So after November, what next? A recent trip to the cities of Medford and Bend up in Oregon might shed some light. These communities are not unlike our own Central Coast towns in atmosphere. The recreational market is starting to mature in Central and Southern Oregon, and my guess is our market will follow a similar path.
Bend and Medford have many dispensaries, perhaps too many. Most are located in C quality commercial buildings that were probably desperate for tenants. A few had impressive storefronts in high traffic areas, such as Oregrown and Tokyo Starfish in downtown Bend. These two seem to have a steady flow of traffic, with the latter located close to an upscale food market similar to Whole Foods.
Less impressive locations seemed quite empty upon inspection. They will have to survive on local customers in search of more competitive pricing. Tourists will gravitate toward the better located dispensaries for a while, not unlike any other kind of business. Customers will pay substantially more at these stores though, and as the novelty of this new business wears off, price wars will grind on the A location dispensaries. It’s not hard to imagine the same thing happening in Santa Barbara and its neighboring towns.
Oregon has had a long history of relaxed marijuana laws, so this transition has been pretty smooth. In talking to local businessmen, they were hard pressed to come up with any problems in their community as a result of the legalization of recreational use. There is even talk now of allowing dispensaries to deliver to home-based customers.
California will add its own footprint on the development of recreational sales for sure. Innovative storefront designs and perhaps a Starbuck’s type brand might develop. Customer service at dispensaries is an area where California could lead.
What kind of background prepares you for the cannabis industry?
The business side of cannabis is very similar to many heavily regulated industries. Alcohol, consumer products, food, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and finance all could prepare a businessperson for the kind of scrutiny regulators will give. The experience gained in small business start-ups might work best. Industry veteran Justin Beck of Cultivation Technologies put it this way: “More than anything, entrepreneurs must be willing to adapt to change and overcome failure. These traits are common in entrepreneurs as a whole but are absolutely vital when it comes to the cannabis industry.”
Applying whatever you are doing now is always a good choice. Four years ago Celeste Miranda of the Cannabis Marketing Lab did just that. Her company handles website design, graphic design, social media, content writing, SEO, digital media marketing, email marketing, photography, and social video all under one roof. She saw a great need for these services in marijuana-related businesses and now concentrates solely on this field with 40 customers nationwide.
On the grow side there is a shortage of top quality “master growers.” Those in the traditional greenhouse flower industry have a perfect background to use in cannabis cultivation. A master grower could consult with such professionals and bring them up to speed much faster than training someone from scratch. Master growers reportedly make between $150,000 and $250,000 per year, depending upon the size of the operation. A degree in horticultural sciences will certainly be in demand as legalization moves forward.
Experience in information technology would also fit the cannabis space. Due to the heavy regulatory burden soon to fall on growers, dispensaries, and delivery services, sophisticated software programs will be vital. There are many entrants in this field, and they will be faced with continual staffing needs in sales and support.
Chris Husong of ClubM, an exclusive California cannabis subscription club, thinks that the right background is based upon ethics and financial experience. “We are the first wave of cannabis executives; we have to get this right,” offered Husong, who came out of the financial services industry with strong community and church ties.
One thing all of these executives have in common is a strong work ethic and excellent written and oral communication skills. As it turns out, success in cannabis is not that much different from other industries.