Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but recreational cannabis is perfectly legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. That may be less than half of the states that make up the country, but it’s enough to keep cannabis retailers and their contracted growth facilities pretty busy—especially during the pandemic, when demand for good grass has spiked exponentially. In New Jersey alone, greenhouses grew more than double this year than the previous year, selling more than 20,000 pounds of cannabis to retailers in the state. Pittsburgh-based Maitri CEO Jimil Wilson notes, “While plenty of cannabis companies are rushing to meet the tidal wave of demand in Pennsylvania, Maitri has planned to satisfy the state’s medical marijuana market.” Because marijuana isn’t legal, like some other mind-altering substances, it can’t cross state lines, forcing the 19 progressively minded states to get creative when it comes to growing those coveted flowers.
The cannabis industry has skyrocketed in recent years—especially in 2020, when the pandemic kept so many people at home. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Some companies, like New Jersey’s Harmony Dispensary, are turning to unusual sites, including an industrial complex that formerly housed the pharmaceutical giant Merck. It’s since been transformed into a fragrantly thriving marijuana growth hub. A few miles away, a Morris County farm that used to plant and sell holiday-friendly poinsettias, evergreens, and pumpkins is technically still growing flora known to lift people’s spirits—just in a slightly different way. Now, the decades-old farm is growing thousands of medical marijuana plants in the state’s first cannabis-specific greenhouse, ironically enforcing New Jersey’s reputation as the Garden State in a big way.
And with two-thirds of the tristate area (New York and New Jersey) legally dispensing the good stuff, the potential market is estimated to soar beyond $6 billion within five years. In other words, botanically minded entrepreneurs’ dreams are about to come true with seemingly never-ending business opportunities, no matter the dire circumstances, such as global public health crises.
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