187,000 Lb. of Marijuana Annually? Legal Pot Business to Bloom in Washington

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Voters in Colorado and Washington recently approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational — not “medical” — purposes. But this hardly means that the business of growing and dispensing of pot will be all fun and games.

A big Seattle Times story reveals what Washington residents and entrepreneurs intrigued with the business aspects of legal marijuana can expect, largely based on what’s been taking place for years in Colorado’s medicinal-marijuana industry. “This is not your father’s marijuana,” the story quotes Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper as saying. Hickenlooper was talking about the increased potency of many of today’s strains of pot. But he could have also been addressing the vastly different way that the marijuana business is currently conducted. The gist is that it’s just that — a business — and one of the most tightly regulated on the planet at that.

For a license to grow or sell pot in Colorado, would-be entrepreneurs have to go through background checks, submit years of bank statements, and cough up deposits and licensing and application fees that often add up to a hefty $500,000. Regulations also require 24/7 video surveillance — accessible to the police over the Internet — at marijuana dispensaries and farms where pot is grown. Each and every one of the thousands of pot plants grown in the state must also be labeled with a bar code, so that they can be tracked. TIME has previously reported that every worker in Colorado’s marijuana industry must be officially licensed and that records must be kept of the weight, departure and arrival of truck shipments of pot. Why all the regulation? One owner of a Colorado marijuana-growing operation offered this insight to the Seattle Times:

‘I think a lot of the info they required weeded out a lot of people who would have been bad for the industry,’ said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief.

(MORE: Grass Roots: The Beginning of the End of Pot Prohibition)

When you work in the marijuana field, making puns such as “growing like a weed” and “weeding out” probably come as second nature. What Khalatbari means by people who are “bad for the industry” are those who might have ties to organized crime, or who might be tempted into selling off some of their product to underage customers or the black market in neighboring states.

In any event, for years now, reports have been sprouting up (like weeds!) explaining how difficult it is to run a legal and profitable marijuana operation — not only because of strict oversight, but also because of tough competition. In some ways, the legal marijuana industry is a mirror image of the greater farming and food industry, in which large businesses have a huge advantage over mom-and-pop operations. Denver Relief is considered a medium-size grower, and it is based in a 13,000-square-foot (1,200 sq m) warehouse, where 2,000 pot plants require 62,000 watts of power and 2,000 gallons (7,570 liters) of filtered water each day. The image some have in their heads of a “typical” pot grower — a few plant beds in the basement, with special lights hovering above — seems to be way off.

Legal marijuana is already big business in Colorado. In the past two years the state approved 739 sites for growing pot — some with 10,000 plants — and the industry leases a total of about 1 million square feet (93,000 sq m) of space in the Denver area. Pot is expected to be an even bigger business in Washington, however. Roughly 1,000 grow sites will be needed to meet demand, with 363,000 consumers in the state anticipated to be somehow ingesting in the neighborhood of 187,000 lb. (85,000 kg) of dry marijuana annually. The assumption is that the marijuana industry in Washington will be regulated as strictly as it is in Colorado.

(MORE: Buzzkill: Turns Out, Selling Pot Fails as a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme)

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the state’s first legal “pot clubs” opened with the new year — and new laws stating that purely recreational marijuana can be smoked, though not sold. Instead of selling pot, Denver’s Club 64 charged $29.99 for admission to a BYOM New Year’s party. Guests smoked and socialized, while enjoying a showing of The Big Lebowski and snacking on Cheetos and Goldfish — because apparently, while the business aspects and legal status of marijuana have been transformed, some things never change.

37 comments
scoot11
scoot11

So for a license to grow, you need $500,000.  Really?  Then by helping the economy, you really mean helping the government bureaucracy.

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a1415
a1415

Legalize weed already. We, grown humans are getting our hands slapped by fat politicians. 

RobertSamuelson
RobertSamuelson

Several commenters here say end the war on drugs -- but which drugs?  Do you want to legalize meth?  Heroin?  Cocaine?  If these were foods they would be banned by the FDA because they are poisons that destroy the body.  If the federal gov't legalizes marijuana consumption and allows states to establish state-controlled distribution centers, do you really think the cartels will simply pack up and go away?  Unfortunately they will not and will instead continue to wreak havoc and inflict barbaric cruelty on literally thousands of people every week.  All of this because of self-indulgent American drug users who have on their hands the blood of 50,000+ Mexicans and countless others further south. 

