For the 20 states plus D.C. that have medical marijuana on the books, there are a paltry number of marijuana businesses to coincide. In fact, in many of these states, there are no businesses at all.
All the coverage and commentary revolves around two main topics: the medical efficacy of cannabis and the potential problems that will follow as new areas open up access. Why is no one talking about the actual business of marijuana? Getting through and receiving a license to be in the medical marijuana business is not even the hardest part - and believe me that part is pretty hard.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, any bank that takes money from an illegal enterprise can lose its FDIC coverage and be prosecuted; this means that no bank is giving out loans to would-be pot entrepreneurs. In the states that have a system with a licensing process, people with criminal records do not qualify for licensure; this means that if you have a background in the marijuana business before it was legal in your state, you probably don't qualify for licensure to go legit in your state.
Let's say you do qualify, apply, and receive a license. Now you are expected to comply with all your state regulations and open your marijuana business, which means that you have spent time and money and now are in a multi-million dollar venture with no understanding of how to take the appropriate next steps. Toss in a huge federal vs. state dilemma and sprinkle some good old-fashion politics and you wake up, roll onto your computer and type New Jersey Medical Marijuana into Google and 15,400,000 results are pulled for a state the currently has 1 medical marijuana dispensary.
Let's look at Arizona. In a state that issued 98 licenses last fall, at the time of this article there are less than 30 open businesses. Those 60-plus businesses that aren't open are sitting on their hands because starting a marijuana business is hard because of all these legalities. Even those people that spent the money, took the time, qualified under the guidelines, and received a license can't get open.
The final piece to this puzzle is the hordes of exploitative sharks circling each new territory that opens. As I mentioned earlier, the businesspeople receiving these licenses have no background in the industry, and as a default, they must then rely on "experts" to help them. Well, being that most of the "experts" in the marijuana game aren't available for consulting, there is a vacuum of an opportunity for the circus to come to town. Snake oil salesman and wannabes galore are pitching tents and hanging shingles. As a company, The MedMen have probably helped people open more marijuana businesses than anybody in the country, and I can tell you that unless you have support from people that have been there and done it, you are going to be in a world of trouble.
The bottom line is that it isn't local zoning keeping dispensaries out of your city. It's the extreme difficulty involved with opening a marijuana business. As a country we are evolving our views on medical marijuana and the momentum is clear and heavy. But as long as there aren't any banks that will loan money and there are complete newbies expected to start and operate a business they have no background in, there probably won't be a pot shop coming to a street corner near you.
Adam Bierman has become an industry leader and expert after founding MedMen, the first consulting firm of its kind acting as a medical marijuana consulting and marketing firm that provides turnkey opportunities for marijuana dispensary operators. The company has found a niche in working with start-up dispensaries as well as assisting existing businesses in almost every aspect: real estate services, legal filings and compliance set-up, interior design, construction, security, staffing, online and offline marketing, graphic design, website design, and maintenance.
Follow MedMen on Twitter at @MedMenU.