New Cannabis law will bring a wave of jobs and opportunities

New Cannabis law will bring a wave of jobs and opportunities

If past experience is any guide, as many as 20,000 new jobs could be created in Minnesota.

ROCHESTER - The ink of Gov. Tim Walz’s signature had no sooner dried on the state’s new marijuana law than Rochester resident P.J. Calkins was open for business as a new “marijuana consultant.”

“I was getting calls from the next day,” Calkins recalled. “‘Hey, I want to talk to you. Have you read the bill?’”

Calkins began nurturing his entrepreneurial instincts at an early age. He was 9 when he ran a button manufacturing company. And his nose for opportunity convinced him that the state’s new pot law will create a gusher of new jobs.

New marijuana dispensaries won’t open in much of Minnesota until next year. In Rochester, it could be as late as 2025. But, in a sign of the consumer appetite for weed, hundreds of people queued up to buy marijuana at the state’s first retail dispensary last week, on the Red Lake Reservation, whose sovereign status allowed it to jump to the front.

A former candidate for Rochester City Council, Calkins is confident that competition for licenses to sell pot products in the Rochester area and southeast Minnesota will be intense and that there will be more applications for such licenses than there will be licenses.

But even beyond the business of growing and selling marijuana, Calkins and others say that the new law will create an ecosystem of indirect jobs that will undergird the industry. Jobs will abound in transportation, marketing and branding, testing and tagging, security, packaging and tourism to support the budding industry.

A report published last year by Leafly, a cannabis news website, found that the U.S.’s legal cannabis industry supports about 428,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Calkins said that Michigan, among the first states to legalize recreational weed, boasts more than 35,000 cannabis-related jobs. If Minnesota, a state half of the size of Michigan in terms of population, sees a similar amount of activity, it could create anywhere from 17,000 to 20,000 jobs, he said.

The new law allows municipalities to limit the number of cannabis retailers to one for every 125,000 people, but it can’t ban the business outright. And government entities can choose to put no limit on the number of marijuana stores in their jurisdictions if they are so inclined.

Calkins said, “Minneapolis will be a huge hub, but hopefully, you’re going to have somewhere in the state, maybe in Southeast Minnesota, a county that says, ‘We’re going to bring this huge economic driver to our community.’”

It will be the responsibility of consultants like Calkins to help his clients navigate a playing field where the rules and regulations have yet to be created. Many cities and counties are in wait-and-see mode about how to apply the new law. It will be the job of Calkins and other consultants to not only interpret the law but the ordinances put in place to regulate the using and selling of weed in cities and counties.

“A city like St. Charles might extend the distance from schools. Instead of 500 feet, it’s 1,000 feet. Well, that wipes out all of Main Street (as a potential site for a cannabis store), because the school is right downtown,” Calkins said.

Some things are known. Most banks, for example, will not “touch” cannabis because it remains a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

And the law gives preference for licenses to those who have been historically harmed from what advocates say is the over-policing of cannabis. A social equity application will put those with past marijuana convictions, those living in underprivileged communities and disabled veterans first in line for licenses.

Chris Ward, a fellow consultant with Calkins, said Minnesota will benefit from the mistakes of states that preceded it. The legislation generally frowns on the creation of vertically integrated businesses that would crowd out start-ups and that would seek to control every aspect of the business from the testing and transportation to the marketing and selling of weed.

“The way that Minnesota has done it, it will be more like craft brewery style for a whole lot of people,” Ward said.

Ted Galaty of Zumbrota said the law imposes new costs that impact his business.

For people like Ward, this brave new world of cannabis presents not only a business opportunity but a chance to expand a cannabis culture to people unaware of its benefits. A St. Charles resident, Ward was born in New Zealand and began using it as a youth.

“It’s cool that you can grow plants. It’s fantastic for everybody that they can just get a couple of seeds and grow it and enjoy the benefits,” Ward said.

Ward said the first step of their new business, called Green Guides, will be to help home growers cultivate the plant at home. Eventually, the hope is to own and operate a retail dispensary.

But even if he and his business partner were unable to obtain one of the precious licenses, it won’t be the end of the world. There will just be too much opportunity.

“It’s definitely not closing any doors,” Ward said, “because service industries underlying it are all going to be so profitable. Whether you’re a driver or a testing facility or whatever, there’s going to be a lot of moving parts.”

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Region: Minnesota

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