One of the first things you discover when researching the nation's budding legal marijuana industry is the difference among the laws and regulations that govern it on the local, state and federal levels.
While Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, three other states snuffed out cannabis policy changes at the ballot box in November. Some marijuana-legalization activists view the mixed results as a setback, but others are moving full steam ahead to decriminalize the drug.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook since about a week before the election," says Troy Dayton, CEO of The ArcView Group, a San Francisco-based advisory firm that connects investors and entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. While he's the first to admit that opening a pot dispensary or becoming a grower is full of risk and uncertainty, he also says that with the right seed money, the upside is sky high.
"I focus on the ancillary businesses -- the businesses that are surrounding the cannabis industry that don't actually touch cannabis and are federally legal," he says in the attached video. His contacts have included "everybody from entrepreneurs who are just interested in the sector and want to put $25,000 to $50,000 to work, all the way up to billionaires and venture capital funds that are looking to make investments."
Dayton explains there are three areas to invest in: Consumers, growers and retailers. Cities like Denver and Los Angeles literally have hundreds of so-called dispensaries up and running and a network of growers who supply them, yet it is still illegal under federal law. While this scares off some potential clients, Dayton says there's actually a silver lining to the uncertainty.
"It's really a unique opportunity for smaller businesses to make a play at it before the super big multinationals get in on it," he says, pointing to the slow pace at which laws are changing.
One example is the financial industry, which largely shuns pot growers and retailers and refuses to offer even basic banking or credit card services. It's a scenario Dayton rejects, but also wants to capitalize on.
"It's crazy that some banks are unwilling to do business with these legitimate [legal, licensed, regulated, taxed and highly profitable] businesses, but that's opening up opportunities for other people who want to try to solve that problem," he says.
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