The Evolving Role of Commercial Real Estate in Cannabis

The interplay between the industry and commercial real estate is shaping both sectors.

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Illustration: Manifesto Art / Midjourney

In the ever-shifting landscape of commerce and industry, a unique partnership has emerged, captivating investors and entrepreneurs alike. The cannabis industry and the world of commercial real estate have become intimately intertwined in regions where marijuana has gained legal footing. This union, an emblem of societal and legislative shifts, has brought about a multitude of noteworthy impacts on the commercial real estate market. The fact is, commercial real estate is taking center stage in the cannabis industry, reshaping property demands, challenging the status quo, and influencing property values along the way.

At the burgeoning intersection of the cannabis industry and commercial real estate, a compelling narrative unfolds. Legalization in most states—for both medicinal and recreational purposes—has ushered in a profound transformation in the realm of commercial properties. At the heart of this transformation lies the remarkable surge in demand for industrial spaces, driven by the unique needs of the cannabis trade.

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Cultivation, with its exacting requirements, has redefined the concept of specialized facilities. To ensure the success of their crops, growers rely on spaces where every environmental variable can be controlled with precision. Critical environmental controls—including temperature modulation, humidity regulation, and ventilation—are necessities within cultivation facilities, enabling growers to optimize crop yield and quality. Sophisticated lighting solutions, from high-intensity-discharge lamps to cutting-edge light-emitting diode fixtures, replicate natural photocycles to facilitate healthy plant growth. Robust security measures like constant video monitoring and restricted access safeguard valuable crops and satisfy stringent industry regulations.

The implications of these specialized needs extend to the industrial and warehouse-space market. Areas where cultivation is sanctioned have witnessed a resurgence of these property types, with underutilized or vacant warehouses being revitalized by the booming cannabis trade. This shift in demand has not only transformed the property availability landscape, but also fostered economic growth in these regions, underscoring the symbiotic relationship between cannabis cultivation and the commercial real estate market.

The rising demand for dispensary locations represents a significant development in the interplay between the industry and commercial real estate. These locations serve as the public face of the industry, making their success a critical factor in the ongoing dialogue between the two sectors.

To thrive, retail dispensaries must be conveniently situated to attract customers while also adhering to local zoning laws and regulations. Accessibility to population centers is a primary consideration, ensuring potential consumers can access products. As the industry gains wider acceptance and legal restrictions relax, the dispensary network continues to expand, contributing to the increasing demand for commercial real estate in regions where cannabis sales are permitted. This expansion impacts property demand as well as fosters local economic growth and employment opportunities.

Many regions have established stringent rules and regulations governing the location and operation of cannabis facilities. These regulatory restrictions often are designed to strike a balance between the industry’s economic opportunities and potential social and health concerns. Consequently, they wield a substantial influence on the availability and suitability of properties for cannabis-related ventures.

The mosaic of zoning and regulations has created heightened competition for a limited pool of suitable properties. The confluence of restrictions and demand often leads to a scarcity of available spaces that meet the criteria set forth by local authorities. As a result, businesses within the industry navigate a competitive landscape, vying for properties that meet both regulatory and operational requirements.

As demand for cultivation and dispensary spaces surges, it has a ripple effect on the real estate market. The higher demand for such properties in regions where cannabis is cultivated legally has translated into increased rent and boosted property values—an economic transformation that has not been uniform across regions. Instead, it varies according to the local acceptance and prevalence of cannabis. Areas that have embraced the industry have witnessed more substantial increases in property values, often turning once-overlooked areas into booming hubs of activity.

However, surging property values cut both ways for the industry. While beneficial for commercial landowners and investors, inflated prices squeeze businesses seeking affordable real estate, especially in highly competitive markets. Prohibitive rents could cripple operations, underscoring the precarious balance between opportunity and limitation. Nevertheless, these market transformations spotlight the profound impact of the industry on commercial real estate.

The industry operates under the shadow of both federal and state laws, rendering it inherently dynamic. Legal changes and shifts in political attitudes at the state or federal level can reshape the business environment for cannabis-related ventures rapidly. This legal uncertainty often reverberates through the commercial real estate sector, creating a landscape where some property owners and investors exercise caution in engaging with the industry and others seize opportunities in emerging markets.

The complexity of the industry’s legal landscape has repercussions on financing that affect both businesses and property owners. Traditional lenders and financial institutions tend to approach this sector with caution due to the industry’s legal intricacies. Their reluctance to provide funding to cannabis-related businesses or property owners can pose a significant financing challenge, prompting a reliance on private financing sources that carry higher costs and stricter terms.

The complex interplay between these two sectors highlights their mutual influence and interdependence. As the industry continues to evolve, its partnership with commercial real estate seems poised to flourish, bringing new opportunities and innovations. However, the relationship also faces ongoing challenges in navigating legal frameworks, zoning constraints, and financing limitations. Ultimately, the future of this union will depend on forthcoming policy shifts, regulatory changes, and societal attitudes. But for now, the cannabis industry remains intertwined with commercial real estate, transforming the business landscape together.


Rachel Goldman cannabis industry headshot Rachel Goldman is an associate advisor for SVN Commercial Advisory Group. She blends real-estate knowledge and business management skills with real-world applications, drawing on her experience developing, manufacturing, and marketing several patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Goldman believes evaluating each property carefully to determine its strengths and weaknesses allows for maximum efficiency and profitability.

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