For the first time, a publicly traded company has announced plans to go into marijuana farming and cultivation. Terra Tech, a hydroponic farming specialist operating in New Jersey and California that has been publicly traded since February 2012, announced it is applying for a license to operate a cannabis farming facility and dispensary under recently implemented changes to Nevada's medical cannabis laws.
Though medical cannabis has been legal in the Nevada since 2001, the state did not allow for dispensaries until 2013. Under Bill 374, signed into law last June, Nevada will allow 66 dispensaries and an unspecified number of grow facilities, kitchens, extraction labs, and testing labs, to operate within the state. 40 of these facilities are allotted to Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, and TerraTech is vying to operate at least one of them.
The Division of Public and Behavioral Health, under Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services, is managing the application process, and based on their criteria, Terra Tech has a strong chance of approval. According to, the agency's deputy administrator Marla McDade-Williams, companies who have a history of success in the industry stand a far better chance of gaining a license to operate. She stated, "Prior experience is a factor we're considering, as well as security, plans for monitoring product, and resources they're putting into inventory control."
As a public company, Terra Tech has only operated in commercial and retail agriculture, producing hydroponically grown food crops and other plants. Though the company has not yet gone into cannabis cultivation, CEO Derek Peterson operates a privately held dispensary in Oakland, CA. Drawing on their resident expertise in both marijuana farming and large-scale hydroponic operations, Terra Tech is the strongest candidate to begin a large-scale marijuana production facility in Nevada.
Commenting on President Obama's recent statements to the New Yorker signaling further easing of federal oversight of state marijuana laws, Peterson said, "The Federal Government is backing off, so it's an opportune time to test the waters. We grow a line of hydroponic herbs and sell to major retailers, and at the same time we're farmers, so why not farm a product that is much more lucrative? It's a no brainer." Half of Terra Tech's proposed Nevada facility will produce cannabis, while the other half will be dedicated to food production to serve Clark County, which currently relies heavily on food produced out of state.
Peterson believes that it's also an opportunity for investors to see marijuana's potential as a publicly traded good. Previously, the only publicly traded companies in the cannabis realm were those providing peripheral goods and services as opposed to actual cannabis, such as Medbox, which provides an automated dispensary machine.