The fact is that marjijuana use and distribution is still illegal under federal law, which trumps state law (it's also still illegal in 95% of the states).  You may choose to violate federal law or choose to abide by it.  That is a moral decision.  We'll see how Attorney General Holder decides to handle CO and WA state laws that are in violation of federal drug statutes, none of which are going away anytime soon.

Paulpot
Paulpot

But why does the "safest therapeutically active substance known to man" (Judge Francis Young) need regulations at all, other than standard food safety, clean kitchen etc. 

Legalize! End the drug war. Save lives. 

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adamadamsmith777

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420_college
420_college

Those numbers are not realistic, just like the numbers they use to put a
value on marijuana after they do a bust..NOT REAL!!!!!   And fools are
the people that believe that a plant is a dangerous drug.  The gov is
outlawing nature....why don't they outlaw lions and tigers because they
are dangerous animals??  Lions and tigers have killed more people then
cannabis ever will (of course, I'm just being devil's advocate).    Part
of living in "FREE" country is being able to think freely, use your
free thinking rights.   http://420college.org

ThatTane
ThatTane

 Pain and trauma MuzzyLu

MuzzyLu
MuzzyLu

Marijuana was legal in America for years before it was banned, and nothing horrible happened. Cannabis will only help people in pain, and be a very mild tame recreational habit to others. Better for America that many people use marijuana than most other drugs and alcohol. Marijuana is a very healthy food if taken as an edible, not smoked. There is a great $2.99 e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints. 

whysman333
whysman333

Why no mention of Colorado's provision allowing up to 6 adult plants for personal use?  That kind of blows the whole "tightly regulated" theory out of the water, no?  While Washington state doesn't have that provision (except for medical marijuana patients), I strongly expect licencing will leave room for small time growers mostly growing for personal use.  The licencing process itself will be used to filter out undesirables growers, not necessarily small time growers.  In truth, the culture of enforcement here has largely ignored small time growers for decades.  There is simply no appetite to change that now.  And for those that don't seem to realize, the big time growers are just as likely to undesirable to the industry.  There are wannabe king pins growing acres in the woods that would just as happily get licensed.

HarryKuheim
HarryKuheim

62,000 watts of electricity and 7,500 gals of water a day? Sounds like a really "Green Business"...so Pot Heads really care about the Environment... right? Hypocrites and fools are what you really are.

BaileyHirschburg
BaileyHirschburg

The cheetos and goldfish served at Club 64 was a poke at Gov. Hickenlooper's comments marginalizing supporters after Amendment 64 passed. Its ok though. A lot of journalists get forgetful when covering marijuana...

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

In Washington, we can marry our gay lover and go home and smoke a joint.  Best state ever.

krymsun
krymsun

Bill Levin addresses the Indiana Senate Marijuana Study Committee 2011: " Indiana consumes at least 25 tons of marijuana every week."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Lv75PjN8gKk

$4.55Bn (per anum, one presumes) in new revenues from tax-stamp sales is the claim Bill Levin makes in the video of his address to the committee. At 25 tons per week (conservatively), that 'd be 22,679,618.5 grams/week. At $3.50 per gram tax through the Marijuana Tax Stamp sales, revenues would amount to $79,378,664.75 a week in tax-stamp revenues; 52 weeks in a year, $4,127,690,567 in 52 weeks. Only off by $0.422309433Bn .. or a $422,309,433 shortfall. Would need to sell 120,659,838 more grams/yr; 266,010 pounds.133 tons more. 2.55778 tons / week. Call Marketing!  Upon further consideration, if cannabis were legalized in Indiana, sales would only have to rise a bit more than 10% to meet his claimed projection. Since usage is expected to rise in the general populace by all sides of the debate, when cannabis is legalized, it appears no call to marketing will be necessary; little advertizing will be needed, to promote sales sufficient to bring the state the 4.5+ billion dollars.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Marijuana prohibition is a scam to its last dying breath.


bibleverse1
bibleverse1

I choose not to smoke weed but I dont mind if you smoke at your own home or other non public article.