Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jul 2016
Source: Herald, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 The Herald
Author: Sharon Bernstein, Reuters


THERE is no guarantee that California will vote to legalise 
recreational dagga in November, but political operative and father of 
four Daniel Conway has already staked his future on it.

Conway left his job as chief of staff to Sacramento's celebrity 
mayor, former Phoenix Suns NBA basketball star Kevin Johnson, to help 
start the dagga investment company Truth Enterprises.

He is one of hundreds in the most populous US state already pushing 
ahead with plans to enter a market experts say will be worth 
$4-billion (R60-million) by 2020.

"I'm someone of an age and demographic that sees the legalisation of 
marijuana as inevitable," Conway, 35, said.

"This is a chance not just to build companies but to build an industry."

With a population of nearly 40 million people, and a thriving medical 
dagga trade legalised 20 years ago, California already has the United 
States's largest legal dagga market.

Legalisation of recreational pot would generate an estimated 
$1-billion (R15-billion) in additional taxes a year.

If voters in November approve a measure to legalise and tax dagga 
that qualified last Tuesday for the ballot, California would be the 
fifth US state  and by far the largest  to allow dagga for 
recreational use, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, as 
well as the District of Columbia.

A similar ballot initiative failed in California in 2010, but recent 
polls show strong support for legalisation.

The latest effort is backed by mainstream leaders including 
Lieutenant-Governor Gavin Newsom, who helped negotiate the 
regulations and taxes it would impose.

Eight other states, including Nevada and Maine, also have 
recreational or medical dagga proposals headed for ballots.

California's sheer size as the world's sixth-largest economy means a 
decision by its voters to legalise dagga could accelerate the trend elsewhere.

Leslie Bocskor, whose Nevada private equity firm, Electrum Partners, 
advises and invests in dagga-related businesses, said: "I don't 
believe there will be any precedent in the United States that can 
compare with it, except maybe for the Gold Rush."

The lure of wealth in an uncharted industry is so great that 
thousands of people are jostling for position, Bocskor said.

Since January, 115 new California companies have joined the National 
Cannabis Industry Association, bringing total membership in the state 
to 330, deputy director Taylor West said.

New companies include cultivators, dispensaries, laboratories, law 
partnerships, accountants, software developers, insurers and more, she said.

Their challenge is to set up an infrastructure for a business that is 
not yet legal.

Conway and his business partner, General Hydroponics chief executive 
Ross Haley, for example, recently purchased farmland in northern 
California that they hope to use to grow dagga but would not say 
where before the measure is passed.

Newport Beach-based Terra Tech is trying to prepare for recreational 
sales while building a legal business within the state's medical 
dagga marketplace, which has annual sales of $2.7-billion (R40-billion).

The company spent more than $800 000 (R12-million) designing and 
remodelling its Oakland dispensary to look more like a highend lounge 
than a drab medical clinic, chief executive Derek Peterson said.

It also developed colourful packaging for its dagga instead of 
dispensing it in prescription bottles.

But, despite such optimism, the passage of the California measure is 
not certain.  Reuters
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom