DENVER MARCH 25: Pete Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Medicine Man, is in marijuana growing room. Denver, Colorado. March 25. 2014. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Medicine Man: Family’s bonds showing strains as business evolves (series)

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Medicine Man: Family's bonds showing strains as business evolves (series)
Medicine Man’s chief operating officer Pete Williams, left, and brother Andy Williams, the company’s president, take a break outside their office in Denver. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Like many new business owners, the Williams say they are reinvesting, putting their own earnings and investors’ money into an ongoing $2.6 million expansion to double the grow space and add a retail shop modeled after an Apple store.

The last few weeks have brought other opportunities, including starting a long-planned business consulting and working with other companies seeking business licenses in other states that have recently opened the gates to medical marijuana sales.

The spinoff company is called Medicine Man Technologies.

This is Andy’s project, his reality show.

The business is selling not just experience in growing and selling weed but also hope — the idea that by putting Medicine Man’s credentials on a license application, it will be a difference-maker in states that are restricting the number of licenses.

Andy says he is talking to one group in Illinois that is promising him a seat on the board and an ownership stake. That wouldn’t be possible in Colorado, where owners must have at least two years of Colorado residency.

The unexpected happened, too.

One day in early January in the Medicine Man parking lot, a man walked up to Pete, shared some of his business background and expressed interest in getting involved in the Colorado marijuana industry, according to Pete.

The businessman was Robert Ehrlich, an ex-commodities trader who founded Robert’s American Gourmet Food, manufacturer of Pirate Brands snacks. The company was purchased last year for about $195 million in cash, and Ehrlich moved on to other ventures.

At first, Pete says he told Ehrlich there weren’t any Medicine Man shares available. But as he got to thinking about the disagreements within his family about the direction of the company, he began to see Ehrlich as a potential ally and a business partner.

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For Pete, the future of Medicine Man hinges not just on exposure from the reality show but on a whole package of aggressive moves.

He wants to manufacture edible marijuana products, a market segment that has proven lucrative. He also wants to open social clubs where people can hang out and smoke weed, a challenge given that state law prohibits pot smoking in most venues.

And he envisions a theme park called New Amsterdam, a marijuana Disneyland for adults.

His brother is more interested in getting the consulting and licensing company off the ground, completing the building expansion and breaking ground on a greenhouse grow, considered to be the next frontier for marijuana production in Colorado.

Pete also strongly supports branching into greenhouses. Sally is more reluctant.

The conversation that followed Pete’s parking lot introduction to the creator of Pirate Booty went something like this:

“I don’t want you to be offended,” Pete said, “but would you sell out?”

“Yeah,” replied Andy. “For the right number, I’ll sell out.”

The number in Andy Williams’ head started becoming real to him.

He valued the company at $28.8 million, a figure he reached by estimating earnings for this year and multiplying that by six.

If Andy’s share was worth about $11.5 million, selling out would give him enough money to live off the interest and leave the rest to his children, who are 3 and 9, Pete noted.

More: How each family member is focusing on the near future

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