Marijuana entrepreneurs in Colorado recently got a reminder of the risks associated with selling a product that’s technically illegal under federal law. In the end, there’s no business guarantee.
Attorneys general in neighboring states filed a lawsuit last week with the Supreme Court attempting to overturn parts of Colorado’s historic marijuana law. They were able to take the case directly to the high court because it involves a dispute between states.
Despite the legal tug of war surrounding marijuana legalization, which runs counter to federal law, entrepreneurs see big business potential in the growing cannabis sector and are moving forward with growth plans.
Cannabis entrepreneurs are eyeing big profit potential. The wholesale and retail cannabis industry reached $1.5 billion last year, according to the ArcView Group, which invests in cannabis businesses and collects industry data. ArcView had forecast the sector to grow to $2.6 billion by next year and to expand to $10.2 billion by 2018.
Ripple effect on states
The lawsuit, filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and joined by fellow Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, claims Colorado is operating under laws that are unconstitutional. The suit also notes cannabis’ wide reach, and says products are finding their way into neighboring states, which do not allow recreational marijuana sales or possession.
“The illegal products being distributed in Colorado are being trafficked across state lines thereby injuring neighboring states like Oklahoma and Nebraska. As the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general’s office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans,” Pruitt said in a statement.
After the November midterm elections, the pendulum appeared to be swinging in favor of legalization. Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved recreational pot use, joining Colorado and Washington state. Nationwide, 23 states so far have approved the drug for medicinal use. More states are expected to consider legalizing marijuana sales in the coming years.
Read More The booming business of cannabis
Colorado businesses push ahead
Local Colorado businesses, meantime, don’t seem too shaken by the suit filed to the Supreme Court.
Tripp Keber, chief executive of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs, a cannabis-infused edibles company, said he’s not concerned “in the slightest” about the suit. Legal cannabis sales are safer and contribute in a meaningful way to the economy, he said.
“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” Keber said. “They will have to prove that they have experienced irreparable harm or injury from this. … Wouldn’t you rather have a model that has created tens of thousands of jobs?”
Other cannabis entrepreneurs in Colorado are following the suit but aren’t too worried about having to close their business doors anytime soon.
“I don’t see the Supreme Court getting involved in something that half the country supports,” said Andy Williams, chief executive of Medicine Man, Denver’s largest single marijuana dispensary.
Following legalization of recreational use, Williams’ business isbooming, with $9 million in sales forecast for this year. He expects to double his business in the next year.
Keber said the cannabis industry already may be “too big to fail” or shut down.