When I saw the news a few months back about Microsoft entering the cannabis industry, my first thought was, “This is going to be very interesting for the cannabis industry.” My second thought was, “I guess it’s time to come out of the cannabis closet.” Five months later, I still had not stepped out.
Now is the time. Since earlier this year, I’ve been working on several new ventures, all focused on the legal cannabis industry. One is a digital marketing agency serving canna businesses and nonprofits called Spark The Creative. Another is a digital media property and lifestyle brand for women called Her Canna Life focused on empowering women through cannabis education, information and inspiration.
Why the cannabis industry?
Over the years, my consulting work has involved identifying trends for my clients. I was struck by news about a number of states passing medical marijuana laws including Arizona where I was living at the time. I also noticed that Alaska was undergoing some interesting developments in it’s marijuana laws.
When a good friend and marketing colleague of mine in Alaska was looking to expand her PR business into new markets after dropping oil and gas prices pummeled the state’s economy, it sparked an idea, so I texted her.
“Why don’t you look into the MJ biz?”
“Marijuana,” I replied.
Most people don’t know this, but Alaska has had recreational marijuana laws on the books since 1975. Despite some attempts at re-criminalizing marijuana possession, Alaskans are allowed up to 12 plants per household under state law as long as at least two adults over the age of 21 are living in the residence. Alaskans are also allowed to possess as much marijuana as their plants produce. In public, they can possess up to one ounce legally.
When I started looking into the cannabis industry as a potential new area of focus for my next business ventures earlier this year, there were 22 states and Washington DC where marijuana was legal is some form. While in the middle of my research, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana all passed new laws opening up medical marijuana use, bringing the number to 25.
As of November 9th, both recreational and medicinal marijuana have been entirely legalized in 8 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. As of this month, 28 states in the United States are legal medical marijuana states plus Washington DC. (Breakdown here)
Any smart entrepreneur sees opportunity here, not without its legal and logistical challenges, but opportunity nevertheless.
Taking the plunge
I’ve always been a bit of an “late early” adopter. I started the first woman-owned, full-service Internet marketing agency in 1995 when women made up only 10% of the Internet population, but it wasn’t the first Internet marketing agency. In 2006, I started one of the first social media marketing companies before we were really even calling it “social media marketing” and then one of the early mobile apps development and mobile marketing company in 2010. Not the first on the scene, but early enough to feel the pains of pioneering a new industry.
As I enter the cannabis industry from tech, I’m becoming part of an industry with projected sales of $6.7 billion this year and $10.8 billion by 2018 — and these are getting to be outdated stats. ( Arcview)
I’m not growing or selling cannabis. But I am working with companies that are “touching the plant,” helping them with branding and marketing their products and services. Staying true to my mission to empower women, I’m developing online resources geared towards women regarding the many benefits of cannabis — both CBD (non-psychoactive) and THC (psychoactive properties) and showcasing women who are pioneering this emerging industry.
I’m continuing my work that began with publishing the first domestic violence and breast cancer awareness information on the Internet in 1992 and founding Webgrrls International in 1995, the global organization that helped women learn about the Internet and break into the tech industry.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), THC is of “medical interest” because of the following effects:
- Increase in appetite and reduces nausea (helpful for cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy).
- Decrease pain.
- Decrease in inflammation (swelling and redness.
- Decrease in muscle control problems.
The NIH also identified the following effects of CBD, the element that “does affect the mind or behavior:”
- Reducing pain.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Controlling epileptic seizures.
- Possibly treating mental illness and addictions.
The list of potential uses of medical marijuana goes on and on, and the NIH says scientists are conducting pre-clinical and clinical trials using it to treat “autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, and even the potential effectiveness in killing certain cancer cells.
To learn WHY cannabis is illegal federally, I read and highly recommend Martin A. Lee’s excellent book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana — Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (Scribner, 2013). It will blow your mind — and hopefully open your eyes — to the misleading information we’ve all received over the years from our own government about cannabis.
Where to from here?
Even after over 25 years in the Internet industry, I still learn something new every day. I’m excited to be learning something new every day about cannabis, about the best ways to market cannabis and related products and services, and about how I can apply my knowledge, skills and abilities to this industry to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
I feel I can truly contribute to this emerging legal industry in meaningful ways given my experience as a serial entrepreneur, business advisor to startups, and advisory board member for diverse companies over the years. For a “gray hair” in the Internet industry, it feels like a rebirth to be involved in cannabis, a reboot of my career and a reinvigoration of my creative brain.
If you’re interested in learning more about my new ventures or about how you, too, can explore and potentially enter the legal cannabis industry, please get in touch.
And if you are at #MJBizCon, I hope our paths cross!