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Jim Beam Heir Ditches Booze for Bud, Embraces the International Green Rush

Ben Kovler is the latest liquor magnate to make the switch to ganja. His cannabis company Green Thumb Industries is now set to go public in Canada any day.

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One of the families behind booze giant Jim Beam is hopping on the THC train. Ben Kovler, heir of the hooch business started by his grandfather nearly 100 years ago, is leaving brown liquor behind in favor of green buds, thanks to the end of what he calls "Prohibition 2.0."

According to Bloomberg, Kovler is the founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries (GTI), a legal cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensary business with licensed outposts in six U.S. states. And like his grandfather Harry Blum and partner James Beauregard Beam did at the turn of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s, Kovler is looking to expand as rapidly as possible.

Currently operating in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, Kovler's next plan is to take GTI public in Canada, where impending nationwide legalization is leading to both American and Canadian cannabis announcing IPOs. Green Thumb Industries already sells its products in over 100 dispensaries across the U.S., but Kovler is confident that opening on the Canadian stock exchange could skyrocket the company's success. The alcohol magnate-turned-ganjapreneur even predicted that GTI will make upwards of $70 million this year, compared to $20 million in revenue the company accrued in 2017.

As cannabis reform continues to be embraced across North America, Kovler is the latest in a long line of alcohol industry bigwigs and companies making the transition from sip to smoke. Over the last year alone, former executives from Budweiser and Blue Moon have both left the beer industry for greener pastures, while Corona and Svedka parent company Constellation Brands has invested nearly $200 million in Canopy Growth Corp., Canada's largest publicly-traded cannabis company.

But while all indications suggest that Green Thumb Industries will continue to produce traditional cannabis products instead of proprietary infused beverages like Blue Moon's Keith Villa, Kovler sees significant similarities in the post-prohibition alcohol evolution his grandfather witnessed and his company's entry into manufacturing vape cartridges and concentrates.

"We're taking the world from moonshine to cocktails," Kovler said, using one of the more nuanced marijuana analogies we've heard in a minute. "People come in complaining that the moonshine burns their throat, and we say, 'Here, try this rum and Coke.' We're seeking to create an authentic relationship with consumers in the same way that alcohol companies do with hard liquor, beer, and wine."

GTI is scheduled to go public in Canada next month through a reverse merger with a cannabis company that's already listed on the stock exchange.

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