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Is marijuana America’s next big industry?

The topic of marijuana is one that will always evoke a lot of emotions. For some people, marijuana is an evil drug that should remain illegal and has no place in American society. For others, marijuana is a god-given herb with life saving properties that should be legal to use for medical (if not recreational) use.

No matter which side of the argument you are on, one thing is for sure… marijuana is slowly shedding the negative image it has had ever since the movie Reefer Madness terrorized millions when it first aired in the ‘30s showing the insanity that use was purported to lead to.

Since then, society has started to view marijuana in a different light. Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states plus Washington D.C., and last month residents of both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize it for recreational use.

There is no questioning the fact that marijuana use can greatly help people with certain medical conditions. It has been proven to help a wide range of patients. Marijuana has been shown to help with glaucoma, help cancer patients keep up their appetite, and it has even been argued by some medical experts that it can be a stand-alone cure for some types of cancer, among a long list of other illnesses.

And the good news is that research is really just getting started. There is no telling how many illnesses can be treated with marijuana.

In addition to the tax revenues that could be collected from legalizing and taxing pot, local governments would also save big money by having to spend less to arrest and process people accused of marijuana-related crimes. We would also see a quick drop in drug-related violence, especially on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

That is the good news. The bad news is that medical marijuana laws can, and do, get abused. In many places in the U.S., smokers can easily get a prescription for marijuana that they really don’t need for medical ailments. Opponents of medical marijuana argue that the system is broken, and too easy to abuse by people just looking for a legal way to score some smoke.

Of course they are right. But that does not subtract from the fact that marijuana does have very solid results in helping a lot of people. Is it fair to restrict its use among some patients that could truly benefit from it? Or, should the U.S. just go ahead and legalize it for recreational use to make sure that everyone that needs it is able to get his or her hands on it?

Like it or not, medical marijuana is here to stay, and now that Colorado and Washington have passed laws legalizing its use for recreational purposes we expect to see more states follow suit.

Like we discussed in last week’s article on online poker, the tax revenue from legal marijuana will eventually be too much for state governments to ignore. When you add in all the costs associated with the war on marijuana going away, and money will eventually talk and lead to widespread legalization of marijuana.

Whether you are for or against marijuana, there is no debating the amount of money that is going to come from its mainstream acceptance. The country is about to go through another gold rush, but this time the commodity is going to be marijuana.

We are starting to see more and more articles discussing how to invest in marijuana, such as this article from the Huffington Post, and there is even a website called cannabisinvestments.com that discusses what stocks you can play in order to get into the marijuana business.

It is estimated that the marijuana industry will grow to a $30 to $50 billion business, so it is understandable why investors are starting to pay so much attention to its future.

Just looking at Colorado offers a good insight in the money that is to be made. Denver alone has 400 medical dispensaries and near 500 cultivation centers. This is just one city. Once it becomes national, you can only guess at how big of an industry this will turn into.

People ranging from small-time entrepreneurs all the way up to billion-dollar hedge funds are looking at ways to put their money to work in the marijuana industry. The cannabis industry is growing quick, and now is the perfect time for investors to get in. The super big multi-national companies are going to eventually get in, especially cigarette companies (which are already preparing to get in), so the opportunities that investors have now are not going to be as plentiful in years to come.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Should marijuana be legal for medical use, recreational use, or kept illegal all together? Let us hear your thoughts.


Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va. His articles typically cover big-picture events and forecasting what impact they will have on the stock market. In addition to writing for Fresh Brewed Media, Michael also wrote for AOL's BloggingStocks for three years, focusing most of his attention on the energy and technology sectors.

Michael Fowlkes

Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va.