Ryan George is breaking new ground in an often-overlooked aspect of the country’s growing cannabis industry: real estate. George launched 420 Property in 2016 and has since grown to become the leading platform for growers, pharmacies, retailers and distributors to find space for their businesses.
“I have a background in real estate and commercial real estate,” said Sacramento, California resident George. “Right about 2010 or 2011 I had some clients trying to find some very specific properties that were ultimately destined for cannabis. But when I was trying to find the properties back then, it was very difficult.
“You had to make calls and tiptoe around the taboo of cannabis with landlords,” George recalled of his early efforts. “You had to do it professionally, but if you just came out and said, ‘Are you okay with a medical marijuana tenant?’ you really ran the risk of the realtor slamming the phone in your ear.”
This experience inspired him to create his company’s website, knowing that others needed to find the same properties and that others would be looking for jobs in the industry. But while the idea came to him after these deals, he had to wait several years for legalization efforts to move forward.
Today, several states, including Connecticut, have legalized recreational use and many more have legalized medicinal use. George said there are a few factors that are more important in the cannabis industry when it comes to locations. Warehouses are desirable to most manufacturers because they do not require many of the facilities and considerations of other industrial processes. What they need is an excellent electrical connection to run lights and water pumps for hydroponic systems.
According to George, both medical pharmacies and recreational retailers want a lot of what a typical store is looking for. But in addition to high-traffic areas with ample parking, they prioritize security because of the value of their product and the cash they need to have on hand until federal legalization allows them to work more easily with banks.
When it comes to outdoor grow facilities, location is by far the most important factor. According to George, the state may produce some crops with commercial uses like pre-rolled 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 may have an inverse situation to historic Connecticut tobacco farms, where shade-grown leaves were prized for their aesthetics and used to wrap cigars.
420 Property runs on a “freemium” model, which means it’s free to post and read listings, but there are a number of enhancements that customers can pay for to help their posts reach a larger audience. George’s location also benefits from the fact that while federal regulations currently restrict the movement of cannabis across state lines, the property side of the business is only subject to standard real estate regulations.
There are currently six properties in Connecticut — one in Bethel and five in Hartford County — and a processing facility in Easton listed on 420 Property, but George said he expects that number to increase, particularly in the near future. He also pointed out that there could well be a flurry of ‘flipping’, where warehouses in disrepair could be bought cheaply if given improved power connections and refurbished in anticipation of rising demand.
“I’m really looking forward to the East Coast,” George said of the potential for a cannabis-focused real estate market in the region. “The East Coast has been a developing market for the past few years, I’m waiting for Connecticut, New Jersey, New York to all come online. It was a slower process but it will be big.”