LOS ANGELES - Legal marijuana sales in the United States approached $3 billion last year, according to an investment group for the cannabis industry. Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law, but the drug has been legalized for medical or recreational use in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Investors and businesses hoping to cash in gather at trade shows, like one held last week in Los Angeles.
Products were on display at the Los Angeles Convention Center, from hothouse lights and fertilizer to extractors that get oils from the cannabis plant.
Robert Burns of the company HempMeds demonstrated a syringe with a graduated counter that can measure dosage. He said his company offers a salve for skin, or oil in drops form that is placed underneath the tongue. "Let it sit there for about 30 seconds, and just let it dissolve in your body that way,” he said.
The company also makes marijuana-infused cosmetics.
Also at the trade show were cannabis-spiked chocolate, marijuana-flavored wine, and candy that packs a punch because it includes a hefty dose of marijuana extract.
It's a business bonanza for companies in support industries, like those that make packaging, as recreational and medicinal use of marijuana spreads.
Peter Tadlock of AmeriVacS, a company that makes vacuum packaging, said his company gets orders "from Washington [state], Colorado, Florida. New York is coming online soon,” he said, noting the legalization of medical marijuana in that state, effective next year. "California, definitely. We sell all over.”
Training courses are offered for the burgeoning industry, and two entrepreneurs came to learn about the business. They operate small companies that make and sell vegan foods, and Michael Garcia hopes to expand his product line.
“I want to start putting marijuana in my food products because of the health aspects,” said Garcia, a U.S. Army veteran who is completing a graduate business degree at the University of Southern California.
Katina Morales, an entrepreneur and student athlete, believes marijuana helps with sports injuries. So does former professional football player Kyle Turley, who spoke at the conference and hopes to make marijuana use legal in sports.
Opponents say the long-term effects of today's highly potent marijuana are still unknown.
Federal officials are unhappy with the spread of marijuana, which they view as a gateway drug to more dangerous substances. For now, they are taking a hands-off approach, and the cannabis industry is booming.