With the cannabis industry now being dubbed as the fastest growing industry in the United States, the race is on for entrepreneurs and investors to carve our their slice of the market.
It's not just hedge fund managers and corporate CEO's who are getting in on the action. It seems that everyone and their Auntie is getting into the cannabis industry these days.
With marijuana now a topic of national attention, entrepreneurs are looking for a way to differentiate themselves from the rapidly crowding field. For those who want to get a leg up on the cannabis competition, it is imperative that you attend an event like the #CannaBizSummit that NCIA is putting on this week.
Day One kicked off with four different workshops covering various aspects of this burgeoning market:
- Workshop A: Growing a National Brand
- Workshop B: Complete Cultivation System Design Process
- Workshop C: Bricks & Mortar- Marijuana Real Estate
- Workshop D: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design and Security System Compliance
I attended Workshop A which featured former SSDP Executive Director and current Managing Partner at 4Front Ventures, Kris Krane as well as Executive Director of Women Grow Jazmin Hupp, They were joined on stage by three outstanding California based lawyers Shabnam Malek (Brand & Branch LLP), Dawn Newton (Donahue Fitzgerald LLP), and Mary Shapiro (Mary L. Shapiro Law, PC) who moderated the workshop.
All five imparted invaluable information for someone looking to start up in the cannabis industry. Hupp spoke of the need to understand your customer base, and to stand out as a brand. She advised that dispensary owners should be keeping track of as much data as they can about their customers and their habits, including interviewing your 100 top customers.
Malek and Newton presented in tandem about all of the legal aspects of owning a cannabis brand and protecting your brands' intellectual property. They began their presentation by going over a few important legal definitions, including the differences between trademarks, patents, copyrights, and how you go about obtaining them. They also covered how businesses are able to license the use of their brand or technologies, and how to franchise your concept, along with much more.
Krane dovetailed the legal discussion with a series of tips about how to be able to take your cannabis business national. He touched on the pros and cons of working with local partners versus trying to get awarded licenses on your own in the various states. He focused a lot on the need for due diligence when trying to take a brand national. From thoroughly vetting your potential partners and investors, to hiring a professional application writer to help in drafting an application that the state is going to view favorable. Krane also mentioned the need to hire a local lobbyist who can help navigate the various local agencies and gain local support.
As someone who has been around the marijuana reform movement and industry since 2011, I've been to a lot of conferences...but this is by far the best. There were so many informational slides from the presenters, with a lot of actionable intel. As I looked around the room I could see lots of people scribbling and typing notes, and the format of the workshop allowed for audience members to ask questions when they needed points of clarification.
At the time of writing this blog there are four afternoon workshops in progress, covering topics such as risk management, employment law, marketing and branding, and sustainable approaches to commercial cannabis cultivation. After the afternoon workshops there will be about an hour until CanopyBoulder Demo Day begins.
CanopyBoulder will be presenting their Spring 2015 Class of startups. Each of the ten startups will be presenting their concepts that they developed while taking part in a grueling three-month business boot camp. Among the startups are Leaf, a smart-phone-controlled home grow for consumers; a cannabis-centric women's lifestyle brand called The Herbalista Set, and Stash Logix a stash bag looking to enhance security for the cannabis consumer.
Day One has certainly been packed with information, with the second and third days scheduled to be just as informative. Day Two will be a little more political as the day will be started off by a speech from Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette and the keynote speaker atTuesday's luncheon will be Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Day Two will also be the first time that a Presidential candidate has tried to court the marijuana industry for donations, with Rand Paul scheduled to hold a private VIP reception during the #CannaBizSummit tomorrow at 1:30pm.
There is no doubt that the center of the marijuana universe is at the Colorado Convention Center this weekend. If you are someone looking to get your foot in the door, get out to the next NCIA event you can. If you are near Denver and want to check out this week's event for yourself, you can still register online or on-site. The information and networking that one has access to at this event is well worth the price of admission.
For those who can't make it, feel free to follow @TheWeedBlog on Twitter, Snapchat and Periscope, and @TheWeedBlogDotCom on Instagram. We'll be live tweeting with the hashtag #CannaBizSummit