Is brand-name pot more than a pipe dream?

Jamen Shively has a strategy to create a Starbucks of marijuana. He has some major support and is looking for investors.

By Bruce Kennedy May 31, 2013 2:22PM

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-grandfather, 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.

More on moneyNOW

May 31, 2013 4:05PM

Maybe these guys should do a little market research and figure out that most people in CO an WA do not like low grade outdoor Mexican weed.


May 31, 2013 3:38PM
Well here we go to readily available high-grade marijuana.  Here we go with chincey corporations ruining and selling out America from the very inception of the business.  I can't believe they are already planning on using Mexican grow Marijuana for their corporate chain of hookah lounges.  Oh well, maybe another start-up will focus on American grown Marijuana for smoking and baked goods.  I appreciate the fact that someone is willing to put some money into a mariju****gal corporation.  I think it is great overall.  We just need to do away with the Mcdonalds/Starbucks franchise theme which is so pervasive. 
May 31, 2013 4:20PM
Does Corporate America have to have their greedy little fingers in every f@cking pie out there?  Right now, for a lot of small time growers this is the only income they can get, the economy is still pretty much crap regarding the availability of good jobs (no Mcdonalds does not qualify as a "good job") .  Why can't one potential industry be "set aside" by legislation for only small business?  Allow families to be able to make a reasonable living and not allow Big Business to come in and drive all the mom and pops out of business!
May 31, 2013 4:31PM
They could open up a prostitute pot shop, Boned and Stoned
May 31, 2013 4:27PM
are you kidding me ? the USA is the greatest nation on earth. We can cultivate this stuff ourselves. How in the world can we let these guys take over, even if they have the cartels secretly in their pockets. We can do this better and stamp it, "Made In USA ". Just don't let the labor unions in on it.
May 31, 2013 4:23PM

Another form of Cartel, do not trust his scheme, Close the NAFTA. ASAP Don't support 'high grade mexican', Keep North America Green. Keep the Cartels Out of The USA. (Oh yes I did read the article, as well as interpret it's true meaning, so keep your comments! I don't want to hear em!)

Peace Out!

May 31, 2013 4:33PM
I wouldn't buy it from mexico, when we can grow it here, wtf, already they going to import it. more us people out of work. 2nd mexico doesn't have strict rules or inspections, so you never know what they would put on it, like insecticides chemicals to make it grow. and this is the main prob with outsourcing any produce, you never know what your going to with your product
May 31, 2013 5:06PM
Let me get this straight ,you want 10 million in start up to turn around and peddle sh!tty  Mexican weed here in the US at premium prices?This is one of the few things America does better than anyone else. I don't see the sales panning out. However that isn't what he is looking for.He is looking to get 10 million in investment capital knowing that neither government is going to allow this to happen at this point in time.Hopefully there is no one stupid enough to give him a dime.
May 31, 2013 5:00PM

Great, another sociopath, using cheap Mexican labor, instead of Americans, to grow pot in Mexico, instead of the Cartels. I suppose he expects the Cartels will welcome them with open arms! Or will Shively hire Halliburton and Blackwater (Xe) to protect the crops with mercenaries?


When greed is more important than the pesticides, the polluted Mexican water, and the lack of sanitary conditions in Mexico, Shively will, of course, be just another outsourcer, who won't employ Americans to do the work, in America, while he will have to buy the legislation to deliver his product across the border, since it is still a federal offense, while better quality Marijuana can be grown in anyone's back yard who can grow weeds!


Better quality, my ****! You mean, better for Shively, since he can hide the profits in Mexico, while American taxpayers will have to subsidize his wealth with a tax refund, because his plan is to sell it across the border for pennies on the dollar more than he paid himself with his LLC, to purchase it for hundreds of times more than it actually cost to produce the first time, placing all that profit in a hidden bank, where it will never get taxed.

May 31, 2013 4:50PM
Makes no sense to send any income out of the states. It can be grow here and create jobs here. What the hell is wrong with these people. mikeyknows must know know much or he would know that there are more druggies addicted to those pain killers, it is killing them by overdose and multiple side affects. Tell me where you have ever heard of a case of overdose with marijuanna.
May 31, 2013 4:49PM
Most likely he will eventually piss off the mexi cartels over something, and they will toss his headless corpse down a dry Mexican well, never to be heard from again.
May 31, 2013 5:28PM
May 31, 2013 5:13PM
Starbucks only knows how to burn coffee and cover it up with massive amounts of oily creamlike derivatives and pounds of sugar. What makes any stupid American think their quality marijuana will be any better when they have to transport it in Mexican trucks that have no refrigeration, in the form of bricks that squishes all the THC into the leaves, rendering it useless for smoking or ingestion?
May 31, 2013 5:06PM
Of course, we can be sure Monsanto won't use deadly pesticides to pollute the already polluted water supplies in Mexico, and the marijuana, so people will only drink the beer, and refuse to smoke the pesticides? Somehow, the Shively pot will find a miraculously clean body of water, with clean employees, willing to work for pennies a day, while sleeping on adjacent hillsides, while all their feces can roll down the hill and help fertilize the crops....woohoo!
May 31, 2013 4:20PM
Anybody ever watch the show "Weeds"? A total rip-off of the premise. (And I wrotethis at 4:20) That's irony...
May 31, 2013 4:47PM
But you won't be able to smoke it within 25 ft. of the building.
May 31, 2013 5:34PM
Surely you realize that by suggesting the name 'Budweiser', you are actually suggesting using the acronym 'Because U Deserve What Every Individual Should Enjoy Regularly''s slick!

Thought I would point that little bit of truth out to those that may not know.
May 31, 2013 5:23PM

It's really only a matter of time before the Feds give in and finally let it become legal.

The majority of Americans already want it. It will be great source of taxable revenue and the gov't knows this.

Keep the Marijuana industry here in th US. Calif grows some of the best in the world already.

Just as private Ca vineyards produce some of the best wines, let our own fertile lands legally produce high quality cannabis. Can you imagine the jobs it would open up? Let Mexico enjoy their own


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