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Two weeks before Massachusetts releases its draft regulations governing medical marijuana, people interested in opening marijuana-related businesses gathered for a symposium in downtown Boston held by a national marijuana trade association.
From a reality check on how much work is involved in growing large quantities of marijuana to legal and financial aspects of operating a dispensary, members of the National Cannabis Industry Association educated potential investors and entrepreneurs Saturday.
"It's certainly not an easy business to be in," said Aaron Smith, the group's executive director. "If somebody thinks they're going to get into this and make a bunch of cash and get out without a lot of headaches, then they're wrong and they need to get involved in something else potentially."
Ean Seeb, who runs a dispensary in Denver and consults other dispensaries, agreed.
"There's something altruistic in nature in being involved in this industry. And if you're getting involved in it simply for the money, it's probably the wrong reason to be involved," Seeb said.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will release its draft regulations governing medical marijuana at the end of March.
"Regulation is good as long as it serves the intent of the voters, which is to ensure that patients have affordable, safe and legal access to medicine, through these licensed facilities," Smith said. "We welcome regulations, we welcome taxes, as long as it's in line with similar industries. We obviously don't want to be taxed out of existence, like any other business."
Imad Baggar, a real estate consultant from Malden, is considering opening a dispensary and said being professional is key to the new law's success.
"I think that's one of the ways where we can show and tell the community that we're here to follow the rules 100 percent and be part of the community just like any other CVS or Walgreen's or whatever," Baggar said.
But Seeb warned potential owners, like Baggar, to remember the dispensary businesses still violate federal law.
"You need to be fully aware of the possible repercussions that could happen as a result of you being involved in the industry," Seeb cautioned. "On the other side, the number one reason to be involved is because, at least for us, we want to be on the right side of history."
Smith noted that the medical marijuana industry is currently a cottage industry, and he expects it to remain that way. But he added that medical marijuana sales alone generate about $2 billion a year in revenue.
The law Massachusetts voters passed through a November ballot question allows for up to 35 dispensaries, at least one in each county, from which authorized patients can purchase up to a 60-day supply of marijuana.
This program aired on March 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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