7 reasons legal cannabis is a recession-proof industry

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In the wake of the 2008 recession, real estate was no longer a viable career path for me. Residential real estate was plummeting, as were most categories of commercial, but I noticed one major exception: a significant number of businesspeople who were successfully renting in California, even in those difficult times, were marijuana dispensaries and cultivations.

I saw an opportunity, and I took it.

I began by investing in two indoor cultivation facilities. Once I had product, I needed somewhere to sell it, so I found business partners with retail experience and together we bought into a Venice dispensary. After completely remodeling, we increased sales by over five times in one year, after which time my partner and I sold our shares back to the owner at a nice profit. Since 2013, I have owned West Hollywood’s premier dispensary, Exhale Med Center, and I am also a partner behind BlazeNow and Bloom vape pens. Having learned about all components of the business from the ground up, I firmly believe the cannabis industry is uniquely positioned to thrive even in a national economy that many predict is due for a correction or recession. Here are the seven reasons why.

1. New states are legalizing cannabis every year.

The country shows no signs of changing course. As of now, marijuana is legal for recreational use in 10 states, and legal for medical use in 33 states. Those numbers are likely to go up this year.

2. Doctors are coming around to the benefits.

No doctor prescribes a patient a bottle of vodka. We know that even in moderation, alcohol damages the body. But as the benefits of cannabis become more widely understood, doctors across the country are more likely than ever to prescribe it to patients for relief of chronic pain, anxiety and nausea.

3. 'Vice' does well in difficult times.

After the 2008 recession, several studies showed that even those Americans who held on to their jobs tended to drink more than they had when the economy was more stable. A British study suggested that fewer people quit smoking during the recession than before it. The implication is that stress levels and feelings of insecurity are high during times of economic uncertainty, and people seek whatever means necessary, healthy or not, to find solace. As cannabis gains acceptance in the mainstream culture, I believe it will appeal to more and more people as a healthier form of relaxation, even in times when finances are lean.

4. There are still exactly zero recorded marijuana-overdose fatalities.

When consumed in excess, alcohol, cigarettes and even sugary sodas and processed foods lead to severe, even fatal, health issues. Other prescription and illegal drugs can lead to addiction and overdose. In contrast, cannabis use has no such consequences.

5. It’s a rising tide that floats many boats.

The cannabis industry doesn’t just line the pockets of growers and sellers. Construction workers, electricians and plumbers build the dispensaries, whose owners pay the rent that keeps strip malls alive. Designers build websites; craftspeople build paraphernalia. As the industry becomes more mainstream, publicists and marketing agencies find new clients in the business.

6. Cannabis has growing bipartisan support.

Last year, the Pew Research Center shared that 62 percent of all Americans supported legalizing marijuana, while a 2018 Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, a majority of Republicans supported marijuana legalization. Notable among those Republicans is former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner -- John Boehner! -- who joined the Acreage Holdings board of advisors. He is now an outspoken supporter of cannabis businesses and pro-cannabis legislation.

7. Legislative changes will be slow. That’s a good thing.

Right now, the laws around cannabis are murky, confusing and contradictory, resulting in tax penalties for business owners that other industries don’t face. States can take two, four, even six or more years to pass a single law to resolve these issues. But the tides are changing, and progress at this point is inevitable. Slow legislative changes mean cannabis will continue to be a growth industry for years, even decades to come.

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