Just three short years ago certain business conversations would be halted at the mention of cannabis. Most mainstream investors, law firms, and large-company executives tended to back away given the substance’s federal classification and the stereotype of the “typical cannabis user.” Celebrities of the likes of Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, and Woody Harrelson were early vocal proponents, but they were generally classified as part of an edgy, liberal subculture not in the realm of big business dealings. At that point in time, Cannapreneurs sought refuge in the prolific emergence of cannabis industry groups, networks and specialized investors and service providers who were on the left side of the industry’s bell curve.
But in 2017, it seems that cannabis may have crossed the threshold into big business legitimacy. Despite the federal government continuing to classify it as a Schedule I substance, there are many indications that the tide has turned. Case in point, 30 states have now legalized some form of cannabis and polls show that U.S. support for legalization is at an all time high level, for example 60% of respondents favored legalization in the most recent Gallup Poll. Large law, investment and lobbying firms are creating dedicated cannabis practices, while tech giants like Microsoft are investing in operational platforms for legal cannabis management. And the face of cannabis supporters and business owners now includes the likes of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Jennifer Aniston and conservative talk show host Montel Williams.
As an attendee at a recent meeting for a tech program run by a state university I was surprised that an agenda item was the announcement of a new cannabis industry group. Would this have happened a few years ago? Maybe in a blue state, but in the red state that I currently live in, it was a pleasant reminder that cannabis is now on the map as a legitimate business sector.