"like a bottle of brandy or a box of Godiva chocolates"

As permissive laws encourage a new wave of entrepreneurs to join the cannabis economy, a Big Marijuana food chain is beginning to connect across the country, linking farmers to distributers, store owners to customers, and investors to successful weed-driven enterprises. In the post-prohibition era, cannabis expertise, even more so than the drug itself, is a valuable product.

No American marijuana industry could exist without someone willing to get their hands dirty and actually grow the plant. Jason Katz is one of those pioneers. After deciding to make a career change, Katz became intrigued by the burgeoning medical marijuana economy. He traveled to Colorado to make some industry connections, raised money from family and friends to start a marijuana grow operation, and moved to Denver in March of 2010.

Going green wasn’t so simple, however. Colorado’s House Bill 1284, passed in June 2010, made it more difficult to run a business solely based on growing marijuana and selling it wholesale, encouraging the consolidation of grow operations with medicinal dispensaries — “You had all these forced marriages,” Katz explained. So he hooked up with Jon Salfeld, the founder of Local Product, an established Colorado dispensary remarkable for its professionalism and highbrow brand image, not unlike a hip micro-brewery. Katz is now the company’s head of operations, managing its production of choice weed strains like the award-winning BC Purps, THC-infused oils, and hash. (Katz gave up marijuana for a number of years in his twenties, but has lately been “experimenting” with different products.)

2011 brought a rolling series of new state regulations that the company successfully navigated. “It was all about who can stay alive,” Katz said. By late 2012, Local Product had settled into a routine, focusing on achieving maximum production capacity and building out their staff. But that process wasn’t easy, either. “It’s hard to find a qualified individual for a grow operation when two years ago, anyone who did that was part of an illicit market,” he said. “There was nobody telling them what to do.”

Read More | "Big Cannabis: Growing The Next Great American Industry" | Kyle Chayka | ?ANIMAL New York