Cheryl Shuman likes to be called the Martha Stewart of marijuana. She runs the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club out of L.A., which sells one of the first designer brands of pot. Her product runs $750 an ounce and comes wrapped in 14-carat gold. New customers often get star treatment: Chefs will come to their mansions to prepare cannabis-infused meals.
In fact, Shuman's clientele is star-studded. She says she's sold to celebrities like Justin Timberlake, who told Playboy in 2011 that he "absolutely" smokes. Other clients have to be kept on the down-low, and the business lacks a brick-and-mortar location in the Hollywood Hills.
"These are people who cannot go to dispensaries or be exposed as a pothead," Shuman explains.
Although she may be dealing to L.A.'s biggest names, the middle-aged blond has much bigger ambitions. She wants her company to become the Mercedes of marijuana -- and she has a business plan that she says includes an international brand of 420-friendly resorts. As weed becomes increasingly legal and less stigmatized, opportunities are arising for startups that can successfully market the drug.
There are significant roadblocks: Marijuana is legal as medicine in only 23 states and the District of Columbia and is legal as a recreational drug in two. But if Amendment 2 passes in November, Shuman will be one giant step closer to realizing her goal. Lots of celebrities and old people reside in Florida -- which would be the second-biggest market in the world behind California.
So Shuman has been scrambling to put together a super PAC in time for the elections. She says that plans for "Moms for Marijuana" were finalized only last Thursday and that she plans to register with the Federal Elections Commission this week. Currently, there are only three other marijuana-themed super PACS registered, and none of them has raised any cash.
Shuman's relying on Florida moms like Moriah Barnhart and Jacel Delgadillo. Delgadillo, who is from Miami, has a son who suffers from intractable epilepsy. Barnhart, who is from near Sarasota, has a daughter with cancer. Both have been active with the media, and in May they formed a group called Cannamoms to raise awareness for children whose lives would be improved by medical marijuana access. If all goes according to Shuman's plan, these moms will pull on heartstrings, fill the super-PAC coffers, sway the vote, and ultimately line her pockets.
"It's basically gonna be the mommy lobby," Shuman says. "That's really where we've been most effective. We wanna show that we're worthy of billions by using real-life stories that are compelling and rip the heart out of your chest."
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