The marijuana industry has come a long way, but there is still the need to develop a respectable image, one that shouts legitimacy to skeptical outsiders. With all the momentum that marijuana reform is gaining among state and government officials, the industry is racing to adapt to the new freedoms. While everyone is trying to catch up with new laws and amendments that are put into place, industry professionals aren’t taking the time to re-evaluate their image. Important issues such as regulatory compliance, professionalism, trust, and reliability are being ignored. Until illegal growers and the ‘pot head’ image are removed from the cannabis industry, outside investors will continue to be reluctant on investing their capital in legal marijuana.
The black market continues to be the biggest obstacle affecting the legitimacy of the marijuana industry. Yesterday, federal agents moved in on a large scale marijuana grow house that was located on Native American land in California. According to Lauren Horwood of the US Attorney’s Office, “special agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the DEA conducted a raid on two cultivation facilities located on federally recognized tribal lands at the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the XL Ranch. The U.S. attorney’s office had previously spoken to representatives from both tribes to remind them that the cultivation of marijuana is illegal under federal law and those in violation of the states’ regulations were at risk of enforcement action. The large quantity of marijuana that the tribes were cultivating wasn’t consistent with California’s Compassionate Use Act, undermining locally enacted marijuana regulations. While this is an isolated incident, it happens every day, all over the country; and hundreds of dispensaries continue to operate without having an appropriate state issued license.
The industry is also being saturated with thousands of business hopefuls who believe that a weed-friendly “Rastafarian” marketing plan is the only way to reach out to customers, including government officials. The “hippie” should no longer be a spokesperson for the industry. There hasn’t been much effort to move away from this traditional “pot head” image and towards a reliable and trustworthy marketing plan. Sure, the traditional corporation setting may not be so friendly to many cannabis advocates that have limited professional experience. But the image creates a brand of trust and reliability, professionalism and knowledge. For marijuana business hopefuls, whether they are focused on merchandising, marijuana sales, technology, or business solutions, the key to gaining the attention of investors is to build a brand that those investors can trust.
As unlicensed businesses continue to operate in states where marijuana is legal, the DEA has no choice but to continue prosecuting those who refuse to comply with the law. Support from government officials will increase once the illegal activity is taken out of the equation. But the transformation doesn’t stop there. The industry needs investors who, unfortunately, are only familiar with the stigmas of marijuana users (lazy, dumb and irresponsible). Until a clean and professional image is shared throughout the industry on a national level, many of those potential investors will hesitate to invest. The future is bright for the marijuana industry, how bright depends on the image we create.