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Pot industry pioneers: The e-cigarette of legal pot

Todd Mitchem hopes the stake he and his partners have in Colorado's booming marijuana industry will live up to his description of it: "the Google of cannabis."

Their company, Open Vape, manufactures a product similar to an e-cigarette. It's a pen that heats a cartridge filled with purified cannabis oil, allowing users a discreet alternative to smoking a marijuana cigarette.

Open Vape was established just as the pot industry was taking off—and it has paid off. In 2013 alone, Open Vape grew by 1,600 percent, and that was before the legalization of recreational pot sales in Colorado went into effect.

As the number of pot smokers increases—about 6,600 new users each day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services—so do Open Vape's customers. Mitchem says that in just three states—Colorado, California and Washington—the company sells about 270,000 pens per month. He estimates the company is selling "one cartridge every 30 seconds."

Mitchem thinks the cannabis industry will be worth $14 billion by 2018, and he's hopeful that Open Vape will be a billion dollar company in the next two years. Wishful thinking? Possibly. But with the nation's marijuana industry expected to reach $2.57 billion in sales in the next fiscal year, Mitchem says, "That's when we can really see some magic happen."

—By Savannah Sellers, Special to CNBC.

CNBC and correspondent Harry Smith tell the story behind this controversial and stunning development and report on the exploding legal pot market. Watch "Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush" on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 10 p.m. ET

  • Harry Smith

    Harry Smith is an NBC News correspondent who came to NBC News as a correspondent for "Rock Center" with Brian Williams in July 2011.