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CannBe Can’t Be: The Demise of ‘the McDonald's of Marijuana’

The dispensary at Harborside Health Center on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
The dispensary at Harborside Health Center on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
As the pot bubble bursts, a high-powered marijuana lobbying shop shuts down

It was going to be like “the McDonald’s of marijuana.”

Less than two years ago, a group of high-powered Bay Area potrepreneurs came together to form CannBe, a consulting and lobbying shop that planned to set up medical marijuana franchises across the country.

But it turns out that CannBe can’t be all that.  

The for-profit business has all but shut down. It’s no longer taking clients. Most of the staff members have been laid off. And its website is no longer up.

Robert Jacob — the CEO of CannBe who also runs a dispensary called Peace in Medicine in Sebastopol — said in an interview Tuesday that the hodge-podge of ever-changing medical marijuana regulations across city, county and state lines made it a difficult business to maintain.

“It was harder that we anticipated to keep the organization in the black with so much regulation in flux,” said Jacob. “I think with any developing industry, the pioneers in that process, especially one as complicated as medical cannabis, end up trying out different avenues that don’t always work out.”

The demise of CannBe is the latest sign that entrepreneurs jumped too quickly into the so-called "Green Rush" during the run-up to a vote on Proposition 19, the initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana use in California. The East Bay Express reported last month that WeGrow, an East Oakland hydroponics store slated to be the “Wal-Mart of weed,” was losing money and preparing to close its doors following Prop. 19's defeat. A stern warning from the U.S. Department of Justice has also put plans to permit large-scale pot farms in Oakland on ice, leaving would-be pot farmers out in the cold.

“It was a bubble,” said Dale Gieringer, the director of the marijuana advocacy organization California NORML. “It was sort of driven by the Prop. 19 campaign — a lot of people bet some chips on that and it didn’t come through.”

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