Watch Lori Jane Gliha's full report on the business of pot this evening on America Tonight, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
When Andy Joseph invented a machine that extracts oils from foods, the father of five and Navy veteran envisioned his machine to be frequently used by the food industry to make vanilla extract or pepper spray. But Joseph said the machine is now being used regularly to make pot-infused food on the West Coast.
The result? His sales have surged over the past year.
"I never would've guessed in a million years that the food that I put on my table is ultimately funded by medical marijuana," said Joseph, president of Apeks Fabrication and Apeks Supercritical in Johnstown, Ohio.
Like Joseph, entrepreneurs nationwide say they're "giddy" at the thought of new financial possibilities that will come with the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Starting in January, it will be legal for adults to buy marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, where the purchase of medicinal marijuana is already permitted.
Although marijuana is considered to be an illegal drug to the federal government, the Obama Administration recently announced it would avoid legal challenges in states that have strict regulatory systems designed to uphold the federal government's enforcement priorities. In an August memo addressed to all U.S. attorneys, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote that the regulatory systems should work to prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors, prevent revenue from going to criminal enterprises and cartels and prevent drugged driving.
At least one of Joseph's machines is now located in Denver at Dixie Elixirs, a facility that specializes in producing pot-infused foods. Workers at Dixie Elixirs use the machine to pull oil from cannabis. They use the oil to make candies, crispy rice snacks and drinks infused with pot.
In Colorado, there’s still some skepticism as to whether the state’s medicinal marijuana regulatory system would track sales as well as it had initially planned. A March 2013 state audit criticized the medical marijuana regulatory system for not having implemented a “seed-to-sale” model, which would track all sales. Regulators have said they are working to improve the system.
But that’s not stopping the pot production in Colorado. Tripp Keber, the owner of a Dixie Elixirs, the company has blossomed over the past three years, and he's expecting more growth. What started as a company with two employees and one product three years ago has mushroomed into a 40-person operation that produces 85 varieties of pot-infused foods.
"No matter who you talk to,” Keber said, “it's a billion-dollar industry over the next two years here in the state of Colorado alone.”
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