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Big business interested as legal marijuana creates jobs

Friday, 30 Aug 2013 | 12:12 PM ET
Marijuana's money-making potential
Friday, 30 Aug 2013 | 10:23 AM ET
The Justice Department says it won't stop people in Washington and Colorado from smoking marijuana. So what kind of money will these states make on this business? Danny Danko, High Times Magazine, weighs in.

The cannabis legalization trend is creating jobs in states where laws have been relaxed, and big business is "looking into the industry in a big way," an expert told CNBC on Friday.

In a dramatic change in drug policy, the Justice Department said Thursday it won't sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.

(Read more: Justice Department won't challenge new state marijuana laws)

"It's really the first federal acknowledgement of the failed war on marijuana," said Danny Danko, High Times senior cultivation editor, told "Squawk on the Street" on Friday.

Danko also pointed out that several federal regulations will still be enforced, including interstate transportation, trafficking to minors and proceeds going to criminal organizations. "As long as these companies in Colorado and Washington stay within these parameters, they will not be attacked by the federal government," he said.

(Related: The top 16 medical marijuana strains)

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With more than a dozen states allowing marijuana use for medical reasons, "the dominoes are falling very quickly" as more states are considering legalizing recreational use.

Danko said that Washington and Colorado have seen a "tremendous amount" of job creation in the wake of their marijuana initiatives, now that a wide range of industry-related jobs are required to support growing businesses.

Big businesses are "looking into our industry in a big way," Danko said. He expects that when investment from tobacco and pharmaceutical companies begins in earnest, these firms will require the on-the-ground expertise of individuals currently working in the young industry.

(Related: Marijuana tools of the trade)

The "end-game" of this regulation trend is a federal rescheduling of cannabis, Danko said. Currently, the drug is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restricted category reserved for substances carrying "no currently accepted medical use." Other Schedule 1 substances include MDMA (ecstacy), heroin and LSD.

The less-strict Schedule 2 substances accepted for medical use include cocaine, opium and PCP.

— By CNBC's Paul Toscano. Follow him on Twitter @ToscanoPaul and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street." The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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