More than a year after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational cannabis sales, the marijuana industry is growing and evolving further. Entrants—often with loads of cash and product on hand—are taking cues from the gambling industry, which knows a lot about managing bricks of money.
"About 70 percent of our transactions are cash, the other 30 percent are debit and ATMs and so you can do the math and see that we have a fair amount of cash that we have to manage and handle," says Andrew DeAngelo, a cannabis entrepreneur based in the San Francisco area. "Our money is counted at least half a dozen times from drawer to armored car, by at least four different staff members or managers along the way," he said.
Even before legalization, most marijuana purchases were cash-based, and the legal era is no different. The industry also uses armored cars and "cash teams" that count money again and again.
Cannabis is still illegal according to federal law. But legalized recreational use in select states has allowed the burgeoning industry to explode with new companies, new business models and more tax dollars rolling in.
The legal cannabis industry hit $2.7 billion in 2014, and is forecast to soar to $4.3 billion in 2016, according to the ArcView Group, a marijuana industry research and investment company.