Remember the Oregon Trail was littered with corpses

Reposted from If you are interested in discussing cannabis business or getting advice, click this link.

Cannabis is the hot topic of the moment. Cheap CBD offers litter everyone’s spam box and even Megyn K
elly is recognizing the medical benefits of understanding and treating the ECS. It seems like overnight and state by state the stigmas imposed on what was originally a genuine weed are falling. A new gold rush is beginning.

I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are interested in “getting into cannabis” and they usually make very similar mistakes, assuming that a life-long relationship with the plant, a good recipe or a great product idea is all they need for a golden ticket. It can be easy to get swept up and rush out to make your fortune without adequately stocking the wagon for the oxen or accounting for little Suzy who will drown in 2 feet of water.

Assumptions about what the road to #winningweed look like are often very wrong in what is still largely an agricultural commodity industry that must also keep pace with changing regulations, competitors, and market adaptations on a sometimes weekly basis. Oregon’s market is both more stable and open than many of the other adult-use markets, and it is also brutal out here. There is opportunity for those with the capital, skill, knowledge, luck and magic to make it work. There is a lot of failure and a lot of financial loss for those who don’t make it.

For those who are considering entering the fray, consider the questions below:

Do you want to start a cannabis business?  Or do you just really like consuming?

Don’t start a cannabis business, just roll another blunt and appreciate a day-job that allows you to afford really good weed. If you really like consuming, start contributing reviews to a cannabis site like WeedMaps or Leafly, or start a Meetup appreciation group. There are lots of ways to find excuses to “work” while consuming cannabis. Become really knowledgeable about what makes a product or strain special, learn the criteria the experienced people use to identify quality. Start to attend cannabis consumption events and learn what makes them different or special. Maybe some of that could turn into an ancillary cannabis business in media or consulting.

Do you want to start a cannabis business?  Or do you just like the idea of working in the ‘wild west’?

Don’t start a cannabis business. Not yet anyway. There were a lot of people who ‘pioneered’ their way right into hypothermia, starvation or malnourishment not to mention ongoing conflict with the existing residents. Much better to run the railroad or deliver the mail. Find someone who will pay you for an existing skill set that can translate to the cannabis industry. Find someone in the industry who is looking for help and trade your skills for their knowledge about how things work out here. If you find that you have a particularly valuable skill-set, you could probably turn that into a client list, a business, or even equity in an existing operation.

Do you want to start a cannabis business?  Or do you just have ‘a killer product your friends and family love’?

Unless you have a specific brand identity, product differentiators, operating plan, capital to float, income to support both you and the business for several years, an expertise in both cannabis financial navigation and multilevel and interagency compliance it really doesn’t matter how amazing the product is. The reality is that the market is increasingly flooded. It is hard enough to get an intake manager’s attention, it will be even harder to get enough end-user customers in a smaller-market state to pay the additional overhead from compliance. In larger markets there is more opportunity but also more competition and usually additional costs. Building a stable client-base is extra difficult when social platforms are likely to shut you down at least once for the content of your posts.

If you have an amazing product that you want to bring to market, find an existing processor in your space with additional capacity. See if they would be interested in working with you to expand their portfolio. If you are in a medical state, find some patients and see if your products benefit their health. If you have an incredible strain you have been breeding in your yard, find a producer you trust and see if they would be interested, or better yet, register your flower in the [open source database] and license the intellectual property to an existing grower. Share existing compliance and overhead with the experts in the trenches. Learn from their mistakes, and add your capital and expertise to their team.

Do you really want to start a cannabis business?  Or does it just sound like a ‘cool’ career change?

While there are elements of the industry that are fun and cool and edgy there is also a lot of unprofessionalism, and uncertainty, and unexpected obstacles. Yes, you might see amazing flower, and be offered a lot of free product to sample, but you will also work long hours, in a space that is more ambiguity than concrete. There are few glamorous jobs, and a lot of taking out someone else’s rubbish. Building a legal market means being stuck between a government singularly unequipped to deal with the social, political, and economic changes attendant in legalizing what has been black-market for so long; and drug dealers, literally. While I make a sad joke with friends about being a drug dealer, the reality is I am a struggling small business owner who still worries about making pay roll, and wonders often if pursuing my dreams was worth the uncertainty for so many around me.

Do you still want to start a cannabis business?

If after all that you think you have what it takes… call me, I’d love to chat more.