By Matt Walstatter
In my last two columns, on professionalism (https://www.cannabisbusinessexecutive.com/2015/01/views-professionalism-pure-green-pdx/ ) and customer education [https://www.cannabisbusinessexecutive.com/2015/01/customer-education/], I mentioned the value of getting involved with industry and community organizations. These are important topics in their own right and I want to take some time to address each, beginning today, with industry organizations.
These groups can take a variety of forms, but most are either political organizations or trade associations. Political organizations, like PACs, make political donations and lobby on behalf of constituents. The goal is to influence the political and regulatory process in directions favorable to the industry.
Trade associations have a slightly different purpose. They bring together members of a particular industry to network, share best practices ,and help the individual businesses and the industry as a whole to evolve and develop. Becoming an active member of each type of organization can offer you a host of benefits.
Meet The Players
It may seem obvious, but simply meeting other members of your industry is a valuable aspect of joining these organizations. This is especially true in the Cannabis Industry where, until recently, remaining anonymous was a key to success.
Now however, in order for our industry to progress and ultimately triumph, we need to begin by talking to one another. Industry organizations provide a venue for that interaction to occur.
These organizations also provide an opportunity to meet lawmakers, regulators, and others who will have a huge say over how your business operates. I am one of the founding members of the Oregon Grower’s Political Action Committee (http://puregreenpdx.com/tag/oregon-growers-pac/). Through the PAC, I have met and spoken with politicians, political aides, and regulators. This has given us valuable opportunities to discuss the future of our industry and to offer our input regarding laws and regulations.
In some cases, these will be the same regulators approving applications for marijuana businesses. It helps when these folks have a face to put with a name. It also helps when they know that they are dealing with someone who is willing to step up and take responsibility for their own business as well as their industry.
The legal Cannabis Industry changes constantly. We see new products every day, and the laws, rules, and regulations that govern our operations are rewritten almost as frequently. It may be a cliché to say knowledge is power, but it’s only a cliché because it’s true. In this changing landscape, the more you know and the sooner you know it, the better off you are.
Industry organizations can help with this. By engaging with the political process and the people involved, we are able to stay informed. This can lead to a host of different business advantages that help in areas like choosing a proper location and running a compliant business.
We opened our dispensary, Pure Green, in January 2013. In late March, shortly after licensing began, the state offered new draft regulations governing edibles. These were strict rules that included an outright ban on all sweet edibles. Needless to say, patients were in an uproar over the potential loss of an important form of medicine.
Because of our work with the Grower’s PAC, we knew who to call to learn more about these proposed rules. We heard fairly quickly that these were just draft rules and that a newer, less onerous version, without the ban on sweets, would be coming soon.
We were able to share this information with our patients, which put their minds at ease. When it turned out our information was correct, we gained increased credibility in the eyes of our patients. This helped build the type of trust that translates into customer loyalty.
Amplify Your Influence
Trade associations and PACs tend to be the face and voice of the industry that they represent. They are the groups most frequently interfacing with lawmakers and regulators. The media typically turns to these groups for commentary and insight. The more involved you become with these groups, the more influence you will have on your industry.
This increased influence can have many benefits. For starters, it can act as free marketing. The ability to present yourself as a leader in your industry has value in the form of increased credibility for you and your brand.
It also creates opportunities for you to help shape the policies and laws that regulate your industry. The goal here is to build an industry that fits your values and your business model. The best way to assure that we have a viable, socially responsible industry is to help create it. And if that facilitates the profitability of your business, so much the better.
Those of us in the Cannabis Industry are chest deep in the most significant social change of our generation. This is bigger than any one individual or business.
The transition from black market to legal business is challenging, with potential wrong turns lurking at every intersection. Only by working cooperatively and collectively can we build something that will last. Industry organizations provide the vehicle for this collective effort.
Matt Walstatter and his wife, Meghan, are the owners of Pure Green, a patient owned and operated dispensary in Portland, Oregon. They have jointly owned and operated cultivation centers since 2001. Their dispensary opened in 2013. Matt can be reached at (971) 242-8561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.