Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article.
All eyes are on Nevada this week as news broke that marijuana legalization will be on the state's 2016 ballot. If voters give it the green light, pot will be regulated in the same way alcohol is, which begs the question: will Sin City experience a job boom as a result?
Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) currently have legal, regulated marijuana markets in operation. According to a recent CBS News
report, it represents a promising new industry.
Just how much recreational pot did Colorado consumers buy in 2014? Over 17 tons, reports Reuters
. This translates to $313 million in sales. What's more is that medical marijuana raked in an additional $386 million.
Colorado is reaping the economic benefits with tens of thousands of new jobs created. Roughly 16,000 people are licensed to work in the marijuana industry in Colorado, according to CBS
. Many can't help but wonder if the marijuana industry has the same growth potential as the industrial and tech booms of the past century.
Some argue that, unlike the tech bubble of the late 1990s and today, the budding marijuana industry does not require specific skills or significant funding to get off the ground. Similarly, the pot industry appears to require far fewer resources than the manufacturing boom of the 1900s. For example, land, infrastructure and raw materials are non-essentials.
The marijuana industry also has branch potential for a variety of workers - from engineering to shipping; from over-the-counter sales to economic development.
Some investors may be looking to strike while the iron is hot.
"This is probably the lowest cost of entry there will ever be," says Tae Darnell, VP and general counsel for Surna
. The Colorado-based company manufactures equipment for the legal cannabis industry. "The potential for capitalization in the next few years may be the highest it will ever be. Looking at cannabis as well as hemp production, to have an industry this big and this inexpensive is staggering."
Darnell adds that when you factor in the industrial component, the industry easily has the potential to be worth upwards of a trillion dollars. He says that some investors and entrepreneurs can get into the business for less than $5 million.
"It's an amazing time and an amazing opportunity for astute investors and critical observers," he says. "It's a chance to be involved in something huge in the next few years."
Of course, not everyone supports the growing marijuana movement. A number of opponents are mobilizing protests against its momentum at the state level. They argue that neighboring states that have not legalized marijuana will experience an overflow of illegal drug use and a strain on their criminal justice systems, reports The Washington Post
. Even so, it appears that these plaintiffs have an unlikely shot of succeeding.
"We in Colorado, on the legal side as well as the business side, have pushed for regulation; and not just hands-off regulation, but rather the most highly monitored and regulated industry in the nation," says Darnell. "By being able to prove the model under a heavily-regulated system, you show that there can be checks and balances in place, and prove the possibilities to those who may be reluctant to accept or embrace the industry and its products."