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The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington made legal history by loosening restrictions on a previously prohibited substance, and it is a substance that is still illegal for recreational uses under federal law. This ground breaking legislation and subsequent retail market has made headway in a field that has never been regulated, taxed, or had a formal financial system ever before. Colorado and Washington are still figuring out the nuts and bolts of how it is all going to play out, and the rest of the country is watching carefully to see what they figure out and how it impacts each state.

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Because it is technically prohibited under federal law, marijuana dispensaries have had to come up with a variety of mechanisms to both collect revenue, pay taxes, and establish business loans. Using smaller, non-traditional banking mechanisms, marijuana dispensaries are collecting sales tax and paying tax revenues to the state, and Colorado and Washington both have seen the fruits of those revenues in their coffers. Coming up with ways for marijuana deals to stay on the right side of the state law while also gently challenging the federal law has led to the creation of a variety of innovative financing and dispensing mechanisms.

One of the business models used in other retail industries, such as clothing, is a model that relies on encouraging customer loyalty and brand recognition. Weed clubs are taking a lesson out of that model’s book and developing loyalty and rewards programs for their regular customers. A new marijuana app, called CannaCash, is breaking new ground by gathering a number of retailers under the app to offer rewards. This means that customers can visit any of the participating retailers who are offering cannabis rewards and get discounts and other perks for being loyal customers and participants. They have access to a wide variety of marijuana dispensaries, and a number of different perks for visiting them. It offers flexibility by not tying a customer to one particular dispensary, but offers stability to the marijuana dispensaries by ensuring a level of customer access that is essentially guaranteed.

While it is a new model in theory for the country as a whole, it is virtually identical to any other business model. Marijuana dispensaries rely on happy, loyal customers who share their good customer service experiences with others who are also looking for a reliable dispensary. Loyalty apps and marketing function the same way for marijuana dispensaries as they do for any other type of retail, and they are regulated the same way. The country is watching how the scene unfolds in Colorado and Washington over the next few years, but the state so far is really appreciating the increased revenues. In times of certain budget cuts and some of the lowest tax levels this country has seen in a long time, adding another type of sales tax to the coffers is a plus in their books. So far, it is seen as a success, and while it has a long way to go towards making inroads to other states, Colorado is benefiting from it right now.