A Look Inside Marijuana Dispensaries and How They Work

Like it or not, marijuana is headed your way.

Cannabis, following a long and troubled past with prohibition, is finally starting to be legalized in small pockets around the country through a variety of voter and government actions. While the federal government is still holding fast to all-out illegalization, states around the country are chipping away at marijuana laws to the benefit of local economies and even law enforcement professionals.

Thus far, Colorado and Washington are the only two states to have passed voter initiatives fully legalizing marijuana for recreational use. While there are still some caveats to the law, the benefits have been immense. Colorado has been raking in huge tax revenues since sales first started around the beginning of the year, and Washington, although lagging behind in the implementation of retail sales, is set to keep up. Both of these states had robust medical marijuana industries prior to full legalization, making the transition a bit easier for citizens. While the industries and laws vary from state to state, the basic premise of medical marijuana dispensaries, along with collective gardens and the donation system, work generally the same.

It’s through these systems of collective gardens and donations that medical marijuana dispensaries have been able to open up legally and thrive, serving the sick and needy of their respective constituencies. Naturally, there are those who abuse the system, using the medical loophole to simply get their hands on cannabis products for recreational use. But the medical marijuana industry plays an immensely important role in the lives of many. For many, cannabis products and their derivatives are the only thing that supplies relief to people suffering from cancer, chronic pain, anxiety, and countless other issues.

As a resident of Washington state, I’ve had the chance to check out dozens of local medical marijuana access points and speak with the individuals who own and operate them. Most run through a legal loophole which allows ‘collective gardens’, in which multiple medical marijuana patients, who are allowed to grow or possess a certain number of plants or weight in dried product, to come together by pooling their resources. Turning these collective gardens into a non-profit business is tricky, but by walking a fine legal line, it can be done.

... It’s no different from any other industry, really.

This also has helped develop a wide array of products for patients to try. From edibles of every conceivable kind to oils and dabs. Those, which are usually referred to collectively as concentrates, are quickly growing in popularity due to their high potency. Concentrates are made through a variety of different methods, but essentially consist of find a way to boil down cannabis until the chemical compounds are almost the only element remaining. Concentrates can be smoked, and sometimes eaten or applied topically.

From dried flower to edibles and concentrates, having patients develop their own brands of cannabis product effectively creates a supply chain to keep feeding the demands of the industry. Obviously, offerings will be different from location to location, and many shops are actually able to tailor their product lineups to the specific needs of the patients in their areas. One example would be an access point located near old industrial sites, where many people have developed cancers as a result of exposure to chemicals or radiation. Dispensaries in these areas may tailor their offerings to include more indica-heavy products, which typically help with chronic pain and other common issues cancer patients face.

Naturally, by creating supply chains and specific brands of products, there comes the need for all kinds of administrative and financial work, which also presents a whole new set of challenges for those engaged in the industry.

... Finally, complying with local laws is the basis on which the entire industry lies. The law is different from state to state, city to city, with some municipalities banning collective gardens and dispensaries altogether. Obviously, the medical community is not even recognized in any real sense by the federal government, which still, to this day, conducts the occasional raid on medical dispensaries. But for the vast majority of access points, simply complying with the law, only offering their services to certified patients and steering clear of trafficking activities will keep them in the clear. There is always a certain level of risk, but considering that full legalization has taken effect, especially in Washington, things are as lax as ever.

... If there is one interesting thing to take away from examining the medical marijuana industry, it’s that these patients all across the country have shown that there is a lot of hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity on display all across the country. As legalization takes hold in more states, this will only grow, and the economical benefits will be more visible. By creating new products, new businesses and creating new jobs, those in the medical marijuana industry are paving the way for an entire new business sector to take hold in the United States.

If you ever wanted to see free-market economics on full display, keep your eye on the marijuana industry.
Things are going to get interesting.

Legalizing marijuana is a controversial topic. The Cheat Sheet set out to dispel myths from reality.

Article posted on CheetSheet.com by Sam Becker April 24, 2015
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