Depending on their positions on the matter, residents of Colorado and Washington have either been dreading or highly anticipating (sorry, the puns are impossible to avoid) the debut of the nation's first legal recreational marijuana stores opening in those states in 2014. The Associated Press reported that 24 stores opened in Colorado to long lines yesterday, and that sales activity went smoothly.
While supporters point to the potential for increased tax revenue and the benefits of taking pot off the black market, detractors predict increases in DUI cases, easier access to the product by underage consumers, and even increases in drug trafficking as out-of-state smugglers descend on the locales.
The truth is, no one knows for sure what the initial impact and long-term repercussions of open sales to 21-and-over adults will be. In Colorado, about 350 licenses have been issued for shops that will be allowed to sell up to 28 grams of pot to each of-age customer. Although marijuana sales for "medical" (ironic quotes intentional) purposes is legal in 19 states, this is the first time that getting a buzz on will be a legally sanctioned objective and not a side effect of the medication. In other words, adults will be able to smoke for the fun of it, albeit only on private property.
The overall take from medical marijuana in 2013 is estimated to be around $1.4 billion by Arcview Market Research. With the new "legalize it" initiatives, that figure could hit $2.34 billion this year, according to the firm. And that's just from sales of the weed itself. Consider the other possibilities.
For Colorado, ski-and-toke tourism is reportedly a budding industry with travel marketers no doubt incorporating phrases such as "Lift Ticket" and "Rocky Mountain High" to great effect. Food retailers and restaurants will also see tie-in opportunities that they'll be loath to see wasted (sorry). As those who have inhaled know, getting toasted typically increases one's enjoyment of a host of worldly pleasures, notably jam band music, sophomoric humor, and — particularly — sweet and salty snacks. Yes, Colorado grocers and restaurateurs are surely kneeding their hands in anticipation of waves of potheads afflicted with the munchies.
As they redesign their menus, restaurant owners might consider a list of top munchie recipes published a few years back by Bon Appetit magazine, led by a nacho macaroni and cheese casserole; candy bar-topped brownies; grilled cheese and short rib sandwiches; brown-sugar glazed bacon; and chocolate chip and banana ice cream sandwiches.
For grocers ... well, it's not like Colorado just invented pot. CPG food manufacturers have been on the bandwagon since the Reefer Madness era. It could be argued that without the munchie phenomenon, the snack category would be considerably less prosperous. Complex City Guide's list of "The 25 Greatest Stoner Snack Foods of All Time" includes such mainstream favorites as Nutella, Bar-B-Q flavored Fritos, Twinkies, Oreos and Cheez Whiz. And fortunately for those shoppers with impaired judgment that need help making a decision, Frito-Lay has a pothead-inspired potpourri on the market made up of Doritos, Cheetos, Rold Gold and Sun Chips. It's called "Munchies Cheese Fix."
How big of a boost to revenue will the coming of legal recreational marijuana sales bring to local grocers and c-store operators?