Cannabis lemonade. Cannabis honey. Even cannabis krispie treats — bottled, packaged and labeled like any other products.
A few years ago, they could have landed you in prison. But in Illinois, they’re about to become big business.
“When we first started in Colorado, there was no blueprint for this business,” said consultant Greg Gamet, walking the exhibit floor at Chicago’s Marijuana Business Conference and Expo. “We’ve seen real estate prices go from $50 a square foot, to $250 a square foot in three years.”
The conference is in Chicago for a reason. The state’s first medical marijuana licensees were confirmed in January, and product is expected to start flowing by year’s end.
“We’re hoping sometime in September or October,” said Edward Jauch, head of security for InGrown Farms, which is building a sprawling cultivation center near Freeport. “We came to this conference to support this industry. It’s new, it’s up and coming, and we’re here to learn from other people.”
There is plenty to learn. From cultivation, to packaging, to security and transport, marijuana is one of the few businesses which Illinois residents will witness from the ground up.
And one of the biggest learning curves, involves money.
“Marijuana is only cash,” said David Ellerstein, CEO of Jane Systems. “There’s no Visa or Mastercard.”
Because trafficking in marijuana is still considered a federal crime, many banks believe processing the cash from medical marijuana businesses will expose them to money laundering charges with federal regulators. Finding a bank willing to handle the millions of dollars the business is expected to generate, could be challenging. Ellerstein’s firm offers a hardened kiosk machine, which handles the cash inside the dispensary, and controls the entire point-of-sale experience. “We think this is something the regulators would embrace,” he said.
The exhibit halls of the Chicago Hilton and Towers were…