The Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida offered an all day intensive crash course covering most aspects of the cannabis business.
This multi-billion dollar business grew 74% in a year and is still federally illegal. Cassandra Farrington, co-Founder and CEO reminded the audience that possession, sale, transfer, transport, or use of cannabis - whether for medical or recreational purposes is 100% federally illegal.
Cannabis businesses have to pay Federal taxes but because it's federally illegal few banks will accept the money because they are all federally insured. The IRS takes it's massive cut and then adds a percentage for paying in cash. It would be comical if it weren't so expensive and ridiculous.
Other surreal realities are that 24 states are legal for medical purposes but patients are unable to take their medicine across state lines. Businesses aren't permitted to write off most expenses and are subject to expensive audits. Imagine running a business where it's mostly illegal to advertise, you don't have access to banks, you can't get traditional financing, the laws change weekly and your freedom is at stake if you make a mistake?
In many states there are limited to none ambiguous regulations. Landlord's properties can be seized or zoning laws can change within weeks forcing businesses to move. Compliance issues change on a daily basis, in part to contradictions amongst Federal and State discrepancies. This year's election could lead to more issues depending on who is elected.
The Cole Memo known as the "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement" restricts Federal funds to be used to raid dispensaries or grows in states that are legal.
Despite the obstacles, it can be a very lucrative business that potentially saves lives.
The conference audience and exhibitors were made up of dispensary owners, growers, edible companies, processors, and mostly ancillary businesses like equipment, packaging, software, seed-to-sale tracking technology, lights, testing labs, hydroponic systems and consultants.
Ms. Farrington spoke about the growing businesses and their expansion over the next year citing lower risks, better regulation, improved education and public opinion. This year's election could see California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Nevada and possibly Arizona go recreational. Florida, Missouri and Ohio could go medical and Pennsylvania just legalized medical cannabis.
The next Marijuana Business Conference and Expo will be in Las Vegas in November, 2016.
By Wendy Robbins
Producer/Director of The Marijuana Show - "Shark Tank for the legal cannabis industry"
Audition for Season 3 of The Marijuana Show at www.greenequitymedia.com