The marijuana industry is still small, fragmented, regional and struggling — legally — to its feet.
But shrewd entrepreneurs recognize now is the time to leap into the fray, as pot is likely to be legal in 14 states within five years. New York and Florida are expected to join the growing list of states where it is medically legal in within one year.
Those are some of the robust predictions of Troy Dayton, chief executive officer of the ArcView Group, which brings together venture capitalists and idea people in the cannabis culture, now exploding out from under secretive grow lights into broad daylight.
"Right now, it's the perfect storm," said Dayton, keynote speaker at the jam-packed, two-day Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference at Ashland Springs Hotel.
Demand and prices in pot-legal states are burgeoning, but prices will trend down, he said. The U.S. marijuana market hit $1.53 billion in 2013 and likely will reach $2.57 billion this year, according to his market research, and "you couldn't find another business growing faster," he said.
Dayton predicts Oregon voters will legalize adult use of cannabis in the November election. Nationally, he said, the market will sail over $10 billion in five years.
For investors, cannabis entrepreneurs and those in ancillary areas, "there is low competition right now," he said. "The field is wide open. There's a huge knowledge gap and a lot of need to fill it. They're going to need a lot of professional services. Usually, there are multinational players leading it, but not here. You have a perception of risk but it's rapidly diminishing."
Dayton emphasized there will be profits to be made from ancillary cannabis businesses, including security, testing, packaging, software, climate control, insurance and anything connected with perfecting the product and assuring organic standards.
"You're going to see an absolute explosion of innovations in the agricultural field," said Dayton. "We're going to get it out in the sun, finally, and reduce our ecological footprint."
Entertainment, music, comedy and grow tours associated with cannabis is growing fast, especially in Oregon, which passed its Medical Marijuana Act 15 years ago, Dayton said.
"The hippies were right," he crowed, to much applause. "Remember the first time you decided that punishing people for it was wrong? We were right about organic food, right about the personal computer, right about yoga, right about renewable energy, and they've all become large, successful businesses. This is the next great American business."
— John Darling
Read Friday's Daily Tidings to see what other speakers at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference had to say.