NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s been just a year since Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and the profits and legislative movements have continued to surge upward.
“The acceptance of cannabis and retail sales has been profound,” said Steve Berg, chief financial officer with O.penVAPE. “As evidence, look no further than the majority of voters in two more states and Washington DC approving retail, adult-use sales in November.”
While just a handful of retail pot stores opened in Denver on January 1, 2014, today there’s more than 300 statewide.
“We have survived the first year of several new aspects of an industry that is still in its infancy,” said Kate Awada, co-founder of Awada Breen Consulting, cannabis compliance and education specialists. “Moving forward, it will be a lot smoother now knowing what we are dealing with and how to deal with it.”
“Colorado is doing a solid job of legitimizing legal marijuana as a recreational business which is important for other states to consider legalization moving forward,” said David Bernstein, CEO with WeedHire.com, a website that posts marijuana jobs.
In addition to the successful regulatory model initiated by the state of Colorado, 2014 milestones include the number of jobs created and the number of ancillary business that have sprouted.
“Colorado’s economy is booming and now more than ever, the state is as much of a desirable place to live as California,” Awada told MainStreet. Denver's unemployment rate alone was 4.2% through November 2014, down from 6.5% a year ago, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“People from all walks of life want to directly interact with this industry now that the specter of illegality had been lifted,” Berg told MainStreet. “Experiencing the forefront of what will be a multi-billion dollar industry is exciting to many, and the speed with which other states have adopted programs to allow for the successful distribution of cannabis underscores the point that we truly have reached the tipping point in America concerning cannabis regulation.”
Publicly traded marijuana stocks increased 848% in the first quarter of 2014 in the aftermath of Colorado, according to Viridian Capital & Research data.
“Many new publicly traded companies will come about in 2015 some of which will be very substantial and successful,” said Leslie Bocskor, investment banker and entrepreneur with Electrum Partners. “They will be the next generation of publicly traded cannabis companies. On the private side too, we’ll see new operators of marijuana businesses, some of which will bring best practices, personnel and sophistication from other industries.”
The Department of Justice's permitting Indian tribes to grow and sell pot on reservations coupled with a Congressional measure restricting the department’s funding for medical marijuana enforcement were also particular to the passing year.
“Going forward, the entire movement hinges on the government’s ongoing reduction of its chokehold on how marijuana is classified as well as voter turnout in support of either medical or recreational,” Bernstein told MainStreet.
Finally, 2014 broke through historical and false stigmas that have haunted users for decades.
“Cannabis acceptance is broader today than ever before,” said Berg. “Even in states where marijuana remains illegal, we see the criminal activity associated with it minimized to misdemeanor offenses with low fines and penalties associated with possession.”
Some 70% of Millennials between the ages of 18 and 29 years old and 56% of Gen X-ers between the ages of 30 and 49 years old believe that pot should be legal compared to 32% of those older than 65 years old, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
“That’s a stark contrast to imprisonment for possession for something that is considered a safe, benign wellness product and that’s often used as a medicine,” Berg said.
-Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley