Ever since Colorado and Washington’s noble experiment in legalizing marijuana, more and more states have been getting on board with the movement. Every time there’s a new study showing the medicinal benefits of marijuana, a few more people decide that maybe it should be taken off the controlled substances list. Many are realizing that cannabis is more than just a high, but a real medicine used to treat conditions that are currently treated with medications that are expensive, addictive, or both. An end to cannabis prohibition is in sight, but what does that mean for the ‘bootleggers’?
While legalization has a lot of benefits, from bigger tax revenues to smaller prison populations, there are some people who’ve gotten caught between a rock and a hard place. Namely, those people who’d been growing and selling marijuana before legalization, and who may not be certain what to do with their operations, now that it’s legal.
Bootleggers, those who’d been growing and selling cannabis on the black market, stand to gain a great deal from legalization. They already have a clientele, a reputation, and they have methods that work. On the one hand, bootleggers celebrate legalization because it means decriminalization, which allows cannabis growers to operate without subterfuge. On the other hand, it also brings competition, licensing requirements, and other red tape concerns.
That is the problem for so many bootleggers who are trying to turn their enterprises into legitimate businesses. Where previously they were engaged in a risky endeavor that equaled high profit, now they have to follow the letter of the law if they want to sell legally.
The law might stipulate that individuals can only grow a certain amount of marijuana, and that growing more is still a crime. There might only be a certain number of cannabis business licenses available in a given area, or the fees to obtain a license might be prohibitively high, which stops small, local growers from getting them. Opportunity is huge but the barriers to entry also can be.[bctt tweet=”Cannabis farmers need to start thinking like legitimate business people.”]
That’s why if farmers are hoping to go public with their cannabis crops, they need to start thinking like legitimate business people. That means filing the necessary paperwork, getting a business license, setting up distribution, creating packaging, branding their products, etc. If they’re going to make it in the open market, they need to be able to play that game. More importantly, though, they need to be able to trade on their experience and history to make sure that larger farms with deeper pockets don’t push them out of the market once cannabis prohibition is long behind us.
Because there’s no unified policy on cannabis in the U.S., the future is up in the air. No one really knows what this industry will look like in 10 years.
For example, it’s possible that big businesses could open chain stores and use their money and influence to dominate the legal cannabis trade while closing up friendly neighborhood growers. Another possibility is that the cannabis industry could mirror the microbrew industry, where a lot of local growers set up shops to provide smokers with their own unique blends. The end result might be some combination of the two.
However, there are a few things which have become clear. Smoking cannabis will be safer, because it can be purchased legally instead of from those involved in a criminal enterprise. Additionally, those who grow and sell cannabis will need to pass health inspections just like any other business.
Legalizing cannabis cuts down on arrests and incarcerations, removes cases from the court system, increases medication options available to those with a variety of health conditions, and it cuts down on the international drug trade. Whew, we are glad cannabis prohibition is coming to an end.
The benefits quite simply outweigh the growing pains.
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