Blazing a Trail
As cannabis legalization spreads, budding businesses and established entrepreneurs scramble to get involved. Besides manning medical dispensaries and recreational storefronts, entrepreneurs can cultivate businesses that support growers and sellers (e.g., lighting, packaging, security) and produce spiked goods like marijuana-infused treats and sweets. Although cannabis is labeled as a controlled substance at the federal level, 23 states, plus Washington, D.C., permit medical marijuana use. Washington State, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and D.C. allow adults to indulge recreationally.
Forget your college roommate’s pot brownies. Nowadays, marijuana-infused foods range from drinkables like coffee and soda to edibles like pizza. Ice cream legend Ben & Jerry’s even hopes to someday use marijuana as an ingredient (think Half Baked® 2.0). Love’s Oven, a Denver-based cannabis bakery, dishes more than 20 different snacks to roughly 150 local dispensaries and recreational shops. The treats—including baklava and chocolate chip cookies—are made with cannabutter, a green-colored, THC-infused butter. The high from a quarter-sized Love’s Oven cookie, which contains 10 milligrams of THC, can last a whole evening. “It’s like having a nice glass of wine, but having the effects stick around for five to six hours,” says owner Peggy Moore. Launched in 2009, Love’s Oven’s business increased over 1,000 percent in the first few months after legalization, and her gross sales in 2014 were $1.6 million.
Give your beauty routine a green facelift with ganja-inspired basics like hempseed oil-based lipsticks, cannabis-scented perfumes and THC-infused bath soaks that claim to offer more relaxation than your everyday bubble bath. Cannabis has countless applications for healing and beauty, according to Apothecanna partner Joie Meffert. The Denver-based company, founded by James Kennedy in 2009, produces topical products including creams, sprays and lip balms. Apothecanna products include hempseed oil, but its infused line contains cannabis oil (high in THC and cannabidiol) and is only available to certain states. These items won’t get you stoned, though: Cannabis oil’s anti-inflammatory properties and essential fatty acids nourish skin and, when paired with other ingredients, can strengthen a product’s effects, explains Meffert. “It’s about the ingredients combined, and cannabis just happens to be the star of the show.”
Planting a Business Plan
Cannabis is a buzz-worthy business prospect, but slapping an image of a marijuana leaf onto a product doesn’t guarantee a hit, according to Shad Ewart, an assistant professor of business management at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland, who teaches a class about entrepreneurial opportunities in the marijuana industry. Despite the negative perceptions and stereotypes sometimes associated with cannabis, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs’ ideas to take root as the industry grows. “I don’t envision a Walmart of marijuana,” he says. “I think it’ll be the small entrepreneurs in each of the states [who will thrive].”