of disruptive marijuana-based startups that include B2C apps for on-demand delivery and B2B enterprise software for growers and dispensary sales.
Breitbart News spoke with a number of interested Silicon Valley venture capitalists, representing billions of investment dollars. They expect to start investing visibly in “ganjapreneurs” once Prop 64 passes. A number have already been involved in companies that provide services for “medical marijuana,” but many want the “Good Housekeeping Seal” of a vote by the people before jumping into an industry growing at a 29 percent compounded annual rate.
The most visible “ganjapreneur” venture capitalist is the Los Angeles-based $100 million MedMen Opportunity Fund L.P. The organization refers to itself as “the only full-service management company serving North America’s legal cannabis industry.” MedMen claims it “combines a key understanding of the fragmented regulatory environment and an institutional operating management platform unparalleled in the industry.”
Co-founder Adam Bierman recently told NBC, “I really believe California really is a watershed moment for this industry,” He expects passing all 9 initiatives for legal pot could spell an almost instant tripling of legal cannabis sales in the U.S. Bierman believes that type of sales spike will drive rapid innovation and attract talented entrepreneurs.
Other early stage ganjapreneur VC firms include rapper Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, Gateway, Poseidon Asset Management and Electrum Partners.
One of the more interesting ganjapreneur start-ups is San Francisco-based Octavia Wellness, which operates a multi-level marketing operation to make it easier for seniors to access medical marijuana. Octavia’s representatives make a commissions selling marijuana products, but they can also become wholesalers by recruiting friends to be their distributors.
Octavia acknowledges that their business model to distribute pot is based on the 1950s ding-dong “Avon Calling” for cosmetics.