BILLINGS — Recreational marijuana sales will become legal in Montana on Jan. 1, 2022, but Chronic Caregivers, a Billings dispensary in operation for the last decade, is cautioning people who want to get into the business to make a quick buck.
Start-up costs often run about $40,000, with a typical 10-20% profit margin that mainly goes back into the business. Higher-than-normal rent and utility costs make this one of the toughest times to break in.
“Location is unnecessarily hard to find, if you can afford the rent cost on it," said Chris Doll, owner of Chronic Caregivers. "And then depending on how many lights are running, that could triple your energy bill."
Besides the business and economic side, another unspoken hardship is the actual harvesting of marijuana plants. Growers must have a desire for the job, as throwing a seed into soil is not enough.
“It's not something that you're gonna just get into and get rich quick," said Joe Doll, one of the company's growers. "You have to be passionate about growing plants. A lot of people think, 'I'm just gonna throw a seed in the ground and it’s gonna grow,' but that's not how it works. They need nutrients. They have to have water, and they can't have too much water or they’ll drown."
Growers also have to worry about pests and insects interfering with the production of their product. Doll says an aphid or mite infestation could shut a business down if not treated quickly.
But that hasn't stopped new dispensaries already from popping up in the Treasure State. The Doll's hope to expand while creating homegrown product that can compete with out-of-state competition that is slowly moving in.
“We're just going to keep growing and growing," said Chris, "and hopefully make things as good as we can for Montana."