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Legal pot dispensaries, high on profits

Recreational marijuana sales became legal in Colorado on Jan. 1, and since then, business has been booming. Demand is up, and prices are as well.

"I think everyone, including industry insiders, are surprised at the demand and the way the retail market has kicked off in Denver," said Ron Throgmartin, CEO of Diego Pellicer Worldwide, a company that provides work space and retail space for the marijuana industry.

In an interview with CBS Moneywatch correspondent Alexis Christoforous, Throgmartin said dispensaries that had been selling only medical marijuana, saw their sales multiply 15-fold in the first week of selling recreational pot. 

The brisk sales spell good news for Colorado's state coffers. With each dollar spent on legal, taxable weed, the state gets about 29 cents. Throgmartin said other states are paying attention.

"I think by 2016 California will go legal," he said. "And I think once a state the size of California goes, I think, the rest of the country follows."

Already, Washington State has voted to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. Sales there should begin some time in the spring or early summer, and there are movements to do the same in other states, like Oregon.

"I think once the states start to see the revenue that Colorado and Washington generate from this, I think they'll be inclined to come along," Throgmartin said. 

Estimates vary, but Throgmartin told Christoforous that some insiders believe if marijuana were legalized nationwide, it could be a $100 billion dollar industry.

"Take the numbers that Colorado is doing, I'm guessing they are going to do around $600 million."

For now, the industry still has its challenges -- like finding a bank. The banks have until now been forbidden by law to do business with pot growers and sellers.

"Whenever you can't operate a business through a bank, it forces you to operate on a cash basis, and that creates opportunities for theft, for crime, "Throgmartin said. "When you have a store doing $100,000 a day in cash, that's $700,000 a week -- where are people going to take that money?"

He said right now, store owners and others in the industry use banks, but they lie to the banks, until they get caught. "The banks look for it, though," he said. 

Throgmartin said this will all change in the near future. He predicts marijuana will be legalized nationwide in as little as two to four years. 

"With the momentum that it's gaining right now," he said, the feds are watching. "Why not allow a product like this be taxed, just like any other product, like alcohol?"