As More States Legalize Marijuana, Investors And Marketers Line Up

Article by Uri Berliner, NPR

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Quietly on election night, overshadowed by the epic battle between blue and red, the map of America grew greener. Voters in four states — California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine — chose to legalize recreational marijuana. In Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota, ballot measures passed allowing pot to be used for medical purposes. (Only Arizona bucked the trend, saying no to recreational weed).

About 60 percent of Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal or soon to be legal in some form. And with marijuana use on a steady march toward normalization, if not outright national legalization, the booming cannabis industry appears bound for even greater growth.

The smell of money is in the air. “Support for legal cannabis was one of the few mandates voters in both red and blue states delivered” Nov. 8, said Brendan Kennedy, CEO of the marijuana-focused private equity firm Privateer Holdings.

Since the passage of the eight ballot measures, he says there’s been a surge of interest from investors “who recognize that the end of cannabis prohibition is inevitable.”

The marijuana market has some unique characteristics that make it attractive to investors. And also some unusual risks. The big draw comes down to basic math: The fledgling legal market for marijuana is around $7 billion, according to New Frontier and ArcView Market Research.

That’s big, but dwarfed by what Kennedy says is the overall $50 billion U.S. market, most of which remains illegal. So as legalization gains steam, the black market shrinks and legitimate investors and businesses stand to monetize tens of billions of dollars.

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