Twelve states now treat a personal stash like a minor traffic offense, 17 allow medical marijuana, and this Election Day, if current polls hold, voters in Washington State and Colorado will vote to legalize marijuana—not for medical purposes but, as Rolling Stone recently enthused, “for getting-high purposes.”
That would close out a 40-year fight launched by boomers and carried through by a big tent of talented reformers, growing bigger all the time. “Weed is the new gay,” says Ted Trimpa, a Democratic strategist who helped engineer Colorado’s flip from red state to blue. He’s now focused on marijuana reform. But what I saw in Colorado was something altogether new: self-described “social entrepreneurs,” the Sergey Brins and Mark Zuckerbergs of the Green Rush. They could have done almost anything with their lives—“my brother is a physician” is the kind of thing one hears from them—but they chose to enter the pot business because they see it as a boom market, miracle cure, and social movement decades in the making and suddenly, thrillingly, near…
“Look at this fat boy,” says Arbelaez, cupping the flowering buds of a short, stocky plant. “Ain’t that beautiful?” I nodded. His whole operation had an aesthetic to it, with different seasons being replicated inside different rooms and a team of growers acting as botanical gods: thanks to sensors in each growing room, if the conditions slip, the plant minders get a text message.
But the most impressive space was the one in sync with the natural world, a stand of marijuana plants fed by natural light through the roof, the pot leaves looming up overhead, casting shadows. Arbelaez appears over my shoulder. “What are you writing down?” he asks. I show him the page. “BIG TREES,” it says, and he laughs, bending down to wrap his hand around a three- or four-inch trunk. “That is a tree, bro.”