Ryan George is paving a new path in an often overlooked aspect of the country’s growing cannabis industry: real estate. George launched 420 Property in 2016 and has since become the premier platform for producers, dispensaries, retailers and distributors to find space for their businesses.
“I have experience in real estate and commercial real estate,” said George, based in Sacramento, California. “Around 2010 or 2011, I had some clients who were trying to find some very specific use properties that in the end were for cannabis. But when I was trying to find the properties at that time it was very difficult.
“You had to call and tiptoe around the cannabis taboo with the owners,” George recalled of his early efforts. “You had to do it in a professional way, but if you just went out and said, ‘Are you okay with a medical marijuana tenant?’
This experience inspired him to create his company’s website, as he knew that others would have to find the same properties and that other people would be looking for places to work within the industry. But while the idea came to him after those deals, he had to wait a few years for legalization efforts to move forward.
Today, several states, including Connecticut, have legalized recreational use and many more have guaranteed legalized medical use. George said there are a couple of factors, which are most important within the cannabis industry when considering places. Warehouses are desirable for most producers, as they do not need many of the facilities and considerations of other industrial processes. What they do need is an excellent electrical connection to run lights and water pumps for hydroponic systems.
According to George, both medical dispensaries and recreational retailers want much of what a typical store is looking for. But in addition to high-traffic areas with ample parking, they prioritize security for the value of their product and the cash they will need to have on hand until federal legalization allows them to work more easily with banks.
When it comes to outdoor growing facilities, location is by far the most important factor. According to George, the state may produce some plants with commercial applications, such as pre-laminated products, but the high-quality flowers that consumers tend to prefer will be difficult to produce in the state.
Ironically, outdoor cannabis cultivation in the state could face an inverse situation on historic Connecticut tobacco farms where shade-grown leaves were prized for their aesthetics and used for wrap cigars.
420 Property works with a “freemium” model, which means it’s free to publish and read listings, but there are a number of improvements customers can pay for their publications to reach a larger audience. George’s site also benefits from the fact that while federal regulations currently make it difficult to transport cannabis across state lines, the share of business ownership is only subject to the usual real estate regulations.
Currently, six Connecticut properties, one in Bethel and five in Hartford County, plus one piece of processing equipment in Easton are listed at 420 Property, but George said he expects that number to grow, especially in the near future. He also indicated that there may well be a wave of “investments” where dilapidated warehouses can be purchased at low cost, given the updated and renewed energy connections in anticipation of increased demand.
“I’m very excited about the east coast,” George said of the potential of a cannabis-oriented real estate market in the region. “The East Coast has been a developing market for the last few years. I’m expecting Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, everything to be online. It’s been a slower process, but it will be big.”