As impending legalization inspires entrepreneurs to dream in green, a little caution is in order—launching a reefer retail business is harder than it sounds. Here are some tips for navigating regulatory hoops:
State legalization has unsurprisingly proved a boon to the cannabis business: Legal marijuana sales in the United States are projected to reach $7.1 billion this year, and some analysts are calling weed the country’s fastest-growing industry. Still, the plant’s pesky status as a Schedule I illegal substance—heroin is federally regulated the same way—makes cannabis a risky investment. Most publicly traded, marijuana-based businesses remain wild penny stocks, but there’s a reason to be optimistic.
For one, the legal market is growing. Cannabis is recreationally legal in four states and medically in 25 states (up to 12 states could vote on legalization measures this November). Meanwhile, biopharmaceutical companies are ramping up research with the support of the federal government. The Democratic Party even wrote federal rescheduling—the potential of reclassifying cannabis—into its 2016 national platform.
At first, Dope Girls was just a photography project. Beca Grimm, a writer based in Atlanta, began collecting images of the containers women and non-binary people use to carry their weed, including coin purses, glass jars, and repurposed perfume spray bottles. Grimm soon became intrigued by the feminization of weed culture. “Weed is traditionally associated with machismo and can feel inaccessible to people who don’t identify as such,” she says. “It’s no longer a subculture revolving around black velvet posers, black lights, and deadbeats.”
Early last year, Ophelia Chong convinced her sister, who suffers from the autoimmune disease scleroderma, to try cannabis. Her sister usually popped pills for the pain, but she agreed to give it a try. “As I was watching her, I thought: That’s a marijuana user,” Chong says. A stock photographer, Chong was inspired to search online for images of smokers that resembled her ill 54-year-old sibling. In photo after photo, all she found were stoners slumped onto couch cushions, men blowing clouds of smoke, or hypersexual images of women brandishing joints.