Marijuana as a Business

It seems like every time there’s an election, another state legalizes marijuana! I’ve never been into “herb,” it may be hard to wrap your head around the idea that growing and selling marijuana is now a legitimate and legal way to make a living (in some states, anyway) instead of a criminal enterprise.

Marijuana legalization is a growing trend, and it has certainly changed the way many people deal with and view marijuana as a recreational and medicinal drug. The result of the changes in law has been the growth of a whole new legal industry, one that is as promising as it is impressive. The new marijuana industry looks very, very different from the old black market in almost every imaginable way. Let’s talk a little bit about this!

Current status

For starters, let’s catch up on the status of marijuana legalization. It wasn’t so long ago that marijuana was illegal everywhere in the country. From the early decades of the 1900s through the early 1990s, marijuana was completely illegal in every state. California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. It was a decade and a half later — 2012 — that Colorado and Washington State became the first states to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Today, marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational use in many states, and even more states have taken action to decriminalize possession (that is, changing laws to make marijuana lawbreaking more like a speeding ticket than like breaking and entering or other serious crimes). Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized and regulated recreational marijuana, and 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but enforcement norms have allowed state laws to reign within the borders of those states (it is still very illegal to transport marijuana from state to state — don’t do it).

The legal side

All of this legal marijuana consumption requires, well, lots of marijuana! Naturally, states that have legalized marijuana consumption have also legalized growing and selling marijuana. But this is the furthest thing from the old world of secret criminal operations to grow and smuggle the drug. On the contrary: marijuana growers and dispensary owners have to be ready to deal with a lot of red tape!

States don’t want just anyone selling an intoxicating drug. Nor do they want it consumed everywhere, sold to everyone, or being exchanged in private transactions. For these reasons, states have written their laws very carefully. Growing and selling marijuana means getting licensed by the state and abiding by a whole lot of rules regarding marketing, displays, how much can be sold, and so on. (Users of marijuana are also obligated to follow laws and regulations, such as DUI laws.) And since these are state laws, each state has slightly different rules on the books! Starting a marijuana business in a given state means working with a lawyer that specializes in that state to get everything above-board.

A lucrative industry

And businesses are as successful as they are legal. These days, there are investors snapping up cannabis stocks, bankers loaning money to marijuana start-ups, and host of related businesses getting off the ground to take advantage of this new marijuana gold rush. It’s not hard to see why people are getting excited: it’s not often than a massive new industry emerges seemingly from nowhere, and the marijuana industry is growing extremely fast. By 2027, the cannabis market is expected to be worth $57 billion worldwide — and a big chunk of that will be right here in North America.

In short, marijuana businesses are legitimate in every sense of the world: they’re carefully regulated but wildly successful, and they’re changing the way the business world looks at marijuana.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.