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750px-Marijuana1-300x240Marijuana stock prices have risen so high, so fast, that it’s just a matter of time before they crash, and crash hard. At least that’s what all the analysts are predicting.

Buoyed by an increase in demand and more state leniency to come, the legal U.S. cannabis market is slated to grow 64% to $2.34 billion this year and upward to $10.2 billion in five years. That now includes medicinal and recreational use, thanks to the legalization in Washington and Colorado.

Even our neighbors to the north are loosening up. In Canada, licensed producers have been approved to grow medical marijuana on a commercial scale. Health Canada conservatively estimates the market could be worth $2.6 billion in by 2016. Combined with the U.S. market, that would create a $5 billion-plus North American boom.

There’s no shortage of support for legalization either, which grows stronger every year. From 1969 to 2013, those supporting legalization of marijuana grew from 12% to 52% in the U.S. Those wanting it to remain illegal dropped from 84% to 45% in the period.

In other words, marijuana is big business and only getting bigger. And word has it that Corporate Canada is very interested in the opportunities it presents. Henry Barr, president and CEO of Next Gen Metals, whose family farm in Ottawa produced hemp as far back as WWII, sees dollar signs.

Barr views his role in the industry as a mentor to companies that know how to grow marijuana but lack the savvy to grow the actual business.

The legal marijuana market could easily become as big or bigger than alcohol, especially it has a medicinal quality unlike spirits that only have one uplifting quality.

There are quite a few opportunities for individual investors to take advantage of the burgeoning market. No doubt, those who got in on the ground floor are reaping tremendous rewards. There’s no telling if or when these early proponents will see their money go up in smoke.

If you like the idea of investing in the marijuana market, just do so responsibly. Proceed with caution and do your homework.  Many of these newbie companies do not file with the SEC.  So, here are five companies that do file with the SEC and are, therefore, a little more closely regulated.

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