Last week social media and blogs were inundated with comments and articles about a former Microsoft Executive's (Jamen Shively) announcement that he is planning to jump into the marijuana industry.
"At a press conference in downtown's tallest skyscraper, Shively said he and business partners will begin in Washington State and Colorado, where rules for legal pot come online this year, and wait as voters pick off prohibition across the country. Flanked by lawyers, a state lawmaker, and former Mexico president Vicente Fox, Shively said he is a "couple weeks" from an initial $10 million milestone, and within three years, he fully expects to open---some medical marijuana and some recreational marijuana---a dozen branded stores in Washington State, another dozen stores in Colorado, and as many as hundreds in California (a state where only medical marijuana is currently legal but where voters are widely expected to legalize recreational pot in 2016)." Reported journalist Dominic Holden.
A big business takeover of the marijuana industry has been something that many marijuana activists and current industry members have feared for awhile now. The fears are well founded, and the infiltration of the marijuana industry by big business is something that is not going to go away. I have talked to a lot of outside investors since the 2012 Election, and many of them are performing their due diligence to see how they can crack into a multi-billion dollar industry that is growing larger by the day.
I always snicker at them, because they are in over their heads. Jamen Shively, if his claims prove to be true, is in way over his head. It's almost as if they don't realize how hard it is to crack into the marijuana industry, especially being an outsider. Opening a chain of marijuana stores is not like opening a chain of fast food joints. I have heard many investors from outside of the marijuana industry talk as if marijuana isn't illegal at the federal level. They talk as if the IRS isn't going after marijuana businesses by using the tax system and that the DEA isn't constantly trying to go after the marijuana industry at just about every level (especially retail). The things that they learned in traditional business and from business school don't always translate to the marijuana industry. Just because something worked in the credit card industry or computer industry doesn't mean that it is going to work in the marijuana industry. In a lot of cases, because it worked in big business, it definitely won't work in the marijuana industry, where many consumers don't like big business and what they are about.
The marijuana industry has long been a cottage industry, operating at a local level. Part of that is because of laws prohibiting/hindering the industry but a lot of it is also because of the local-minded culture that marijuana consumers have. How many times have you heard 'my hometown/state has the best marijuana on the planet'? I'm assuming it's far more often than you hear 'I sure wish I could buy generic, mass produced marijuana products from afar.' This is especially true in the two states that have legal marijuana (Washington and Colorado), where they have a lot of local pride in their marijuana.
Big business members from outside of the marijuana industry just don't 'get it.' The fact that Mr. Shively is talking about importing marijuana from Mexico shows just how out of touch he is with the average marijuana consumer. The only people that consume marijuana from Mexico are people that have to. There just simply isn't any other marijuana in their area, so they are forced to either go without or smoke bammer. FYI Mr. Shively and others, NO ONE LIKES SMOKING BAMMER.
The only good thing that I can see from big business trying to crack into the marijuana industry is that it might speed up the rate of reform. Politicians are more likely to listen to big business lobbyists than they are to the common person, for better or worse. However, I always tell people that think the big business lobby will help speed up reform that Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana because of the efforts of a collective group of common people - not big business. Marijuana reform will come, whether big business is involved or not.
I'd rather see the people from the cottage marijuana industry get marijuana reform achieved so that they can receive the financial benefits that come from a legal, regulated market. The idea that the people that have been fighting for reform for so many years are going to be pushed out by big business breaks my heart to even think about. It's better for the marijuana consumer to have people from inside the marijuana industry creating and distributing the products they buy rather than big business too. I certainly know that I don't want to buy a pack of 'bammer joints' and I doubt others do too, especially when there are so many quality products that I can buy at the local level from true marijuana industry experts.
One thing that really bothers me about big business people trying to get into the marijuana industry is that they rarely, if ever, try to lead reform efforts. They are simply waiting for all of us to do the heavy lifting, then they are going to try to swoop in to reap the benefits. Why doesn't big business fight for 280e reform? Why doesn't big business lead the way on fighting for asset forfeiture reform? Why doesn't big business support initiatives? If they do currently, they certainly aren't doing it enough! Planning to profit off of the backs of activists is a slap in the face in my opinion.
What do readers think? What are your fears about a marijuana industry takeover? Do you think that big business can overcome the hurdles that they face and take over the marijuana industry, or do you think that this is all hype? Do you fear that companies like Monsanto will eventually takeover, and ruin, the marijuana industry? Does anyone out there think that the marijuana industry could benefit from some big business influences? I look forward to reading your comments.