GREELEY, Colo. – Marijuana’s uncertain legal status across the country has unleashed a network of innovators and entrepreneurs into a space that would ordinarily be filled with name-brand manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and federally funded research universities.
These small “cannabusinesses” are rushing to fill niches and make money in a field where the drug's illegal status at the federal level has made many start-up basics — from getting a new machine to accessing credit — far more challenging. Colorado, for instance, boasts a cottage industry of innovation because it was one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis sales to adults, and also has a highly educated, youthful workforce.
Take Greeley, Colo.-based Leaf, for example: A converted garage in this northern Colorado college town has become a de-facto lab for developing the company’s self-contained marijuana-growing “refrigerator.” The $3,000 wifi-enabled cabinet has a webcam so its owner can monitor the growing plants no matter where they are. One of Leaf’s first employees lives in Greeley because he went to college in the area, and the Tel Aviv-based company decided to keep a local presence. Leaf introduced the cabinet earlier this year and has already sold more than 1,000.