One of the great things about conferences – like the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo my team just attended – are the under-the-radar trends you pick up on.
The mainstream media is hardly talking about them. And the more specialized, niche coverage is busy with topics perceived as "bigger" – at least in the immediate term.
It's the kind of valuable and credible information hanging out there on the fringes where millions are made.
And it's why I'm personally attending the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in Oakland, Calif., today.
For example, at last month's Marijuana Business Conference, a panel discussion on emerging legal marijuana markets may have flown under the radar with some inexperienced investors… but it jumped off the page to my team.
Panelist Michael Bronstein, of the law firm Bronstein & Weaver, proclaimed that New Jersey could become the most lucrative state recreational market east of the Rocky Mountains within two years. And he came equipped with plenty of data and anecdotes to back his claim up.
It makes sense.
First, New Jersey has a first-mover advantage, as none of its immediate neighbors will beat it to recreational legalization.
Plus, NJ borders two of the five most populated cities in the country, New York and Philadelphia… it's got a huge population all on its own… and it is home to communities hit hard by the decline of manufacturing looking for emerging industries like legal cannabis to bring in jobs and tax revenue.
In an effort to get tipped off on some similar profit-promising trends before I head to the Cannabis Business Summit, I spoke with a top executive of the group that sponsors that event.
Making Her Voice Heard
Taylor West is deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. She joined the group three years ago after a stint in Washington working on reforming U.S. drug laws and policy.
She's also a veteran of several high-profile political campaigns and has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, FOX News, and CNBC.
While she was getting ready for the Cannabis Business Summit, we had a wide-ranging conversation about trends and news affecting the legal marijuana sector from an investor's point of view.
Take a look…
The Biggest Ever
Michael A. Robinson: Let's jump right in and talk about the Cannabis Business Summit. Isn't this one of the bigger ones you've held so far? How big do you expect it to be?
Taylor West: This is our largest event of the year, and it will be the largest one that we've ever had. This is our Fourth Annual Cannabis Business Summit. We're expecting somewhere around 4,500 people, and that would be a sellout. It's also a very well-curated attendee group.
One of the reasons for that is that we take a lot of pride in the content that we provide. So, in addition to there being an expo floor and lots of opportunities for networking, obviously, we a make a very real point of ensuring that the program is valuable for anyone, from an industry newcomer to someone who has been working in it for a long time.
MAR: You've formally been involved in the cannabis industry since 2014. It seems to me that it's growing like crazy. The $6.7 billion legal marijuana market is estimated to top $35 billion by 2020. What's your assessment?
TW: The growth for the industry has been exponential, and we see that reflected in the growth of our organization. When I started in January 2014, we had somewhere between 300 and 350 member businesses. We are now north of 1,300.
MAR: Fourfold growth in three years? That's amazing.
TW: Yeah, not bad at all! That's reflective of what we're seeing in the industry overall. It's growing very rapidly as more states legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis, and as more governments recognize that a regulated system is actually preferable to one based on prohibition. That's why we see so many opportunities increasing.
I think we're poised for another bout of significant growth as California opens up their recreational cannabis programs starting in January 2018. Over the last few years, they've made up 50% of the overall U.S. legal market. And that was with just medical marijuana. So, now that they're going to open up a regulated recreational system, there's going to a significant amount of market potential there.
MAR: How do you see that playing out?
TW: That means a lot of different things. Obviously, it's great from a business opportunity standpoint. It's also great from an economic engine standpoint. These are small businesses that are creating jobs. They're generating tax revenue. They're really showing themselves to be good corporate citizens contributing to the bottom lines of their community.
It goes a long way toward helping people understand the benefit of a regulated industry. It also means that there's a strong set of roots being put down so that the ability to respond to potential threats is a lot stronger.
MAR: Back in the 1990s when you were working on policy about stopping the war on drugs, did you ever think cannabis would get this big and be this legal?
TW: It certainly wasn't something that seemed like it was going to happen as quickly as it did. I think it's a tribute to the many people who have been working in the drug policy reform movement for decades that their message has really had a huge impact.
You know, just in the last 20 years the difference in public opinion about the effectiveness of the drug war and the relative harms of products like marijuana versus alcohol is substantial. And that is very much due to the work of those advocates.
MAR: And during that period, public opinion about cannabis has completely flipped, right? There's a new CBS poll that says 61% of Americans think marijuana use should be legal.
TW: That's huge. Actually, the same day that that poll came out, there was another national poll from Quinnipiac that had that same question about federal interference. So we've had two national polls showing that more than 70% of Americans would oppose the federal government coming in and trying to roll back state programs.
MAR: But we're not just talking about the United States. Mexico's legislature has approved medical marijuana, and Canada has just legalized recreational use. What does this say about the industry today?
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.