Colorado’s new growth industry: pot

logoDENVER — Two hedge-fund partners — monogrammed shirts, taut Windsor knots, cuff links — step into a hipster cafe called Sputnik on an unorthodox mission.

They are meeting a business consultant to discuss a way to boost share prices at one of their portfolio companies, which sells indoor garden kits for tomatoes, herbs, flowers and salad greens. Their idea is to tap into a new market, one they need to be discreet about for fear of blemishing the publicly traded company’s reputation:

Similar meetings have been taking place across Colorado in the two months since state voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing the adult use of recreational weed. The state has become a nucleus of the rapidly evolving marijuana industry, offering a glimpse at what life might be like if weed is legalized nationwide, with companies, entrepreneurs and investors maneuvering for a piece of the expected boom.

Dispensaries are handing out glossy prospectuses to lure investors. Luxury cannabis leisure magazines in the vein of Cigar Aficionado are promoting the industry and cannabis tourism. Companies are jostling for various sectors of the market, from grow lights to point-of-sale systems. And marijuana growers are shedding the pothead vibe to sell their services to MBAs, who may have the capital to get started but not the arcane knowledge required to produce good weed.

The hedge-fund partners from Lazarus Management Co. are among the new breed. They have come to Sputnik to talk to Ean Seeb, a consultant specializing in marijuana.

“In the past you had a bunch of marijuana enthusiasts with little or no business acumen looking to get into this industry,” said Seeb, 37, co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting. “Now we’re seeing a complete role reversal. A bunch of businessmen with a lot of money who recognize this opportunity, and they have no clue what they’re doing as far as cultivation.”

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