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Investors listen to pitches from medical pot entrepreneurs


One entrepreneur pitched the idea of creating a hand-held device that would scan marijuana and then explain how it would affect you.

Another tried to sell the idea of a mobile app that would connect you to a courier who would deliver medical marijuana to your doorstep.

Yet a third suggested that marijuana’s image desperately needs a makeover.

“The medical marijuana industry is in its infancy, growing with increasing acceptance throughout the country,” Joshua Gordon, the CEO of the Miami-based Rodawg Inc., told a roomful of venture capitalists in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday.

“But currently it lacks a sense of professionalism. Marijuana is dispersed in black market-type packaging, and no company addresses the lifestyle of the sophisticated smoker — a smoker not interested in hemp necklaces or reggae albums but with products that would fit in with his iPhone or Gucci wallet.”

Then one of the investors in the audience, after checking his cellphone, screamed out that the Obama administration had just declared it was planning to roll out regulations that soon would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana dispensaries.

The room erupted in cheers in what became an informal five-minute break. Then the participants went back to their presentations. They talked about developing a pharmaceutical drug that mimics the euphoria of marijuana, manufacturing odorless and opaque bags, and providing organic edibles, among other ideas.

ArcView Investor Network, based in San Francisco, hosted the gathering at Meet Las Vegas. The company is made up of millionaires and billionaires who, for more than a year, have been pairing accredited members with medical marijuana entrepreneurs in what has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing industries, one that has reported $1.5 billion in annual sales.

The presentations, delivered mostly by an out-of-state crowd, capped off the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference. It also comes at a time when Nevada is preparing to finalize its guidelines for an estimated 66 medical marijuana dispensaries by April 1, with 40 of them authorized to operate in Clark County.

A few elected officials from across the country were on hand.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat, said he just introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana in his state, but Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has said he will veto it if it’s considered illegal by the federal government.

And then there was New York Assemblyman Stephen M. Katz, a Republican who voted against a medical marijuana bill in 2012, then was busted for possession of marijuana after being pulled over for speeding.

Since then, Katz, who is a member of ArcView, has said he has had a change of heart.

“It’s a dream come true, what’s happening across the country, and the fact that I’m a child from the ’60s, well, I don’t have to say much more than that,” he told the crowd.

But it was Nevada’s own state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the author of the new state law, who made this bold prediction: Las Vegas, over time, will become “the future Amsterdam of America.”

He later elaborated, saying that recreational use of marijuana in Nevada would have to be approved by the state Legislature before Sin City could even think of having a “fighting chance” to become the next Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands and a party mecca for tourists ever since marijuana was decriminalized in the mid-1970s.

“Right now, we’re having a hard enough time just getting the city of Las Vegas to sign off on the idea as pertains to the medical front,” he said, referring to the city’s six-month moratorium on dispensary owner applications.

“But I’m confident that over time, everything will work out and we will see an ordinance that welcomes medical marijuana dispensaries here.”

Reggie Burton, a spokesman for ArcView, said the investors probably would not make a decision for the next couple of weeks on whether to lend the entrepreneurs at least $50,000 a piece, the standard minimum investment.

“They’re going to mull it all over and take their time,” Burton said. “These are some tough decisions to make, and there were a lot of qualified applicants with some great ideas.”

Contact reporter Tom Ragan at tragan@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

 

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