Business narrative of the halcyon dawn of marijuana legalization.
Hageseth is an old-school drug warrior’s worst nightmare: an affable, articulate venture capitalist who argues that correcting prohibition’s folly will benefit both investors and society at large. In witty and informed, if overly casual, prose, he narrates his immersion in the cannabis industry, alongside the broader narrative of social resistance to the substance’s government-engineered demonization. The author begins with his ambition to build the Green Man Cannabis ranch, a “$30 million tourist destination” where visitors could enjoy cannabis like fine wine. He still seems astonished by the speed of change, having entered the medical marijuana field in 2009. Before that, he had prospered via unorthodox investments before taking losses in the housing bubble collapse. A chance encounter with a high-end grower ignited his curiosity: “It took me all of ten minutes to go from a guy falling in love with what was getting him high to a business guy” looking for opportunity. Hageseth faced a steep learning curve, dealing with eccentric, shifty growers, burglaries, and law enforcement, who were simultaneously surly and curious about the new gray areas. His business acumen helps demystify the underground growers’ culture. “Because we were doing things cheap and small-minded,” he writes, “we had unwittingly introduced glaring inefficiencies into the system.” Though he initially seemed headed for failure, he saw “a critical element that weed had that no other industry had: opportunity.” Sure enough, his investments in high-end grow spaces and personnel paid dividends, as his improved product began flying out of dispensaries and winning industry awards. Green Man was thus ideally positioned for the surprise 2012 legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado. Hageseth closes his overview with a set of proposals for corporate oversight, law enforcement and public safety, given that widespread acceptance of cannabis seems increasingly inevitable.
An accessible primer on the capitalistic opportunities presented by this vice gone suddenly mainstream.