What Does Legal Marijuana Mean for CA Real Estate?

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Thanks to a yes vote on Prop 64 in 2016, recreational marijuana became legal on January 1 of this year. While local governments grapple with how to regulate the once illicit industry, and community leaders struggle to reconcile their disdain for the devil’s lettuce with its status as a revenue generating crop… some real estate investors are licking their chops at the opportunity they feel is headed their way.

Luckily for investors in California, the precedent for legalization has already been set. Colorado voted for legalization 4 years ahead of us, and since that time the real estate market has been thriving. The most obvious growth has been in industrial real estate, where growers look for warehouses to set up shop. According to DCT Industrial Trust, a company specializing in industrial real estate investment, marijuana legalization drove up the cost of warehouse space in the Denver Area by 60% in 2015, and lease renewal rates by 25%. Of course, here in the Bay Area where industrial space already comes at such a premium, growth will not likely be as dramatic. Less impacted markets just outside the Bay Area might offer more alluring opportunities.

The residential market stands to benefit as well, though in a less quantifiable way. The job growth created by legalization in warehouses and dispensaries, but also in auxiliary industries like HVAC and security, can increase the demand for housing. It’s much like how the tech boom in the Bay Area led to dramatic growth in trades like plumbing, electrical, and carpentry. This isn’t to say a weed boom could impact the market to the same degree the tech boom has, but it could have similar effects on a much smaller scale. However, investors (and their real estate agents) need to be aware of local regulations around the industry, as they vary from city to city, and could limit or even prohibit the use of land for cultivation or sale of marijuana.

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