Pubdate: Wed, 05 Nov 2014
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2014 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


How to Get Involved in the Marijuana Business Without Getting Your Hands Dirty

The tide of change in marijuana is pretty much in evidence across the 
country - even the most anti-drug states are going for CBD-only or 
hemp farming laws - and all kinds of businesses are involved in the 
booming marketplace.

A recent national economic analysis on estimates that 
Michigan would gain $122 million a year in taxes on legal 
recreational marijuana. That's just the taxes; the overall market in 
the United States was estimated at $14 billion.

There has been a green rush into everything from stocks to 
dispensaries to edibles to growing to testing labs by investors who 
were ahead of the curve on this commodity.

But wait, you say, at the prospect of throwing in with your friends 
to open a dispensary in that empty building on the corner. You kind 
of like the idea, but the fear of going to jail lurks in your mind. 
You've heard about plenty of folks who thought they were doing things 
legally getting into trouble with the law. Some crusading county 
prosecutors have been out to set a tone that they're not 
marijuana-friendly. Also, you've heard that banks are leery of doing 
business with that sector because of federal money-laundering laws. 
How are you going to do business without banks?

How about you skip the marijuana part of it all? There are all kinds 
of marijuana-related businesses taking off wherein there is no actual 
contact with marijuana. One of those is the legal profession. There 
have always been lawyers to defend people accused of marijuana 
crimes. Now lawyers are advising on all aspects of marijuana law. 
Cannabis Counsel in Detroit is an office that not only defends, but 
has been an activist in challenging the law and creating a more open 
climate. One of its attorneys, Matt Abel, is also director of the 
Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws. Another such office is Komorn Law in Southfield, 
which offers legal advice to folks considering investing in 
marijuana-related businesses.

Law school is not a requirement to get in on this. Here's a business 
that's been popping up in just about every neighborhood - a gardening 
store. You can sell everything that somebody else needs to grow 
marijuana and never have to touch the stuff yourself. Of course you 
have to know what you're talking about when advising someone on what 
they need for certain situations. And while you might use that silly 
tomato euphemism when talking about growing marijuana, it's not necessary.

"Tomatoes - on a daily basis, that still comes up," says Jonathan 
Pavley, a co-owner of the Green Thumb grow store on Woodward in 
Ferndale. "There are new and old cultivators. The older ones want to 
talk about tomatoes. They aren't fully comfortable with embracing the 
new culture. Actually, I'm kind of blown away at my new levels of comfort."

Not only can you sell growing equipment, you can charge people to 
teach them how to grow. A guy in Chicago recently charged $300 a head 
for a seminar on how to grow marijuana. The odd thing about that is 
the new Illinois medical marijuana program doesn't even allow home 
grows. Their system is for 22 state-licensed cultivators and some 60 
dispensaries. But the point is that you can teach how to grow 
marijuana without any actual marijuana on the premises.

Here's another relatively safe route that you may have spent some 
serious time learning about at college - how to make a bong. There's 
a market out there, and devices for ingesting marijuana are part of 
it. Glass pipes are interesting and artistic implements that are 
always on display at hemp fairs and rallies. Pipes and bongs are 
well-honored and colorful implements of the marijuana tradition. And 
even though Tommy Chong went to jail for delivering paraphernalia 
across state lines back in 2003, it's pretty safe to sell this stuff.

Security systems are also something to think about. If you're handy 
with writing code, you can apply that to marijuana businesses that 
need everything from inventory-tracking software to video 
surveillance systems and grow-room controls.

Speaking of grow rooms, you can design grow rooms to fit into 
different kinds of spaces, create your own growing systems, create 
your own lighting systems or cloning systems, temperature and 
humidity regulators. All of this stuff is high on inventiveness and 
you don't need marijuana on the premises to develop and manufacture. 
All of this could be a new market for building contractors and electricians.

Here's something else you might not have thought about: When it comes 
to marijuana distribution, packaging is a brand-new concept. In the 
old days, a plastic baggie was state-of-the-art for packaging your 
product. Now with edibles, oils, tinctures, and lotions on the 
market, the need for packaging that informs you about what you have 
and how to handle it will become more and more important.

And then there's the advertising and public relations side of this. A 
provisioning center owner once told me that he doesn't have to sell 
because "bud sells itself." True enough, but in an open marketplace, 
there will be competition for where and under what circumstances that 
people are comfortable getting their bud from you. The old model was 
focused on not get arrested while distributing an illegal product. 
The new model will be convincing people that your product is the most 
enjoyable or safe or convenient. It will involve engaging the 
community rather than hiding from the community. That means 
developing communications strategies.

Media has been a big part of changing attitudes about marijuana. 
There have been numerous documentaries on the subject in recent 
years. Super High Me, In Pot We Trust, A NORML Life, and Should I 
Smoke Dope are among the dozens of films casting a new light on 
marijuana. There are plenty more out there, but still plenty of 
angles for aspiring filmmakers to plumb. In addition there are new 
books being published on a regular basis, as well as magazines, 
websites, and songs.

Rapper Afroman's "Because I Got High" is a cool couch cruise down the 
avenue of new sensibility.

Several months back, I heard discussion of someone in Colorado trying 
to develop a television show about the subject. We'll really know 
that the weed has arrived when there's a program with a character who 
works in the industry and it's not a major part of the plot.

If you're a doctor opening up a clinic that utilizes marijuana 
therapies, that's wide open territory. Polls show that a majority of 
doctors believe medical marijuana is useful. However, most hospitals, 
clinics, and other institutions where doctors work tend to frown upon 
the practice. Those are more concerned about legalities and lawsuits.

Marijuana seems to be a big generator of business for folks who never 
want to get near the stuff. And this list doesn't even touch the 
thousands of products that can be made from hemp. Of course, you can 
legally import that industrial product. Just don't try to grow it around here.
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