Marijuana entrepreneurs pitch ideas in ‘Shark Tank’ style forum

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Nina Mehlhaf, KGW 10:00 AM. PDT May 03, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thirty marijuana-related business owners are vying for millions of dollars at a downtown Portland hotel this week.

It’s the first time this “Shark Tank” style forum has come to Oregon. It’s loosely based on the hit TV show where investors hear the business pitch, then decide if they’ll provide a stake in the company or capital.

Oregon officials just recently lifted the restriction that marijuana investors had to be from within the state. Now, 200 high-net-worth investors from around the country are at the downtown Marriott Hotel this week for the Top Cannabis Pitch Forum.

Previously in the tech sector, stocks and banking industries, the investors are making the jump to the marijuana industry.

They’re with Arcview Investments Group, and have given $70 million to more than 100 businesses linked to pot.

“They’re saying wow, and there’s no big multi-national players in this?” Arcview CEO Troy Dayton said. “This is a huge opportunity, not just from an economic and growth creation standpoint, but because many of them are impact investors, they want to see a world where people aren’t punished for cannabis.”

That’s what former Portland Trail Blazer Cliff Robinson is all about. His cannabis and hemp business “Uncle Spliffy” aims to one day get professional sports on board with medical marijuana use. He’s one of the 30 entrepreneurs making the tough pitch for money.

“When you go out and play basketball, you’re focused on the court, you’re not focused on the people around you,” Robinson said. “This is different, where you have to get in there, sell your company and sell yourself.”

In November, Arcview says at least nine more states will vote on legal pot. They believe Oregon has become a leader, with the lowest taxes and regulations. Investors see that as a way to make money on the homegrown ideas like Justin Roney’s, Sow1Farm based in Hillsboro.

Roney’s company ferments food scraps into organic potting soil, available for any gardener but he’s targeting marijuana growers.

“Nowhere in the world are there 200 high-net-worth investors looking for businesses kind of like ours,” Roney said.

Arcview projects that by the year 2029, the legal marijuana industry will be worth $100 billion.

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