Editor’s note: Sarah Browne is managing director of consumer insights firm Gateway Radar, Oakland, Calif.
Election 2016 was one for the history books – and not just because of the presidential race. On that Tuesday, the booming cannabis industry scored a landslide victory, with four states legalizing recreational marijuana and another three states approving medical use. Nearly 80 years after prohibition, cannabis is emerging from the black market and speeding into the mainstream. Nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population now lives in states that have legalized some form of marijuana use and sales (Figure 1).
Then there’s the walloping financial windfall. Marijuana Business Daily projects the new legalizations could lead to $7 billion to $8 billion in additional annual retail cannabis sales, especially now that the world’s sixth largest economy, the state of California, has fully jumped on board.
If the numbers above haven’t convinced you that the cannabis revolution is worth a look, these stats might. Attendance at the 2015 Marijuana Business Conference, the big kahuna of cannabis conferences, hovered around 5,000. In 2016 the conference attendance more than doubled, as 10,841 of the cannabis-curious packed the sessions, the expo hall and networking events. In the badge line, late registrants were begging the crew for anything – a one-day pass, a ticket to the investor’s breakfast or the expo. The man next to me offered to pay triple the entrance fee. But the conference at Las Vegas’ Rio Hotel and Convention space was sold-out. The overflow landed at a jam-packed Starbucks where the lines snaked down the hallway to the conference.
The last time I experienced that level of excitement was at the tech extravaganza of 1994: Comdex. The frenzy. The free-for-all. The thousands of newbies hoping to get in on the Internet action early enough to grab a seat at the table.
You know how that ...