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Bourbon Fortune Heir Has Plans For Cannabis Empire

Jim Beam, one of the world’s most famous bourbon brands, has a long history of taking products out of the murky shadows of illegality and into the light of lawfulness. It appears one heir of the family fortune will replicate the success in a new sector: Cannabis.

According to a Bloomberg report, Ben Kovler, whose great-grandfather Harry Blum helped build Jim Beam into a global leader, plans to take his marijuana business public. Kovler, 39, sees similarities between the liquor industry of the 1930s and today’s market for cannabis.

Kovler is the founder, chairman and largest shareholder of Green Thumb Industries, a cultivator, processor and dispensary business operating in six U.S. states. Kovler plans to take GTI public in June. GTI owns and operates 12 marijuana dispensaries in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois, and has plans to expand to Florida. With products in more than 100 stores, the company’s revenue topped $20 million last year and should exceed $70 million this year, Kovler told Bloomberg.

“A lot of people think this stuff is about liquidity and finding exits, and I firmly believe the bigger opportunity for us is to go to Canada and use that currency to increase our scale,” GTI investor Sanjay Tolia told Bloomberg. Tolia is the founder of Bengal Capital, a trading firm. “It’s hard to do that if you’re not public.”

Legend has it that James B. Beam Distilling Company was founded in 1935 by Jeremiah Beam,Harry L. Homel, Oliver Jacobson and Harry Blum. Six years later, Blum bought out his partners for roughly $1 million.

The company plans to evangelize the virtue of vaporizer products. “We’re taking the world from moonshine to cocktails,” Kovler told Bloomberg. “People come in complaining that the moonshine burns their throat, and we say, ‘Here, try this rum and Coke.’ We’re seeking to create an authentic relationship with consumers in the same way that alcohol companies do with hard liquor, beer and wine.”

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