The cannabis industry “is getting supersized” according to Forbes and is expected to hit at least $30 billion by 2021. Do I have your attention?
Ignoring the cannabis industry today is like refusing to acknowledge the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Legal cannabis (both medical and recreational) is a reality and a big business opportunity. As David Klemt, Nightclub & Bar Editor asked in his review of the Marijuana Business Conference, “Will you stake your claim to the ganja goldmine?”
Before you answer that question, know the facts.
Many misconceptions about the industry exist. The image of “stoners” and concerns about marijuana being a “gateway drug” abound. But let’s separate the leaves from seeds and fears from fictions. Here's a simple overview of what you need to know now – a pot primer as it were.
- 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form (recreational and/or medical). You can stay on top of legislation here. To find out what’s going on in your own state, check out this terrific “year in review report.”
- Legal cannabis sales in 2016 were estimated at close to $7 billion, a 34% increase over the prior year. Sales this year are expected to be even higher.
- The first state to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis was Colorado. Crime rates do not appear to have increased. The drug is heavily regulated and more than 50% of the population believes that legalization has been good, and more than $200k in tax revenue was generated last year.
- A great way to get familiar with the industry as a consumer (whether or not you use the product) is to go on a tour. Again, because Colorado is a mature cannabis market, you’ll be able to experience the greatest variety of venues, from hotels to lounges and retailers. To learn about the business side of the business, attend a trade show and conference.
- Cannabis consumption spots are hardly dark dens of reefer madness. Interior designers have created warm, welcoming and creative environments like these.
- The laws and requirements in each state are very detailed and distribution and consumption regulations also vary. Here’s a great topline summary from the last Nightclub & Bar Show.
- The industry has given rise to many sub-industries and career opportunities. They include:
- Investment analysts like Arcview and Greenwave Investors.
- Supply chain specialists, like LeafLink, the B2B Amazon of cannabis. This fast-growing SaaS company just raised $10 million in Series A funding.
- Growers. As with any crop, cannabis cultivation is both an art and a science. Verde Natural’s blog offers tips on large-scale growing and technologies like the ones outlined by Leafly deliver speed, efficiency, and product consistency.
- Accessories. Your bar, restaurant or club needs glassware and linens. The cannabis industry has its own product array -- from containers to vaporizer accessories to fashionable carrying cases. Even fashion-forward website Refinery 29 published a feature on cool cannabis extras.
- Edibles. You may have heard of (or even consumed) pot brownies, but now cannabis can be ingested in many forms -- from beverages to gummies to bakery muffins.
- Career placement companies. Dispensaries and other cannabis-friendly establishments have the same hiring challenges as the nightclub and bar industry. Vangst Talent is helping to fill the 300k jobs that will exist by 2020 -- from budtenders to C-level execs.
- Educational organizations abound, especially because teaching people about cannabis is a completely legal activity. Local community groups are prevalent and Aliza Sherman, a technology pioneer, just launched Ellementa to educate women about the health benefits of cannabis.
- Membership organizations bring in guest speakers like local and national authorities. To find one near you, simply Google “cannabis” and the name of your city or town. Norml (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) also has many local meet-ups.
- Liquor brands are just beginning to dabble in a big way in the industry. Spirits giant Constellation Brands (the company behind Corona) invested $191 U.S. dollars for a 9.9 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corp., a Canadian seller of medical marijuana products.
- What happens to all that green? Banking one’s cash is still a complex issue, due to the fact that major banks will not touch cannabis money, because weed is illegal at a federal level. Credit unions and community banks are providing solutions.
- How do you stay current? The laws, the players, and the industry is growing (literally) and changing, so keeping on top of it without getting lost in the weeds can be tough. Smart sources of facts and insights (other than those referenced above) are The Marijuana Business Daily and HERB. You can also join one of the many membership organizations that are sprouting up and learn from professionals and peers. The 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show will also feature a session on the topic.
Want even more facts? You can order a 300-page book of them here.
The smoke cloud of shame has lifted from this burgeoning industry and you’re bound to meet more suits than stoners at industry events these days. So, focus on how you might capitalize on this exciting new industry.
As Ryan G. Smith, the CEO and Co-Founder of LeafLink emphasizes, “The cannabis industry is not only one of the fastest growing in the world, but it will also be one of the most efficient and sophisticated because of its access to world-class technology from the beginning.”
This article has been updated.