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Investors Flock to Established and Cliquish Marijuana Companies

By Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Justin Hartfield and Doug Francis have always had offers from investors who wanted a piece of their marijuana technology company, but since the plant-based Class 1 narcotic was legalized January 1 in Colorado, the number of accredited investors wanting to get in on the ground floor or acquire Ghost Group outright has doubled.

"People have always wanted to invest in our company for $2,000 or $3,000," Hartfield told MainStreet. "Recently, we've seen more investors approach us about making a more substantial investment but we don't have the ability to accept money because we're no longer a publicly traded company."

With the company previously listed on the QZ stock exchange under SearchCore in 2010, Hartfield and Francis regained ownership of their marijuana technology companies in 2012.

"The SEC wasn't going to approve SearchCore's S-1 with marijuana assets so they sold our portion of the business," Hartfield told MainStreet.

Ford S-1 is an SEC filing used by companies planning on going public to register their securities under the registration statement of the Securities Act of 1933.

Although Ghost Group was never publicly boycotted by disgruntled citizens, the added scrutiny and regulation afforded marijuana companies is why Hartfield and Francis plan to stay private.

"I have no intention of taking Ghost Group public right now. We're exploring the possibility, but it's highly unlikely," Hartfield said of his properties weedmaps.com and marijuana.com.

It's no surprise that investors are frantically in search of investment opportunities with marijuana companies like Ghost Group and that holding companies and partnerships are being formed in rapid succession.

"There's lots of ways to invest, but you need to know someone because most of the deals done are with a handshake person-to-person," Hartfield notes.

Colorado alone stands to gain an estimated $67 million in tax revenues and $600 million in gross sales in the first year.

"What is transpiring with state-sanctioned legal medical and recreational marijuana is a classic case of an emerging market," said Craig Frank, CEO with Alternative Fuels Americas (OTCQB: AFAI). "We believe these developments demonstrate the emergence of a new industry with tremendous potential."

Just last week, Alternative Fuels Americas announced that it had formed a subsidiary called Marijuana Holdings Americas to serve as the foundation for the company's entry into the wildly popular yet controversial market.

"We have always been drawn to early stage changes in sectors that greatly affect the status quo and from which value can be created," Frank said. "This is consistent with our worldview and offers our shareholders an opportunity to benefit from yet another rapidly changing environment."

In 2013, Ghost Group reported $30 million in revenues from marijuana dispensaries advertising on their websites, and yet the company isn't subject to the restrictions of IRS Tax Code 280E.

"I am able to deduct business expenses because I am advertising not selling marijuana," said Hartfield.

Under President Reagan in the 1980s, the IRS created tax code 280E to prevent individuals engaged in drug trafficking from deducting business expenses.

Right now, marijuana businesses in Colorado, Washington, California and the rest of the U.S. are not allowed to take business deductions, which can more than double their tax liability. The tax code barrier to entry remains in effect until marijuana is delisted as a controlled substance.

Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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