The Future of Pot? Leave It to the Pros, Not the Stoners

If you like puns, then you’ll love the American pot industry. Whether it’s bongs, brownies, or the buds themselves, pot-treprenuers (see what I did there) never saw a product they didn’t think could be improved by adding “Green,” “Canna,” or “Mary Jane” to the name.

“It’s like moths to a light. They go right for the cliché,” says Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that invests exclusively in post-legalization marijuana startups. On stage today at the WIRED Business Conference, Kennedy said the first crop (it’s so easy) of businesses seeking to take advantage of more liberalized marijuana laws in recent years suffered from a general lack of professionalism and standards. The cheesy branding is just one symptom of an industry whose aesthetic standards are still stuck in the college dorm room.

But for Kennedy, at least one cliché still holds an ounce of truth: for entrepreneurs,...

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