While there are many legal hurdles yet to jump, investors believe the legalization of marijuana products is (eventually) a foregone conclusion. Forbes reports the legal cannabis industry could hit $57 billion worldwide 2027.
Marijuana is already permitted for recreational and medical use in nine states, including California, Alaska, and Washington. Of course, the use of this product, remains illegal at the federal level. But it’s legalization at the national level seems all but inevitable at this point, even if the process is expected to take a few years.
There are all kinds of products of course that can be produced and sold in this industry with a seemly limitless number of permutations. One option is to infuse THC into drinks like teas and coffees. Another popular option is to include cannabis inside food items, especially baked goods like brownies, cookies, and cakes. With so many different food items available to be made using the ingredient, it leads us to the next natural question of whether-or-not you can sell cannabis infused drinks or desserts from a truck?
Can You Expect to See Cannabis Food Trucks in 2019?
Back in 2014 when cannabis had been legalized in Colorado two years prior, NPR ran a story called “The Latest Food Truck Theme is Marijuana for Lunch.” The headline suggests there was a food truck distributing marijuana infused menu items, but the reality of the unit was created for PR purposes and the the truck was never in operation as a real food business.
The use of the “food truck” was brilliant from a marketing and public relations standpoint as the company was featured in numerous reputable news sources and no doubt generated interest in a product that could be sold online. But the unit never sold any pot-infused menu items.
The issue with starting a food truck specializing in cannabis products is due to the fact this product is much more highly regulated than a typical food product. Although the product is becoming legal in many states that doesn’t mean it won’t be strictly regulated. At the time of writing, even though marijuana is becoming legalized across the country don’t expect to see food trucks serving the product anytime soon. Why?
The best example we can think of for comparison purposes is the alcohol industry. At one time in the United States there was a period of prohibition where you could not legally consume alcohol. Although prohibition has long since ended in the United States, there’s still a ton of rules around its consumption. For example, you must be 21 years of age to legally consume. Not just anyone can drink. An establishment selling alcohol must also be approved to do so with a specific license. Not just any business can sell a pint of beer unless they go through an approval process. There are rules around this products use with legal and financial penalties for not following those rules.
A Highly-Regulated Industry
These regulations will likely prevent food trucks dispenseries from becoming a legitimate business opportunity even if the recreational use is permitted inside the state you want to operate in 2019 and beyond. So far there are extremely specific requirements needed for dispensaries to adhere to before they can sell product that are state dependent. Some states like California have specific requirements for the building and layout that marijuana products can be operated out of like bathrooms, breakrooms, and the layout of the building, making it impossible to serve on a mobile unit from a legal perspective. Here’s an example of requirements for medical cannabis buildings in Santa Rosa, California.
There are some very legitimate reasons for the building requirements as well for marijuana dispensaries at this time. First, is that cannabis products are still illegal on a federal level. This means that many dispensaries operate cash only businesses since banks will not process transactions that are technically illegal.
Due to this challenge processing payments, it means dispensary’s carry a lot of cash on hand that can make operating the business more dangerous. In fact, some these business need to have armored vehicles regularly visit their location in take cash and make deposits. As you might expect, high-volume locations could process tens of thousands in cash per day. The goal of these businesses is to never keep too much money on-site and many have large safes and security employed to protect the high-value product and cash.
Of course, if you were to operate a truck, you would be more exposed to theft. You are much more exposed to dangerous criminals in a truck compared to a building with security systems and protection. As the rules and regulation continue to evolve allowing banks to accept payments from these businesses.
At the end of the day, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be seeing cannabis food truck driving around your neighborhood anytime soon like you might see the ice cream man. With all that being said, it will be fun to watch this new industry evolve and grow in the coming years.