By Chris Walsh
Get ready for the international green wave.
A growing number of countries are considering legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use, and they’re turning to cannabis businesses in the United States for a glimpse of what’s possible.
Earlier this week, two dozen dignitaries from Canada, Mexico and Uruguay spent several days getting a first-hand look at Colorado’s marijuana industry. The group visited dispensaries and grow sites and talked to local officials about how the state is preparing for the emergence of recreational cannabis businesses.
The tour – held ahead of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference – highlights international business possibilities for companies in the United States. Countries that legalize medical or recreational marijuana will likely seek guidance, technology, products and services from businesses in established markets. That will open huge doors for US companies, from those that make inventory management software and cultivation equipment to those that offer testing services, security solutions and even infused products.
We’re already seeing this play out to some degree in Canada, which is opening up its medical marijuana program to the free market. Additional opportunities could arise in a handful of other countries that are considering marijuana legislation – including Guam, the United Kingdom and Uruguay – in the coming years.
Also this week, the Washington State Liquor Control Board dropped a bombshell on the medical marijuana industry. The agency released draft recommendations that would wipe out most existing dispensaries and cultivation operations, particularly in the MMJ hub of Seattle.
There’s no question that Washington’s medical marijuana industry must come under some type of regulatory control. And one could argue that the state does indeed need to eventually merge its medical and recreational marijuana industries together.
But this proposal doesn’t make much sense. There are plenty of reputable dispensaries and cultivation operations that adhere to sound business practices in the current unregulated market, and they have the expertise and experience to thrive in a regulated systems. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create viable businesses. But many of them will be shut out of the new program due to a cap on the number of cannabis stores (just two dozen in Seattle, vs. the 200 medical marijuana dispensaries that exist today).
A better plan: Force MMJ businesses to obtain licenses – using the same requirements as retail marijuana stores – but don’t subject them to the recreational program’s cap. This would strike a more healthy balance between regulation and respect for the medical side of the industry.
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