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The new pot biz: Marijuana institutes

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The explosive growth of Colorado's marijuana dispensary scene is sooo September 2009. The next big thing, it turns out, is marijuana institutes -- organizations designed to help folks makes heads or tails of the heady medical marijuana scene.

The development is a no-brainer. The state's medical marijuana law is so vague -- it doesn't mention dispensaries at all -- that every dispensary in town keeps a lawyer on retainer to help them stay on the up-and-up.

More often than not, that attorney is one of three Denver legal mavens who've created a lucrative dispensary-consulting industry for themselves. The triumvirate includes Warren Edson, one of the organizers of the state medical marijuana amendment; Brian Vicente, executive director of the drug-policy reform organization Sensible Colorado; and Robert Corry, a prominent local civil-rights attorney.

Now these lawyers have taken their business one step further -- by starting or associating themselves with official-sounding institutions offering services to dispensary owners and marijuana patients. Here's the breakdown:

  • Medical Marijuana 101 LLC: The first of the bunch, this is Warren Edson's baby. Calling itself "Colorado's premier medical marijuana educational center," the operation hosts $300, all-day classes around Denver -- the first half a primer on state marijuana law hosted by Edson and the second half a cooking and growing tutorial led by "Hans," a well-known pot connoisseur. The operation's website notes recent sessions have been sold out and some students had to be turned away.
  • Canna-Business Institute: Just launched by Brian Vicente and his colleagues, the Canna-Business Institute is, according to Vicente, "devoted to providing quality training and education to individuals interested in working in the burgeoning medical marijuana industry." In other words, a pot-themed vocational school. Upcoming seminars will cover everything from accounting to bud tending to knowing your legal rights. They cost $300 to $500 each.
  • Cannabis Therapy Institute: More of an advocacy organization than the other organizations, the Cannabis Therapy Institute has been making a lot of noise lately, encouraging dispensaries to self regulate, launching an "Always Buy Colorado Cannabis" campaign and even hosting a marijuana health fair. Robert Corry's associated with many of the institute's programs, and he's the only Denver-based medical marijuana attorney listed on its website.

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