A worker checking a bar code on a marijuana plant at in Denver, Colo. (Credit: © 694880562092)
You've heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco. But is the U.S. ready for Big Pot? At least one businessman thinks so, and he says he's going to produce the first commercial, large-scale brand of marijuana, which he hopes eventually to import, legally, from Mexico.

Voters in Colorado and Washington state last year agreed to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. On Thursday, Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft (MSFT) executive, told reporters his Seattle business wants to become to medical and recreational marijuana what Starbucks (SBUX) is to coffee: a dominating brand that leads its industry. (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)

"It's a giant market in search of a brand," Shively was quoted by Reuters. "We would be happy if we get 40% of it worldwide."

Marijuana is still illegal in the U.S. under federal law, but a 2005 U.N. report estimated the global pot trade at $142 billion.

Shively, 45, is looking for $10 million in startup funds from investors for his Diego Pellicer brand -- named after Shively's great-great-grandfat​her, a Spaniard who produced hemp and marijuana in the late 1800s.

In an interview last year with KIRO-TV in Seattle, Shively said his brand won't be cheap. But "by creating the category of premium marijuana, we want to position it similar to a fine cognac, a fine brandy, a fine cigar. Something to be savored and enjoyed, in small quantities by responsible adults."

Also appearing with Shively on Thursday was Vincente Fox. The ex-president of Mexico, former executive for Coca-Cola (KO) and advocate for marijuana's decriminalization, Fox called Shively's plans a game changer.

"What a difference it makes to have Jamen here sitting at my side instead of Chapo Guzman," Fox said, referring to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. "This is the story that has begun to be written here."

According to The Associated Press, Shively will work with a Washington state chain of medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as similar businesses in California and Colorado. Although his plans are likely to come up against federal laws on conspiracy and distribution of an illegal substance, Shively says, his operation is "a conspiracy to obey the law."

"Neither Diego Pellicer nor our investors are exposed to any significant risk, in terms of criminal risk," he said Thursday. "In terms of criminal risk, that is vastly mitigated. . . . We're making strategic investments, but we're making them in such a way that they are not in violation of either federal or state law."

We'd suggest as a slogan for Shively's new enterprise: "When you say bud . . ."

But that one is already taken.

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