By Phillip Smith
Legal marijuana is a big deal and it's only getting bigger. It's already a billion dollar-plus industry in the medical marijuana and legal states, and with California and a handful of other states poised to go legal in November, it's only going to get bigger.
With growing legality comes growing acceptance. Marijuana is insinuating itself deep within popular culture, and more and more people are getting interested. Pot use is on the increase among adults, especially seniors. In fact, it seems to be gaining popularity with just about everybody -- except kids.
Some folks have been pot people for decades. They've been smoking it, growing it, selling it, agitating for its legalization. They have an intimate understanding of the plant and the issues around it. Still, there are many, many more people who are not cannabis aficionados, but are becoming curious about marijuana or the pot business.
Will marijuana ease my aches and pains? If I start smoking pot, won't I get addicted? How do you grow the stuff? Can I make a million bucks growing weed? How do I start a pot business?
Chris Conrad and Jeremy Daw are well-positioned to provide some answers. Conrad has been around cannabis since forever -- he's a certified expert witness on marijuana cultivation, he curated the Amsterdam Hemp Museum back in the 1980s, he formed the Business Alliance for Cannabis Hemp in the 1980s, too, and he's been politically active in California (and national) pot politics the whole time -- and Daw is the up-and-coming publisher of The Leaf Online.
With The Newbie's Guide to Cannabis and the Industry, the pair of pot pros provides a compendium of marijuana-related information sure to be invaluable to interested novices and likely to hold some hidden treasures for even the most grizzled veteran of the weed wars.
The guide begins with a quick but detailed look at cannabis botany before shifting gears from the natural sciences to the social ones with a thumbnail history of pot prohibition and the last half-century's increasingly successful efforts to undo it. Conrad and Daw take up through political developments into this year, noting the spread of medical marijuana, with outright legalization now following in its footsteps.
And they make one critically important point here (and repeatedly in the business sections of the book): Despite how swimmingly legalization may be going in Colorado and Washington and Alaska and Oregon, pot remains illegal under federal law. All it would take is a new administration hostile to marijuana in the White House and a new memo from the Justice Department to bring the entire edifice crashing to the ground.
That's certainly something for would be ganjapreneurs to ponder, but it should also behoove the rest of us to remember that the job of freeing the weed remains unfinished business. As long as federal marijuana prohibition remains on the books, the prospect of a reefer rollback remains. Admittedly, the prospect seems unlikely: We are pretty far down the path of acceptance in the early legalizing states, and any return to harsh federal enforcement could have the paradoxical result of criminalizing or at least freezing state-level taxation and regulation while leaving pot legal, untaxed, and unregulated at the state level. While the federal government could try to block the states from acting to tax or regulate marijuana, if not in court then by going after the businesses, it can't force states to make it illegal again. It could attempt to enforce federal prohibition laws, but it doesn't have enough DEA agents to effectively do that, especially in states with home growing.
Conrad and Daw also delve more deeply into the botany of marijuana, addressing questions that will face consumers -- edibles or smokables? Indica or sativa? High THC or high CBD? -- as well as drilling down into the precise roles played by cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids (oh, my!) in creating marijuana highs, tastes, smells, and colors.
It's worth taking a moment to note the high production values of The Newbie's Guide. The book has an illustrated cover (not dust jacket) and is filled with with hundreds of color photographs of the plant, its users, marijuana production and sales, and more. It's also printed on glossy, high-quality paper stock. This thing isn't going to turn yellow in a few years.
Conrad and Daw devote a large chunk of the book to getting in the pot business or, more accurately, what people need to be thinking about if they're thinking about getting into the pot business. They accurately lay out the obstacles -- legal, political, financial -- awaiting anyone hoping to navigate the nascent industry, and they explore the manifold opportunities within the industry.
As they make clear, there's more to the pot business than growing and selling weed (although they certainly devote ample material to covering those basics) and there are employment and business opportunities far beyond growing, trimming, or budtending. Marijuana is spinning off all sorts of ancillary businesses, from edibles and cannabis oil manufacture to advertising and public relations to paraphernalia production to business services and beyond.
The Newbie's Guide is a most excellent handbook for marijuana consumers and potential consumers. It should also be required reading for anyone who is thinking about making a career in the industry. There is money to be lost as well as money to be made, and Conrad and Daw could well help stop you from throwing good money down a rat hole.
Perhaps as important, they demand that people wanting to get into the business do a thorough self-examination. Just why, exactly, do you want in? What is it you seek? Honest answers to those questions will help people make the right choices for themselves. If you're seriously thinking about using marijuana or getting into the business, you should read this book.