With 11 marijuana measures in circulation for signatures, pot-based businesses hope for a boom year
on February 16, 2016
This year will be a pivotal year for owners of cannabis-related businesses, especially in California.
Over the past few months, 11 marijuana measures were approved for signature circulation for California’s November 2016 ballot, and Blum Oakland became the first ever publicly traded marijuana dispensary, solidifying Oakland’s title as the cannabis capital of the country.
Since marijuana is predicted by ArcView Market Research to bring $10.8 billion into the U.S. economy by 2019, Bay Area business owners from all sectors are flocking to participate in the cannabis boom. Over two dozen cannabis businesses have launched in the Bay Area this past year, and California’s first marijuana incubator opened their doors for business last fall.
“This opportunity appeals to everyone,” said Dr. Aseem Sappal, dean of Oaksterdam, America’s first cannabis college. “There are a lot of people with pre-existing professions, and they’re wondering what can I do right now to get involved. There is a place for everybody in the marijuana industry.”
Yoga teacher Dee Dussault decided in 2009 to incorporate cannabis into her business after she became aware of its medical benefits for both muscular and mental relaxation. Now she owns Ganja Yoga, a collective of people who meet every Wednesday in a San Francisco art studio to smoke and practice yoga.
People from all walks of life gather in the beginning of class to converse and smoke joints before the start of practice. “My students report that medical marijuana helps them feel less pain, less anxiety, and more connected to their bodies and to the present moment,” said Dussault.
Dussault says that each week her class fills to capacity. “I’m on my third year here in San Francisco, everyone seems to really like it,” she said.
Dussault, who began teaching in Toronto, Canada, says that the Bay Area provides a unique ecosystem for cannabis business owners. “I think the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bay Area, with all of the startups and the tech culture, really lends itself well to people designing their own business related to cannabis,” said Dussault. “It’s huge here. It’s definitely the green rush.”
Oaksterdam’s Sappal believes that the Bay Area is designed to launch colossal industries and innovative companies. “Look at some of these companies from Oracle to Google to Facebook, Silicon Valley—they all started here. So there’s no surprise to why the cannabis industry is thriving from the very same place,” he said.
As more marijuana businesses develop, the pool for investment widens. With 11 initiatives positioned to be on the California ballot, and the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) that came into effect January 1 in California, Sappal believes investors will become more interested in an industry that once was taboo. MMRSA is made up of three bills that, according to lobbying group Americans for Safe Access, “deal with different aspects of licensing and regulating commercial medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, sales, and testing.”
“There are a lot of big investors and they’re wondering, ‘Where can I spend my money?’ They’re looking for a place in the marijuana industry, and the potential to invest is great,” said Sappal. He believes that 25 percent of investors are individually willing to invest over $1 million into cannabis companies.
Though Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, failed to pass in 2010 with 54 percent of Californians voting no, activists hope the industry’s boom will positively influence voters this fall.
A few of the 11 initiatives that are positioned to make California’s November ballot include the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Initiative (Version 2, 3, 4 and 5), which would legalize marijuana under state law, the Recreational and Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would allow individuals of at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use; and the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Initiative, which also would legalize marijuana and hemp under state law.
“There definitely will be a shift in change related to corporate America involvement,” said John Lee, director for American Policy Reform, a group that lobbies to change drug laws. “The delineation into what people are looking at is often based on how the economy is related and where the money flows. … We are going to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in cannabis in California through fees and taxes,” he said.
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