In the Cannabis Business Summit held in Denver in June 2014, the working tagline was “Where Commerce Meets a Revolution”. For many, the phrase is remarkably appropriate considering the current state of legalization in the country. By June 2014, 22 states had already legalized marijuana for medical use, with Colorado and Washington having also legalized its recreational use. New York is set to follow next with its own brand of legislation, bringing the total of marijuana-legal states to 23.
With such a lofty theme, the general air of optimism that pervaded the summit was nothing short of expected. In the 2-day event that is now being heralded as the first big business conference of the marijuana industry, there was an unmistakable air of focus and drive that was never present in other events of its kind. As Seattle’s Northwest Patient Resource Center CEO and pot activist John Davis said of the industry, it “is being born” and its growth cannot be stopped.
Like many in the marijuana industry, Davis is painfully aware of the struggles faced by many of its practitioners. One of the most difficult challenges faced by dispensary owners is the lack of access to the financial services provided by banks. The reason for this is that marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, even if it is legal in some states. Because of this, most banks are hesitant to transact with those involved in the marijuana industry, rightly fearing that doing so may make them liable for criminal prosecution. As a result, dispensaries are forced to deal only in cash.
The continued insistence of the federal government to consider marijuana an illegal substance is essentially a way of drawing ‘battle lines’, so to speak. For Davis, the inability to deal with banks causes issues with regard to investments. Dispensary owners who deal strictly in cash also have much more security risks to deal, not to mention a great deal of inconvenience that legitimate business owners should not have to deal with.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere at the Cannabis Business Summit was unmistakably positive, with the attendees seemingly inspired by the recent developments toward legalization. A common theme during the meeting was that considerable headway seems to have been made with regard to the cultural and societal acceptance of marijuana on the natural level.
One of the most promising indicators of this is the increased interests displayed by state lawmakers looking to the marijuana industry for potential new revenue streams. Many of these lawmakers are closely monitoring the implications of legalization on the economy of Colorado, which has earned several million dollars in the first month of legalization alone.
Not everyone is keen to be part of the “Green Rush”. Some naysayers in fact predict a dire outcome for some local marijuana outfits. One critic is Washington representative Roger Goodman who said that officials predict that as many as 50 percent of all marijuana startups in the state are destined to fail. Nevertheless, there is no denying the exciting new developments in the marijuana industry, and interest in investing in the industry remains high.