Seattle (dpa) - Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks has more than
13,000 stores across the United States. Now a former Microsoft
executive is brewing up plans for a chain ofa href="http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/2013/6/1/colorados_medical_pot_biz_offers_look.htm">marijuana stores that he
hopes will become the Starbucks of weed.
Jamen Shively, who was a corporate strategist for Microsoft until 2009, hopes to raise some 100 million dollars over the next three years to build a chain of medical and social use marijuana stores that will test the Obama administration's tolerance for the popular herb.
He is currently raising 10 million dollars in start-up money and has already purchased three dispensaries and acquired some powerful friends, including Mexican ex-president Vicente Fox, who joined him at a news conference Thursday to outline his plans.
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 illegal drug under federal law, but 18 states now permit medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington state voters in November approved the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and up, and those laws are set to go into effect next year.
Shively's plans, while far from certain to be successful, are nevertheless a powerful sign of the changes that are transforming the US marijuana industry.
Worth an estimated 100 billion dollars per year, according to Shively, the US illegal pot market has been dominated by underground growers, hustlers and traffickers.
But with the prospect of legalization, big business could push out the thousands of small US growers who compete with the Mexican cartels to supply the lucrative US market.
So far, tobacco companies and other likely entrants have been reticent about targeting the sector given the federal ban, which not only risks criminal prosecution but makes it hard to secure other essential services such as banking, insurance and tax advantages.
But Shively is sure the tide us turning in favour of big business.
"Yes, we are Big Marijuana," he declared at a news conference in Seattle. "We're going to mint more millionaires than Microsoft with this business."
He said his company, Diego Pellicer, would engage in production, refinement, distribution and retail sale of cannabis products. He said his initiative would drive criminal elements from the business - and dared federal authorities to stop him.
"We have waited long enough for a green light from Washington, DC," he said. "The silence has been deafening. We are moving forward with our plans to build a national and eventually international network of cannabis businesses."
He gave few details about his business plans but did not hesitate to compare his grandiose vision to some of the great moments in modern history.
"The Berlin Wall of the prohibition of cannabis is weak and is crumbling as we speak," he said. "And just as happened in Berlin in 1989, the old guards who used to protect the wall of cannabis prohibition are laying down their weapons and walking away."
Vicente Fox, who has long been an advocate of marijuana legalization because of the damage caused by the drugs wars on his country, agreed that Shively's vision would strike a major blow against the drug cartels.
"What a difference it makes to have Jamen here sitting at my side instead of Chapo Guzman," he said referring to the Mexican drug kingpin. "This is the story that has begun to be written here."
Press conference video: http://dpaq.de/kGdyn
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