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The Green Effect: How Legal Cannabis Affects Other Industries

Topics: Current Events
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PayScale’s latest report, Jobs in Emerging Industries, shows that legalizing cannabis across the country could create over a million new jobs in the U.S. by 2020. But even at current levels of legalization, cannabis is big business.

It isn’t just the sale of cannabis that gets a boost when it’s legalized. Many other (some surprising) industries can benefit (while others possibly feel the pinch).

With nine states plus Washington, D.C. now selling recreational marijuana, and OG cannabis sellers like Colorado touting big state income boost from their tax revenues (over $1.5 billion in 2017 alone), you might also consider the ways that legalized cannabis affects adjacent industries as well.

Weed vs. Beer

Colorado is home to over 300 microbreweries, and notable big brewer MillerCoors hosts the largest brewery site in the country by volume. But is legal consumption of another mellow drug, namely marijuana, hurting beer sales? The state that leads even Colorado in breweries, California, just legalized recreational weed in January, and some analysts think that people in the state might just turn to a joint instead of a pint to wind down their day.

“There’s a ton of overlap in marijuana and domestic beer consumption among younger college males,” says Rick Maturo, co-founder of Cannabiz Consumer Group, an Inverness-based research company, tells Crain’s Chicago Business. “This is the group that drinks beer at a heavier volume and is most likely to cut back if cannabis is legally available.”

Cross-Border Investment

You might not know that our neighbors to the north, Canada, have legalized recreational marijuana (due to roll out July 2018), and investment is booming across the border.

In November 2017, Constellation Brands, a liquor company that makes Corona beer among other beverages, bought a 10 percent stake in Canadian medical marijuana company Canopy Growth to co-develop THC-infused beverages. The catch? They are partnering to sell those beverages only in countries where it’s federally legal to consume cannabis — a qualification that will benefit Canadians, but not American consumers.

Cannabis Tourism

Websites like Kush Tourism help vacationers keep up with where recreational marijuana is legal, and what to expect if you travel there. With the laws changing all the time, and states taking sometimes years to go from legalizing to throwing open the doors of dispensaries, it can be hard to keep up. Leafly also helps to keep cannabis aficionados in the know about what’s legal (smoking weed only on private property in Colorado) and what’s not (flying with marijuana, which even the TSA has flipped on several times).

The best advice for a cannabis holiday is keep it legal, local and take only memories home with you.

Eat, Smoke and Be Merry

Those who are out ahead of the curve are looking to get way epicurean with the states’ offerings. Chefs, foodies and wine lovers alike are enjoying sumptuous banquets where cannabis is infused or offered to diners in the same way that a glass of port or a cigar might be in those other 41 states with no legal marijuana.

In Colorado, they’ve had years to perfect food and weed pairings through forward-thinking chefs like Philip Wolf, who owns Cultivating Spirits. Part culinary experience, part cannabis education for the discerning consumer, Wolf’s dinners in private homes offer a whole new level of getting to know what you’re ingesting.

“I knew that cannabis, from a connoisseur’s standpoint, had the same qualities as wine,” Wolf tells Business Insider. “People come to the events for different reasons, the same way they do with wine tastings, Wolf says: ‘You have people who will ask questions and questions, and you have the people that just want to get drunk.'”

Wine or Weed?

California, Oregon, Washington state…they’ve all legalized recreational marijuana, and they’re also all known for their delicious wines and beautiful vineyards. Will they feel the pinch or a boost from weed? Some are already making the switch to a greener economy, like a few Oregon vineyards who switched up their cash crop to add cannabis to their cultivars.

While it makes sense that the same terroir can be used to benefit from both industries, some laws limit that grand scheme, depending on your location. “Wine operations can’t currently grow or sell cannabis without risking their federal winery license,” notes Joel Warner in Men’s Journal. But that could change.

“If cannabis becomes more accepted and the rules and regulations change, I think [vineyard owners] are going to have to consider it,” says Wine Industry Network CEO George Christie. “A real farmer asks, ‘What is my profit per acre?’ If they can make $20,000, $30,000 an acre with cannabis, they are going to look at it.”

And while those wacky regulations might impact growers as well as tourists who are looking to take advantage of a few different types of tastings on their girls weekends, there are always ways to (kind of) get around the laws. In fact, there’s now a weed-infused alcohol-free wine for sale by one winery in California. Just goes to show you should always read those labels.

Want to learn more about the legal cannabis business? Read PayScale’s latest report on emerging industries.

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