Uncertainty in the White House is causing more Boulder pot businesses to journey outside U.S. borders for growth opportunities, even as the world's fifth-largest economy looks to legalize weed by early next year.

Californians in November voted to allow growth, sales and consumption of recreational marijuana across the state. With a population of nearly 40 million, it will be the largest U.S. market for weed, and a great opportunity for well-established Colorado companies to expand.

But with that size comes increased complexity in implementing new systems. Already, the state is governed by a patchwork of laws and quasi-legal operations that have caused some brands to approach the market with caution.

"California is the wild, wild west," said Charles Jones, CEO and founder of Boulder's Chooze. "There's so many things that are gray, law-wise, at the state level that it makes things challenging."

Chooze's signature product, LucidMood, is a line of single-use vaporizer pens designed to elicit specific feelings, or moods — energy, bliss, focus, relaxation. The product is available in several states, and is working on finding partners in California.

That process is a tricky one, Jones said, because California lacks the "seed to sale" system that Colorado employs and that is so necessary to quality control.


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Here at home, "you have a product on the shelf that you can trace back where the oil in the product came from and what plant it was extracted from," Jones said. "That transparency gives a consumer brand like ours assurance that all players in the supply chain are adhering to our standards of purity."

While LucidMood is hoping to tap the California market, it also is working on deals in Europe and Canada. Our neighbor to the north just last week presented legislation to make recreational weed legal by mid-2018. Medicinal marijuana has been legal there since 2001, and some local companies have already made inroads there.

Boulder-based StashLogix, which makes secure containers for storing pot, just ended a four-month deal with a large supplier in Canada who used the bags to send products to customers. Shipping of marijuana is currently allowed and often utilized in the country.

If that persists after legalization, Canada could be a top market for StashLogix. The country currently accounts for 25 percent of the company's business.

"We see a big opportunity there," said co-founder Skip Stone, along with international markets in Germany, Brazil and Israel. "The U.S. is still our focus, but we are looking at other countries as a place to pivot if we need to, if there's a crackdown" from the Trump administration."

And though California is larger than any one of those international markets, there isn't much momentum in the way of pot accessories, Stone said.

"They're not moving very quickly to create a lifestyle experience for users. We've really stepped back from California."

Legalization isn't all that helpful to some pot businesses, like Boulder's PenSimple, a small grinder, storage and dispensing device. That's because legal markets are quickly filled with options other than flower, the actual plant material used for smoking.

"When you have legalization that hits a new state or territory, overall use goes up but flower use goes from 99 percent down as concentrates and edibles become available,' said Brian Seckel, founder of JAEB Designs, which makes PenSimple.

In Colorado, for instance, sales of flower at dispensaries dropped from 62 percent to 56 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to Boulder-based BDS Analytics.

Seckel's top market is still the U.S., followed closely by Canada, the U.K. and Australia. But when he looks to the future, he sees opportunity elsewhere.

"The momentum we're seeing all over — from Germany legalizing medical, to Israel legalizing medical — it's very promising," Seckel said. "It's given us a lot of hope of what we can do international with a little less fear that someone is going to shut it down."

Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, castles@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/shayshinecastle