Who makes (legal) money from marijuana legalization?
March 18, 2017 6:34 PM   Subscribe

I've heard that the people who got rich from gold rushes were mostly grocers, not miners. When marijuana is legalized, who makes money from it and what were they doing before?

For instance, were legal marijuana growers formerly generic farmers, or illegal marijuana growers, or just people who saw an opportunity to start producing a valuable crop? What about the distributors and retailers, particularly people dealing in medical marijuana? If someone believed that marijuana is going to be legalized, what skills should they acquire to best take advantage of its production/distribution/sales?
posted by ICanHazQuestion to Work & Money (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Rem Pen makes widely used proprietary extract vaporizer technology. From what I can tell, they sell the vaping pens cheaply, and then license the cartridge technology to the growers/distributors. (I may have some details here wrong. The point is that this is supporting technology. They don't make money directly from growing or selling weed.)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:49 PM on March 18

I would imagine that hydroponic suppliers would do well. In that vein, learning how to grow plants indoors would be a useful skill. See the subreddit spacebuckets.
posted by zabuni at 7:00 PM on March 18

I don't know if they're getting rich, but fence builders are doing well in Oregon since outdoor grows must be kept from public view. There are a lot of new, tall wooden fences around.
posted by uncaken at 7:11 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

That Korean Fried Chicken place in between two weed stores in White Center (Seattle) seems to be doing real well.
posted by spitbull at 7:20 PM on March 18 [29 favorites]

I know a guy here in Alaska who was/is an organic vegetable farmer, but transitioned to growing pot once it was legal to hopefully be able to help pay for his kids' college. He has a helper (the lead cannabis grower) who had experience growing pot previously. Unlike a bunch of the other Alaska growers, they're growing outside in dirt.

One of the sad things about all the regulations is that now that he's growing marijuana, his kids aren't allowed on the farm any more.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:21 PM on March 18

All of the recently-opened vape shops are certainly chomping at the bit. Maybe a kava bar or two.

There's also lots of software, systems, administrative work to be done in ensuring compliance with state law.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:25 PM on March 18

If it becomes legal on a national scale, then big players will get involved. I wouldn't be surprised if Miller, Budweiser, as well as tobacco companies don't already have plans in place for major label brands (especially of edibles) and how to roll them out.
posted by Mchelly at 7:47 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

One of the two companies approved to produce medical marijuana derivatives for sale in Minnesota is an offshoot of a well-established local business that runs plant nurseries, sells cut flowers and garden supplies, and provides and maintains plants in commercial buildings.
posted by lakeroon at 8:10 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

I have an acquaintance who grows legal pot now. Before that he was a welder for pipelines and refineries, traveling a lot. Now he can spend more time with his family.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:29 PM on March 18

Who makes money from MJ legalization? The answer at the top of the list: the government!
posted by Mr. Justice at 9:11 PM on March 18

I know of someone from a farming family. They have a few hundred acres with corn and soybeans, a few buildings of factory farmed cattle, etc. They applied for and were awarded a permit to build a greenhouse for growing marijuana. I assume they are making money on it.
posted by Blue Genie at 9:24 PM on March 18

They applied for and were awarded a permit to build a greenhouse for growing marijuana.

Only medical marijuana is legal in my state as far as I know, so there was probably more red tape than there would be for growing recreational marijuana. There were significant up front costs to setting it up. Only people with land and money or the ability to borrow had access to the opportunity and there was fierce competition for permits.
posted by Blue Genie at 9:41 PM on March 18

I know an accountant who primarily does books for cannabis clients. He was an accountant before, but saw a niche that needed filling.
posted by girlalex at 10:19 PM on March 18

In my business its property owners with non-mortgaged buildings located at least 1000 feet away from a school.

We we talking with a broker and he said, "if your building was suitable for pot you would already have folks cold calling you."
posted by vespabelle at 10:48 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]

a guy here in Alaska who was/is an organic vegetable farmer, but transitioned to hopefully be able to help pay for his kids' college...One of the sad things about all the regulations is that now that he's growing marijuana, his kids aren't allowed on the farm any more.

"Gift of the Magi" for real. Here is MA, it's damn near impossible to get a license to open a store. My town, Lexington, has a crappy usually mostly vacant strip mall with a spot slated to be a dispensary. The family that owns the world's worst pizzeria (Boston/Greek style category) tells everyone who comes in, and that's not many, they're planning on making serious bank once the place opens.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:13 AM on March 19

Lighting specialists and electricians. I read it's mostly grown indoors under lights.

Also, security companies to protect the buildings and dispensaries.
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:47 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Contract labs for testing product. All weed for sale in Colorado for example has to be tested for bacterial/yeast contamination, heavy metals, etc, all derived products like edibles or vape solution have to be tested for thc content, solvents from processing, etc. I assume more testing regulations will be added as time marches on, especially if there are any scandals from people getting sick.
posted by permiechickie at 7:21 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]

What permiechickie just said. I know someone who runs one of the labs (used to do soil testing but now tests weed) and they appear to be super financially successful.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:28 AM on March 19

I very much enjoyed reading Cannabiz: The Explosive Rise of the Medical Marijuana Industry by John Geluardi which addresses this topic in depth. It's a pro-legalize-it book about the major economic growth that is opened up by legalization including not just what people are saying above but regulators and legislators who help people navigate the state-legal-federal-illegal status of weed nowadays. It's a really interesting look at how there are huge business opportunities for people who aren't growers or dealers to still work within the industry.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Phillip Morris has done rather well with diversification efforts with that new business initiative. There will always be craft beer, but An hauser Busch is still the largest volume. Don't expect tobacco to let wacky tabacky fall out from under their radar. As a matter of fact, expect legislation driven by Philip Morris to be leveraged to shut down the small farmers if Philip Morris isn't making enough money.

TLDR: Philip Morris's Lawyers and Lobyists
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:15 AM on March 19

One I haven't seen here so far: horticultural insurance. I'm not certain if anyone currently offers it for marijuana crops - but if legalization goes large-scale, I'm positive it will happen.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:30 AM on March 20

Grow shops are definitely on the list; I was talking to an acquaintance yesterday who runs a medical grow here and used to work for a popular local supplier. He claimed they'd done over $5 million in a year at one location, which seems pretty good for a retail storefront with a handful of hourly employees.
posted by brennen at 2:34 PM on March 20

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