It's not just hydroponics stores hopping on the boo bandwagon. Jerome Handley, an attorney based in Hayward, California, specializes in what's emerged as an entirely new area of practice, "cannabis business law." Hadley currently handles about 50 clients who run cannabis-related businesses, ranging from medical marijuana growers and dispensaries to paraphernalia makers.
"When the Obama administration came in and the feds backed off closing dispensaries, I suddenly got bombarded with people coming in saying, 'We want to incorporate, we want to pay taxes, we want to make sure our books and records are in order,'" Handley says. "I tell my clients that in California, you may not have to worry about the police anymore, the thing you have to worry about is the IRS."
Other cannabis-related ventures offer business services to medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical Marijuana Inc., based in Mission Viejo, Ca., offers pre-paid debit cards for dispensaries and has plans for a "seed to sale" inventory control tracking system for marijuana.
"Most people think cannabis businesses are just the growers and the dispensaries," says Bruce Perlowin, chairman of Medical Marijuana Inc, and a self-confessed former marijuana smuggler who once spent 9 years in federal prison. "But there's a huge number of peripheral businesses out there. There are the doctors who are making a fortune off of medical marijuana. There are magazines, radio shows, insurance companies, hemp expos and trade shows, hemp clothing. It's exploding."
San Jose-based Northern California Natural Collective even delivers medical marijuana directly to the door of patients, and has made more than 1,000 house calls since the collective opened in April. Scores of other dispensaries offer delivery service, most of them in and around Los Angeles and the Bay Area. If Prop 19 passes, such pot-on-wheels services are likely to become as popular as Domino's. And someone is bound to offer the ultimate delivery service: pot and pizza.
Then there are educational ventures, such as Oaksterdam University, with campuses in Los Angles, the Bay Area and Flint, Michigan. The school teaches students about the business of cannabis with courses such as The Science of Cannabis, Dispensary Operations and Methods of Ingestion: Cooking.
Cannabis-related operations have become considerably less shy about the nature of their business, an attitude very much in evidence at weGrow's hydroponics superstore. Unlike most hydroponics operations, which are conspicuously silent about exactly what their customers are growing, weGrow makes no bones about what everyone's up to.
Visitors to the store are greeted by three clocks: the first two display the time in California and Amsterdam, while the third is set perpetually to 4:20, the universal code for pot smoking. WeGrow hosted a 4/20 festival in April, complete with magicians, artists, food, music, and on-site consumption of cannabis for verified patients in a "vaporizer lounge." Place a phone call to weGrow's store and you'll chill to reggae music on hold. A doctor is on site at the store three days a week to perform evaluations for patients who want a medical marijuana card. In-store displays show real marijuana plants growing in a hydroponics system (sorry, no free samples). It's this no-apologies approach that leads weGrow to call itself "the first honest hydro store."