The marijuana industry is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. For those new to the industry, though, the situation can be confusing. Marijuana was illegal in many areas until recently, and the new regulations can be complex. If you’re interested in investing in the marijuana industry or starting a marijuana business of your own, it pays to understand the basics and know who to contact about getting your investment off the ground.

Marijuana and the law: a brief history

Marijuana has been used by humans for thousands of years, and it’s not hard to see why. The plant can be used in textiles, has medicinal uses, and is a popular recreational drug. But that didn’t stop it from being banned in the United States for decades. Thanks to misleading yellow journalism, racial prejudice, and fears of the plant’s psychoactive properties, the United States passed laws making marijuana illegal back in the 1920s and 1930s.

But common sense was destined to prevail. Marijuana’s medical benefits were showcased in study after study, despite the difficulties associated with doing research on marijuana (since it was so highly illegal at the federal level, marijuana was tough to acquire even for legitimate scientific uses). California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use in 1996. Other states followed suit.

Later, states began to make marijuana legal for recreational use, too. Colorado and Washington State became the first to do so, in 2012. Today, marijuana is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states and the District of Columbia. Marijuana is also legal for both medicinal and recreational use in Canada.

Complex regulations govern marijuana

But it’s important to understand that marijuana’s new legality has not created a free-for-all. States and countries that have legalized marijuana have heavily regulated the plant. There are taxes, limits on how much can be grown and sold, and all sorts of regulations related to where marijuana can be consumed.

Take marijuana growing laws in Colorado, for instance, say legal experts on the subject. Individuals in Colorado are allowed to grow no more than six plants for their own use. Professional growers, of course, can grow much more — but setting up a marijuana growing operation is legally complex and required entrepreneurs to work with attorneys who specialize in marijuana businesses.

The red tape can be very serious, indeed. Take Massachusetts, for instance: marijuana is officially legal in Massachusetts, yet the complexities of dispensary licensing kept any businesses from becoming officially licensed in time for the first day of legal marijuana (a small number of licenses have since been given out). In other words, residents of Massachusetts were legally allowed to buy marijuana from dispensaries, but — for a time — there were no recreational marijuana dispensaries.

Entering the marijuana business

Marijuana’s popularity predates its legality. So perhaps it is no surprise that, with a market ready and waiting, growth for legal marijuana businesses has been explosive. If you want to get in on this trend, though, you’ll need to rely on the right experts.

Above all, marijuana entrepreneurs will want to seek out lawyers who specialize in setting up marijuana businesses. Working with a lawyer is a good idea when starting any kind of business: you’ll want to set up your business wisely for taxes, liability, and protecting your own finances from risks your business faces. With marijuana businesses, the red tape involved only makes getting an attorney even more essential.

But if you are able to set up a marijuana business properly, you’ll enter a space that is positively booming. And with more states likely to legalize marijuana soon, the growth seems likely to only continue.