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4 Points to Consider Before You Start Your Cannabis Business



By Nicola Yap — Cannabis is a flower commonly used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Because of its psychoactive properties, the plant has been selectively bred to treat a wide number of ailments and illnesses, including but not limited to: anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, migraines, nausea, opioid addiction, PTSD, and seizures.

Despite the many symptoms that cannabis has been proven to treat, for many years being caught with possession of marijuana could result in a felony. Those seeking to reap the benefits of the herb’s medicinal properties oftentimes relied on sketchy unregulated transactions with no guarantee that the product was high-quality. Individuals caught with a drug felony for marijuana had their lives severely impacted by the legal fees, prison time, or loss of job opportunities due to the severity of having a criminal offense.

However, marijuana is slowly becoming more widely accepted. Individuals who are spreading awareness about how cannabis can be used as a form of medicine and, as a result, has greatly improved their quality of life are getting more and more traction in the media.

Many states have decriminalized marijuana possession altogether and reduced the criminal penalties associated with the herb. The United States now seems to be on the cusp of a revolution in terms of its perception of cannabis.

Figure 1: Photo by Merelize

A Budding Industry

Thanks to more and more states legalizing recreational cannabis usage in the last 5 years, the marijuana business is growing more rapidly than ever. This phenomenon has been creating countless of new jobs not just limited to dispensary owners or budtenders: there is now a budding market for delivery drivers, growers, cannabis marketing agencies, marijuana-specialty bakeries, pot-friendly club lounges, and so on.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and want to dive right into the cannabis industry, especially if you’re in a legalized state such as Colorado or California.

Are you interested in starting a cannabis-related business venture? The opportunities for employment are numerous, with the most common ventures being: traditional marijuana dispensaries, pot delivery service, pot tourism, marijuana-infused baking and cooking, marijuana lobbyists or advocates, cannabis law, cannabis marketing agency, glass products and other accessories, marijuana cultivation and harvesting, marijuana clubs or lounges, and cannabis consulting services.

Even if all of the professions above involve the medicinal herb in some form or another and may seem fun or easy, they can be just as lucrative as any other industry if you put in time and effort.

For example, I work in cannabis-based digital marketing, and like with any niche, there’s plenty of research and time spent on developing the best content marketing strategy for our clients.

At the end of the day, work is still work – no matter what industry you’re in.

That being said, it’s important to remember that as fun as it may sound to be able to tell people you work in the marijuana industry, there’s still a lot of legal grey area, red tape and stigma involved with this medicinal herb.

Figure 2: Photo by Jack Moreh

Are You Cut Out for the Weed Industry?

Before you start investing time and money into your cannabis-related business, ask yourself the following questions, and honestly evaluate if the move is right for you. After all, many individuals can still reap the benefits of cannabis without turning the industry into their livelihood and source of income.

  1. Can You Afford a Lawyer?

This first point is crucial because agree with it or not, marijuana is still federally illegal. There’s no way around it, even if more states are legalizing it. Getting a good lawyer who is well-versed in cannabis law and can advise you properly should be one of your top priorities.

If you live in a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational usage, it’s easy to forget that the majority of the United States still lacks broad laws or explicit legislature regarding cannabis.

If your business ventures involve selling marijuana-infused products such as baked goods or confections, are you prepared to only be able to legally market your brand’s products in certain states? Are you well versed in the limitations that the marijuana industry has when investing in paid advertisements or social media campaigns?

It’s definitely a tricky area, and if you plan on growing your business competitively, understanding the intricacies and nuances of this field is non-negotiable.

Federal Vs State Legalization: It’s Very Much a Grey Area

As of 2018, here’s a current rundown of how the United States is handling marijuana.

Color coded map by US states with marijuana laws

Any business owner can tell you that starting a company involves copious amounts of paperwork, fees, and taxes. Now, add marijuana legislature to the mix, and your efforts will have to increase tenfold.

Remember to leave room in your budget for legal consultation, because in all likelihood, it will save you a lot of trouble and headache later on if you’ve got a lawyer on your side.

  1. Can You Handle the Stigma?

The fact of the matter is, even if marijuana is becoming more widespread, there’s still a huge stigma associated with cannabis usage.

The “stoner stereotype” is what many people envision when they picture someone smoking cannabis – never mind the countless individuals who rely on it for medicinal purposes. This prejudice can be found more often than you realize; for example, many banks or organization don’t acknowledge or recognize marijuana businesses because of the confusing legalities surrounding the industry.

On a more personal level, if you start a cannabis-based business, would your friends and family disapprove? If they criticize your business venture, will you be able to handle it?

Some individuals wouldn’t care, and follow through with their dreams even if others look down on it. But not everyone can handle the disapproving links or snide comments made by their peers or loved ones.

At the end of the day, it all depends on how tough your skin is.

  1. Are You Willing to Hustle Hard Before You See Any ROI?

To a degree, this point can be said for anyone who wants to start a business: how hard are you willing to hustle? Many businesses don’t see a return on investment for the first several YEARS of starting and managing a company. Are you willing to see zero potential gains for an unforeseeable amount of time? It’s a risk that any entrepreneur must consider.

  1. How Will You Differentiate Yourself?

Legal or not, the marijuana industry is getting quite oversaturated. Everyone’s jumping on that cannabis app-based delivery train or what have you. Can your business venture bring something different to the table?

Perhaps you are not entirely reinventing the wheel, but rather approaching something from a brand new angle or fresh perspective. Being able to differentiate yourself from your competitors in a way that appeals to customers and meets or excel their needs will greatly increase the likelihood of success and longevity.

Figure 3: Photo by Merelize

If You’re Still Interested – Then Go For It!

At the end of the day, I’m not trying to discourage one from joining the cannabis industry. In fact, I highly encourage it – it’s definitely exciting, and I earnestly believe that there’s still plenty of room for newcomers. But it’s hard work.

I personally hate the “stoner stereotype”, and it pushes me to work harder because I want to prove to others that people who enjoy cannabis and work in the marijuana industry aren’t necessarily lazy couch-potatoes.

To a certain degree, I also want to spread awareness to other cannabis enthusiasts that working in the pot niche isn’t ALWAYS fun and games. It’s WORK, just like every other “fun” niche. Many people assume if you work for the entertainment or recreational industry that your work is all play and no hustle, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Do your research first and foremost, and if you still want to partake on your cannabis-related dreams – then more power to you!

What are your best tips for someone thinking about starting a marijuana business? Any budding entrepreneurs want to share their experience? Let us know in the comments below!

About The Author

Nicola Yap lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her two cats and works as an organic marketing strategist at Eminent SEO, a high-quality cannabis marketing agency that handles digital marketing plans, web design and development, and digital marketing strategies for marijuana brands.



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