In the November/December issue of Cannabis Business Times, I offered some tips for why you should work with the media. Those basic tactics hold true no matter what product or circumstance.
But, since I turned in that column at the beginning of November, quite honestly, a lot of things have changed, specifically a new administration and party will take control of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. While most were shocked by the results of the 2016 elections, they shouldn’t have been. Americans agreed to keep the same party in the Oval Office for more than two terms just twice since World War II. So we were due for a change. But with a new administration who has not provided clarity on key issues such as legalized marijuana, and with some questions surrounding picks for certain cabinet positions, cannabis businesses are facing a level of uncertainty unprecedented for the fledgling industry. New administrations have always meant a level of uncertainty for businesses, with potentially significant impacts to profits. The fact is the cannabis industry has the jitters.
First let me provide some perspective. I believe that the industry should look forward to working with our newly elected officials. Republicans have core values that include belief in state rights and a free market. The same voters that have elected these officials continue to overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization, as was evident in November’s elections. I believe that our new president and other elected officials will continue to support the will of the American voters, because that is their duty. Plus, it’s just good business sense. We cannot predict the future. However, President-elect Trump has said that marijuana regulation is a state issue, so we expect him to live up to his word and continue to let states regulate cannabis.
We have all come too far to crawl back into the basement. Now more than ever, it is time to tell your story. And this industry that you are helping to build has an incredible economic story to tell. Colorado, the first U.S. state to legalize cannabis for adult-use, has already reported selling more than $1 billion in marijuana and marijuana-related products in the first 10 months of 2016, with the state on track to see a $3 billion economic impact for 2016. Additionally, Colorado’s 2016 tax revenues are projected to total more than 2014 and 2015 combined. Multiply that potential with the well over half the states in the country that now offer some category of legal cannabis, and you do the math. The cannabis industry is compliant, a job creator, and a tax engine bringing state budgets out of the red and into the black. Trying to ban cannabis merely pushes a safe, regulated, taxable industry back to the Black Market and the Drug Cartels.
Can you put a face on that story? Talk about how many people you employ, about the taxes you pay, about the charities and community projects you support. Reach out to your local newspaper or business journal and invite the reporter covering your space for a tour of your facilities. Let them speak with your employees, and find out what a job with your company means to their families. Often leadership as well as staff have an authentic connection for being a part of this industry. Maybe you have seen what this plant can do for others. Maybe you have seen what it has done for you. If you are able to provide benefits such as health insurance, be sure to share that as well.
If telling your story isn't right for you, there are other ways to get involved. Join and support the local association that is affecting change in your Statehouse. In Colorado, it is the Cannabis Business Alliance. Step up your membership to the national organization National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). Join an NCIA committee. Go to NCIA’s Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., May 16-17. Make appointments with, call or email your local representative. And tell them about your employees and the taxes you pay. Get involved in your community. Find a non-profit to support such as Grow For Vets. Then share that story, too.
Now more than ever, we all need to reach across party lines and educate about all of the positive aspects of the cannabis industry. When it is your constituent or your son or mother or cousin, you might listen a little closer and with a little more understanding. We all have an exciting and amazing story to tell. We’ve all come so far. Don’t be afraid to share your story now. Now is the time when the industry may need it most.
Shawna McGregor is senior vice president of The Rosen Group, a public relations agency based in New York City. She opened the Denver office in 2012. McGregor manages communications for leading cannabis brands, including cultivators, infused products producers and industry associations.
Photo at top: Canndescent CEO Adrian Sedlin (right in white) has taken the time to explain his new Desert Hot Springs, Calif., facility to community members and members of the media in an effort to control the narrative of his business. (Photo courtesy: Canndescent)
Related story: Adrian Sedlin is featured in the January 2017 issue of Cannabis Business Times, mailing Jan. 3. He talks about the importance of local cultivation permits to his business and their relevance to the industry as a whole. Sedlin also will be speaking at the Cannabis 2017 Cultivation Conference on securing capital.