By Tim Donnelly
Josh Gordon would cut a dashing figure in a suit. He grew up in Miami, Fla., as the son of two private wealth managers and saw himself going into the same field. He enrolled in Fordham Graduate School of Business, moved to the Upper West Side and had some interviews for jobs with investment banks.
But, it turns out, a suit’s not his style.
It was at Fordham that, for a class project four years ago, he did research into the new legal marijuana economy. Some people’s eyes get red around marijuana; Gordon’s filled with dollar signs. The budding economy was in need of some refinement, and he saw a plan.
He soon built a prototype: a sleek tin carrying case for joints — something that would do for doobies what the velvet bag does for Crown Royal.
“You go into a dispensary and buy $100 worth of cannabis and it’s coming in that bag you got when you were going to school,” the 27-year-old says in a glass-lined conference room on West Broadway.
His dad, whom Gordon calls “a conservative guy” who retired from Wall Street five years ago, was skeptical at first. But he eventually joined Gordon to put in an initial $60,000 and raise $500,000 in seed capital to start Bureau (formerly known as Rodawg), which wants to position its marijuana storage devices as a lifestyle brand for dispensaries and users, on par with the likes of John Varvatos and Godiva chocolates.
They’re far from the only ones who are seeing through what used to be the hazy future of pot-related businesses.
At a Crain’s New York Business breakfast meeting last week, a conference room was packed with more than 200 people mingling — chatting about training for marathons while clicking away at iPads or reading copies of the Economist. They’d all come there to talk about a topic that used to be limited to locked dormitory bathrooms and hula-hooping Grateful Dead circles: marijuana.
The stakes, as advertised at the event, were “high.”
But the attendees were certainly not.
“I remember when we went to our first trade show in 2011. Everyone was just simply getting stoned,” says Richard Yost, a Staten Islander who founded Ideal 420 Soil, a company that develops planting soil specifically for marijuana. “Now you go to a trade show and it’s a completely different ball game . . . We’re sophisticated businessmen.”
That huge whooshing sound you hear? It’s not a Columbia student doing a rip off a 4-foot bong — it’s the sound of traders, bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and a lot of generally buttoned-up individuals rushing to get a hit from what is a rapidly maturing, and already incredibly lucrative, industry.
Goodbye Shakedown Street, hello Wall Street.
The national legal marijuana market is worth $1.53 billion, according to a November 2013 report from ArcView Market Research, a San Francisco-based investor group focused on the marijuana industry. In five years, that number is expected to leap to more than $10 billion…
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