Whether or not you agree with the legalization of marijuana, from a marketing perspective what is evolving is certainly an intriguing case study on how markets evolve. In some respects, this market can be examined from a Product Life Cycle (PLC) standpoint, with the legal recreational marijuana retailing business being in Introduction stage. However, PLC analysis is somewhat less effective in suggesting that the current purchasers are considered Innovators and Early Adopters. Such analysis is generally limited to New-to-the-World products rather than something that has been available, albeit illegally, for a long time.
Maybe a better way to analyze this is to say recreational marijuana is a new retail distribution outlet. While currently limited to Colorado and soon to the state of Washington, over the next few years many predict this channel will expand into many other areas of the country. As the market grows, it will also be fascinating to see the retail strategies marketers use to broaden distribution. Currently these products are sold within small independent retail stores, but some day we may see marijuana sold in large corporate chain stores and retail franchises. We could also see other retail options, such as sales through vending machines (see included YouTube video) or as discussed in this National Public Radio story, via mobile truck retailer.
Of course, distribution will not be the only marketing area impacted. For instance, promotional decisions will also be significant. While mainstream media are not likely to accept direct advertising of marijuana any time soon, it will be interesting to see if they permit ads that indirectly allude to the drug by using creative words and images to get the point across.
While some marketing options will be limited by government regulation, expect marketers to find creative ways to take advantage of whatever opportunities are available.