Matt Ellis doesn’t smoke weed. He simply doesn’t enjoy being stoned. The all-too-familiar itch of paranoia that follows a few deep rips of cannabis is enough to keep him from using. But that’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy—or maybe even need—weed. It’s in the one green that he sees gobs of the other.
“At the end of the day, it’s about making money,” says Ellis, whose Denver-based biomass extraction company is one of countless others riding a wave of high tech innovation in the wake of recent measures in Colorado and Washington state legalizing small amounts of weed for recreational use. “I mean, I want to help people, don’t get me wrong," Ellis tells me, referring to a medicinal pot industry brimming with new and diffuse cannabis-concentrate highs that his company, ExtractionTek Solutions, is poised to capitalize on. “But we gotta make a living.”
It’s an increasingly common refrain around here. There is no place in the world quite like Colorado, which just laid groundwork for the first regulated, taxed, legal recreational weed market in the United States. When Amendment 64 kicks in next January, adults 21 and over in Colorado will be able to legally purchase up to an ounce of weed from licensed dispensaries. They will also be able to tend their own personal grows of up to a half dozen cannabis plants, provided only three are flowering at any given time.
In a place where technology, politics, economics, science, and the pursuit of happiness collide in the latest and greatest vaporizer, chatter of a proverbial Silicon Valley of Weed has never sounded less less crazy than it does today. There are fortunes to be made in the new business of getting stoned.
By fortunes I mean the sort of numbers and opportunities that attract tinkerers like Matt Ellis and his business partner, Marcus Fauth, who interjects every so often as Matt runs us through the LHBES 1200, ETS' patent-pending turnkey extractor. The possibilities also attract people like Javen Shively, the Microsoft manager turned “Bill Gates of Bud” from Washington state who just announced a bold (if entirely naïve) plan to open up a (inter)national chain of pot shops. Whether or not that sounds crazy, that we're even talking about a Starbucks of Pot in the first place is all to say there's an almost unfathomable amount of money up for grabs in this game.