Colorado pot pioneers will soon rake in the green

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DENVER -- They took a huge risk on a taboo industry, and it could soon pay off for some Colorado entrepreneurs.

They're marijuana pioneers who may earn a big payday when recreational marijuana becomes fully legal in Colorado starting January 1.

“This is going to be an absolutely beautiful showcase," said Andy Williams, co-owner of Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in east Denver, as he shows off a massive warehouse that will soon be turned into a high-tech grow operation.

Medicine Man is largest single marijuana dispensary in Colorado, growing faster than the pot plants they produce.  And after the first of the year?

“We know that we're not going to be able to keep up with demand,” Williams told FOX31 Denver.

Marijuana has been called the “next great American industry.”  Already, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 budding entrepreneurs are looking to cash in in the U.S., and many of them are hurrying to Colorado for this cash crop.

“Everybody I know is growing as fast as they can,” Williams said.

Right now, Medicine Man is a medical marijuana dispensary and grow operation with some 60 strains of weed, not to mention the cookies and brownies and other products they sell.

Behind the counter, so-called “bud-tenders” dispense the goods.  But the business is in rapid expansion mode.  And finally, for the first time, they're getting financial help from investors and venture capitalists.

“In the last month I've raised over a million dollars myself,” Williams said.

More investors means more money, better equipment, increased production, and bigger profits, for Andy and his relatives.

The Williams call themselves a pioneering family of pot.  Three generations - nine family members – are involved in this business.  The first year they lost money, but by year two they were in the black, and next year they hope to double 2013’s revenue.

“This is a market that exceeds $50 billion if you include the black market.  That's larger than the corn industry here in the United States,” said Tripp Keber.  He started Dixie Elixirs and Edibles - a Colorado company that makes everything from soda to mints infused with marijuana.  An early investor in the once taboo industry, he says, in the next 10 years, several pot billionaires will be minted.  Who knows, he could even be one of them.

“It's been a long process and I’m excited for what the future holds,” Keber told FOX31 Denver.

Like all entrepreneurs, the guys at Medicine Man want to grow even more.  They're counting on other states to follow Colorado's legalization lead.

“And we want to move into other states and build our brand nationwide,” Williams said.