Not all of the grass enjoyed this coming weekend will be that bright green stuff cushioning dyed hard-boiled eggs.
In an interesting confluence of events, Easter Sunday shares April 20 with what’s come to be known as National Weed Day, when marijuana is smoked and publicly celebrated in parks and plazas nationwide; Wikipedia calls it a “counter-culture holiday” (wonder how long that moniker will hold up as legalization efforts spread) and explains the lore behind the notion that 420 (or 4/20 or4:20) is code for for marijuana.
Just in time to meld the chocolate treats of Easter with some Rocky Mountain highs, the first marijuana- related vending machines are being unveiled that can dispense brownies or other pop products, and use biometrics to make sure the purchaser is of legal age.
It’s an opportune moment to review the legal status of smokers in your neck of the woods, any pending legislation that might open up the pot industry and quirky stories related to the sale and use of the plant. The Cannabis Country enthusiasts site (which features a Buds of the Week photo contest) has compiled a list of …yes, 420 events that will commemorate what it prefers to call National Pot Smokers Day. Gatherings range from legalization protests to public “smoke outs” and cover a wide range of the United States and beyond; check the list for organizers of the one nearest you.
The range of laws and attitudes toward marijuana varies widely by state; Maryland’s governor just signed two related bills; one resurrects the state’s medical marijuana program and the other decriminalizes owning small amounts of pot. But in other jurisdictions, owning a few can land you in prison for a dozen years or more. Take a look at the advocacy group NORML’s interactive map of state laws.
We all know what the law is in Colorado, and you can bet pot is going mainstream when it gets its own newspaper blog; the Denver Post jumped right on it with The Cannabist and I must say the blog is a trove of interesting angles, from a call for a new marijuana critic (yes, get paid to review weed — must authoritatively known marijuana) to an article about conflicts with neighbors who don’t like the odors emanating from your bongs. More to the point for a business writer, the blog features roundups of products and small business profiles.
And in Colorado they’re not just celebrating 420 day — they’ve got 4/20 Week coming up with concerts, pet expos and more. (Canabist Tip: Out-of-staters, don’t leave your leftover smoke as a tip for the hotel housekeeper when you leave town; you’ll both get in trouble.)
Irreverence aside, you can see how legalizing marijuana sends financial and jobs creation tentacles throughout a community’s businesses, from tourism and hospitality to retail to health care. Business leaders and lawmakers nationwide must be looking at Colorado and licking their chops at the potential tax revenue; Reuters just reported that Colorado will rake in $98 million this year in marijuana related taxes – 40 percent more than forecast — and of course that’s not counting the other forms of spending that locals and tourists are doing on everything from bed & breakfast inns to Girl Scout Cookies. Are these industries lobbying in your area for marijuana law reform, or are they worried that marijuana tourism might be siphoning interest in their offerings if it spreads?
Medical marijuana dispensaries are due for another look, too, and if it’s legal in your state, check around for any publicly traded companies like Medical Marijuana Inc., or other opportunities for those who want to get in on the ground floor; one analyst calls it the “single best investment opportunity for the next 10 years.” You might talk with local brokerage firms, investment advisers, financial planners — are they getitng any inquiries from institutional or individual clients? And what are pension funds pondering about pot?
Another grey area as pot slowly loses its stigma — what happens to people who’ve been imprisoned for using or selling the drug, and what happens to the legal practices of attorneys who specialize in that area? Talk with your area’s bar association and niche lawyers about their profession’s concerns regarding those and other issues stemming from a contradictory patchwork of state, federal and local laws. Other professional practices — like this firm of CPAs that specialize in legal marijuana – are springing up as well.