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Wannabe pot magnates talk turning green into green at Vancouver confab

"Green is the new gold" was the cliché of the day for the budding cannabis capitalists, marijuana magnates and "hempreneurs" attending the Green Rush Financial Conference in Vancouver this week.

Venture capitalists gambling that other jurisdictions will join Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana filled the city's convention centre on May 7.

"I can't tell you how much to invest except that a couple years down the road you're going to think back to this moment, and there are companies in this hall that will be untouchable by then, and you'll say I wish I had invested more," Victor Foia, CEO of Spokane, Wash.-based GreenPlex, told the conference.

Foia bears a striking resemblance to the Dos Equis beer "most interesting man in the world" character, albeit with a patch over his right eye.

The native of Transylvania's bio said he escaped Romania as a 22-year-old for Italy and wound-up in the United States. He said he found success in 1970's telecommunications software and 1980's personal computing ventures. He recently authored an historical novel about Dracula, and now he leads a company that offers engineering and construction management services for cannabis-growing facilities.

"Yakov Smirnov, anybody remember him?" Foia said. "He used to say in America wherever you go you find the party, but in America the revolution finds you."

The computing revolution took more than two decades to manifest, but smartphones exploded after only a few years because people were already familiar with the underlying technology.

Likewise, Foia speculated the same will happen for marijuana.

"The marijuana market enjoys a special characteristic: probably there is nobody over the age of 12 that needs to be told what marijuana is about and how it is used and what are its effects," Foia said. "If Winston Churchill were alive today, and I think he'd be a big aficionado of marijuana. It is not the beginning of the end, but it is certainly the end of the beginning."

Hyped as "Canada's first medical marijuana, industrial hemp and alternative medicine investment conference," GreenRush was organized by Harry Barr. The president of Vancouver junior mining company NextGen is staging a similar event in Toronto on June 26.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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