A recreational marijuana store in Denver. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons
A recreational marijuana store in Denver. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia Commons

Recreational marijuana is potentially a multi-billion-dollar business that could be legal in California as soon as next year, a panel of San Diego business leaders agreed Tuesday.

“Everyone see marijuana legalization as some sort of inevitability, whether it’s 2016 or 2020,” said Aaron Lachant, an attorney with Nelson Hardiman, which specializes in healthcare law.

When that happens, “there’s this giant rush that’s coming,” predicted panel moderator Ed Jenks, chief strategist for The Jenks Group, a management consulting firm.

Adult, recreational marijuana use is already a $2.7 billion business in three states — Colorado, Washington and Oregon — where it is already legal.

The breakfast event at the Hall of Champions was sponsored by 6 Degree Business Networking and drew nearly 250 people.

One problem cited by several of the panelists is a lack of scientific research into the positive effects of recreational marijuana use.

“There is a lot of research out there. You have to read between the lines,” noted Eric Fillion, executive director of Phoenix Bio Pharmaceuticals.

“We’ve been prohibited from investigating this very important medicine by politics,” said Clark Smith, medical director of Recovery Works.

“The Drug Enforcement Agency controls all research on cannabis,” said Lachant. “The biggest problem is the DEA is more of a law enforcement agency than a scientific research agency.”

The “elephant in the room,” the panelists said, is the looming threat of federal action that could close down the nascent industry. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other presidential candidates have vowed to end legal marijuana in the United States.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.