The weed legalization train is on the move around America, and whether it’s already been through your state or is headed your way, you might be interested in getting into the industry. There’s always been money in marijuana, but now there’s money in marijuana that you can actually talk about with the stranger across the desk at H&R Block.
You can use your business know-how to open a dispensary, sure, but there are actually quite a few ways to turn legal weed into big-time cash.
First, act quickly
You’re not the only big brain out there who saw dollar signs after reading the latest report on legalization efforts, but if you move fast, you can compete to win.
“My entrance into the cannabis industry was several years ago,” said Captor Capital’s Adam Wilks, who operates dispensaries in California, where he reported the business is “smooth sailing” for the most part. “I had worked in the restaurant industry for major brands, including Pinkberry. When I entered, we were just starting to see traction with federal legalization pushes like the SAFE Banking Act and statewide sweeps. I think I entered during the ‘sweet spot’ period where there was still a lot of excitement about an emerging industry and a lot of big money wasn’t quite ready to take risks. Now, everyone is funneling into cannabis.”
Stay informed on local rules are regulations
In conversations with Wilks and Flora Growth CEO Luis Merchan, one theme kept popping up: read the news, stay aware of rules and regulations in various regions, and don’t get complacent.
You know weed sales have been an economic staple in this country for decades, but what’s new is the transition to legality, which is sweeping across America, changing cannabis consumption and sales, and facing a variety of regulations and taxes as it goes. If you want to succeed in a rapidly-changing business, you need to stay on top of the changes. Set some Google alerts and familiarize yourself with outlets and reporters covering the cannabis industry.
Figure out what you want to do
All of that being said, don’t get too wrapped up in day-by-day details. Have a long-term vision, whether it’s dispensary ownership like Wilks or manufacturing like Merchan’s Flora Growth, which IPOed on the NASDAQ earlier this year. Work toward your overall goal.
“Stay patient,” said Wilks. “An emerging sector is a game of incrementalism and it’s important you follow a larger strategy, rather than getting bogged down in daily minutiae. A lot of people are trying to make a quick buck in this space, but eventually some real winners will emerge.”
Even in the illicit marijuana market, there’s always been a difference between those who want to make a “quick buck” and those who play a longer game. Someone who pays for their daily expenses by selling the odd dime bag or eighth is a little different from a large-scale distributor or grower, no? Legalization has certainly changed the landscape, but not the basics. Decide what you want to be. There’s no shame in making fast money, but if you want more than that, you need to plan for it.
Merchan advised that if you’re undertaking something a little heftier than the pursuit of instant gratification, “Take your time to plan and develop a strategy that your management team, board, and shareholders are comfortable with. Depending on the jurisdiction and markets that you’re looking to do business in, there are many nuances and intricacies regarding bringing product to market in our highly regulated industry.”
Start networking with the right people
Say goodbye to the parking lot cyph and hello to the boardroom or hotel conference center. (Or don’t say goodbye to the cyph, but, like, don’t smoke on the job.) A foundational element of being a businessperson is putting emphasis on the person part. You can’t do this alone, so don’t try.
Merchan recommended, “Learn from the mistakes of others and concentrate on your core competencies while remaining asset light and deploying capital where you have the most upside and least risk. There’s already enough assets and talent out there, you don’t need to go about reinventing the wheel. Building a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint; be sure to consider the long-term impact of your decisions today and how they will allow you to achieve your overarching mission and vision, and be sure to surround yourself with a team of passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable people who share those same goals.”
Essentially, it’s time for you to make a few new friends. Look into marijuana business conferences. Those exist now! There’s MJBizCon, Cannabis Conference, and CannaCon, among others. Read the CannaBis Business Times, get active in forums and on Reddit, and even walk into your local dispensary and ask the manager if you can pick their brain. Ask some smokers you know what needs they have or if they’ve noticed any gaps in the biz that need filling. Allow yourself to learn and be inspired so you can find where you fit into this expanding arena.
This is a business endeavor and even if you have some stigma-related hangups about weed, it’s all legit, so look at the industry like you would any other. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take risks. Breaking ground on a new business venture is at the heart of the long-heralded American Dream. So is being able to smoke a joint in public. This industry was made for you.