America's Next Magnates: The 'Pot Barons'
Marijuana sellers may be the next Mark Zuckerbergs
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2012 3:22 PM CDT
In an April 20, 2005 file photo, a University of Colorado freshman joins a crowd smoking marijuana during a "420" gathering at Farrand Field at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.   (AP Photo/Longmont Daily Times-Call, Richard M. Hackett, File)

(Newser) – Pot sellers are goofy free spirits suited to the tie-dye culture of Venice Beach, right? Not 30 years from now, when they'll be "fatter, balder, and famously rich" tycoons in the vein of Steve Ballmer or Andrew Carnegie, writes Tony Dokoupil at the Daily Beast. He visited marijuana businesses in Denver—where the state regulates a for-profit pot market—and hung out with clean-cut, BlackBerry-loving entrepreneurs who hire lobbyists, woo state senators, and occasionally fear that the federal government will shut them down.

"This is our Facebook,” says Norton Arbelaez, who owns a commercial grow and two dispensaries. "This is the same kind of environment, the same kind of setting, and the same kind of people." He even crafted a bill with other marijuana makers that bans felons from the business and forces new entrants to pay up to six figures. Still, what they do is illegal under federal law—so health coverage, credit-card transactions, and IRS deductions remain impossible. "Not a whole lot of money is being made," admits Arbelaez. "We’ve all had sleepless nights," adds his partner, Jon Salfeld. "We’ve all had scares."