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The Real Intricacy of Cannabis

Current cannabis industry literature tends to focus on legislation, regulation, and taxation. Those are the hottest topics, because they are the lowest hanging, and most visible fruit that one can observe. After spending time actually working in the industry, those are not really the ones that I spend most of my time focused on.

I’ve spent most of my time building relationships, and being patient.

In a highly-regulated business, everything is a little bit harder to accomplish because it requires approval from multiple stakeholders before you can start. For example, let’s say that you want to grow cannabis in Massachusetts. Below is a tree that branches to each of the parties you need to work with to make that happen.

All of these decisions take a long time to be made.

For example, the CCC’s goal is to make sure that the cannabis industry functions in a compliant manner consistent with the various regulations and laws enacted. They are not motivated to act quickly; they have statutory response times that give them enough time to carefully assess your adherence to the rules. And they will use every day they have within the statute.

Another example is that most small town boards such as the board of selectmen, or planning boards, are often made up of volunteers with full time jobs outside of their town roles; they may only meet 1-2 times per month, and need that time to carefully consider your asks of them.

How can you mitigate the timing risks? By building strong relationships with key stakeholders who can be on your side and advocate for speeding things along. Ask yourself, who might care about this getting done? If I want to build a facility, is there an economic development committee that I could speak to in the town? Call the chair, and get to know them. Understand what motivates them, and what the town’s needs are. Explain how your business will fill that need, and ask them to advocate for you.

Another way to mitigate these risks is to keep the relationships strong over time. It’s not enough to introduce yourself one time. Just like friendships, business relationships require consistent nurturing for them to remain strong. Send a handwritten thank you note after a contact takes you to lunch. Ask people about their families. Become genuinely interested in them as people, and remember what they say. These seem like fundamentals, but they are a must if you are going to have advocates for your cannabis business.

Lastly, when estimating project timelines, add 100 - 200% to that estimate. When someone tells you to expect 3 weeks, assume it will be closer to 2 months. In general, people are not very good at estimating how long something takes, but when cannabis is involved, it always takes longer. Expect it, and be patient. If you have the right vendors on your team, they will be your advocates; show them mercy and they’ll return the favor.

In summary - what is the true intricacy of cannabis? It’s all about making friends, and being patient. Trust me, it’s worth the effort and the wait.


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