There seems to be endless fascination with the legalization of marijuana. It’s not just that something that was once taboo can now be purchased at a corner store, but also the myriad steps and complications that buyers and sellers have gone through along the way. On a deeper level, it taps into our national entrepreneural spirit – people are making a lot of money with this, and so are the governments that tax them. It truly is the next gold rush.
A few years ago Big Pictures crews worked on a documentary called Marijuana USA for CNBC. We explored the early stages of legalization, back when users needed medical reasons to purchase pot. We filmed patients limping in and out of clinics trying to get their cards, and specialty gardeners tending their crops in strangely lit grow rooms.
Mom and pop shops were thriving on selling bags of weed and edibles - blending cannabis syrup with brownie mix, candy ingredients, and even pasta sauce.
This was truly the early frontier - with buyers, sellers, and law enforcement all trying to figure out the new rules of the game.
Last year we shot an episode of Drugs, Inc. for National Geographic. This delved into the broader impact of marijuana legalization on the entire drug economy. How would legalizing marijuana impact trade for other drugs like heroine, meth, and crack?
Tonight CNBC premiers another project we helped shoot called Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush, with Harry Smith. Now as the laws have evolved and the industry has grown, businesses have gotten more sophisticated, and the money is increasing dramatically. By 2018 the industry is projected to grow as large as $10 billion nationwide. But it still feels raw, like we are on the cutting edge of this whole thing. For example, businesses still can’t work with banks (because they are nationally regulated) so they are dealing in cash. We filmed in the back room of a store where two girls were counting out stacks of twenties and hundreds, and sorting them into envelopes so they can deliver them to their landlords, pay the power bill, and shop for supplies.
The next gold rush has arrived in Colorado, and other states, as entreprenuers seek out their fortunes like miners staking their claims. And the rest of the world remains interested, watching with fascination as we try to figure out this new frontier.
Marijuana in America: Colorado Pot Rush premieres on tonight on CNBC, 10PM EST.
Written by Tom Miller, Copyright 2014 Big Pictures Media, Inc.