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January 11, 2018
Getting into the Biz: Where to start?

People reach out to me all the time, whether it be by Instagram, Facebook, email, phone call, or in person, to ask how they can get started with a career in the cannabis industry.  From the outside, it may feel and look like the cannabis industry is some black hole that unless you're already a part of it, it feels difficult or impossible to learn about the steps you can take to get involved yourself.  My intention of this article is to shed some light on the things that I’ve done and that you can too to gather the education and skillset you will need to become a professional in the cannabis industry and create opportunities for yourself.

Now before I get into it, I want to help you understand why this “veil of the unknown” may exist.  Historically, and by that I mean up until a few years ago when the cannabis industry started making it’s way into the mainstream as a real, professional industry, the only way to operate in this industry was to do so by staying under the radar and out of the public eye.  This of course is because the cannabis plant was and is illegal under federal law, and states had not adopted laws and regulations to make space for a legal cannabis industry.  That means that anyone who operated any cannabis related business was doing so illegally.  As a result, the pre-legal industry was developed on trust, seeing that anybody who knew who was involved in cannabis could potentially lead to their downfall by federal, state, or local intervention.  Though this is changing while more states adopt cannabis as a legal industry, there is still a severe lack of public information about this plant.  It was only very recently that people started publicly posting information about the cannabis plant online and in the media.    

The rest of this article will focus on how this changing industry is now opening up more doors for the everyday person to educate, network, and build a successful career around cannabis.

Trade Shows and Conferences

When Lola Lola was first getting started, we showed up to every conference we could, all around the country, with the intention of meeting as many people and making as many connections as possible.  Even though we only operate in California for now, we exhibited at shows in Nevada, Florida, and Washington DC, where we met some of our most valuable partners we have today.

You don't need an extravagant booth or even be an exhibitor to make conferences and tradeshows a valuable investment of your time and money.  All you need to do is SHOW UP, be yourself, and meet people.  The beauty of the cannabis industry is that nobody is inaccessible, yet.  Since the industry is still in its infant stages, by showing up to these events, you are a lot more likely to meet the CEO of your favorite brand or an investor willing to take a shot at your idea than you may think.  Put it this way, Imagine going to an electronics trade show and expecting to meet Steve Jobs at the Apple booth.  Not going to happen, but because the cannabis industry is still small and tight knit, at a cannabis show, you just may meet his equivalent of the cannabis industry. (Note: I do understand that Steve is no longer with us but hey, it’s a good example)

Industry Trade Organizations - NCIA, So Cal Coalition, Women Grow

The cannabis industry is facing an overwhelming need for thought leaders and cannabis curious people to come together to figure out ways to navigate the regulatory climate, protect ourselves from outside forces, and to spread the light and message to the masses that cannabis is a positive plant for our society and is here to stay.  In response to the need for the industry as a whole to work together, there are a number of industy organizations - large and small, national and local, that you can get involved with where you live.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is a great group focused on cannabis advocacy of responsible and legal cannabis businesses at the federal level.  They host quarterly caucasus around the country to discuss the industry and what businesses and individuals can do to help.

Women Grow is another leader in gathering people to network, educate, and change the conversation around the cannabis plant.  Don’t let the name fool you: while Women Grow is primarily dedicated to women, the group is more than welcoming to men as well.  They host monthly meetings around the country and a conference of their own once a year.  

Local Events and Meetups

Depending on where you live (I’m in San Francisco, CA), it is more than likely there are all kinds of local events and meetups happening in your neck of the woods where people looking to educate themselves and the world on the benefits of the cannabis plant are gathering to explore the opportunities this industry presents.  A few examples of some of my favorite are and have been:

In April, the Exploratorium of San Francisco hosted a cannabis education night at the museum in which thousands of people interested in cannabis gathered for a night of events and talks given by industry experts like Dan Grace of Dark Heart Nursery.

The brands within the industry are also stepping up to create amazing experiences for industry folk, consumers, and people who are just interested in learning more about the plant and what it can offer.  A local California company, Nasha Extracts has been putting on cannabis dinner parties for the last few months in which they have teamed up with a Michelin star award winning chef to curate a night full of gourmet food infused with their top notch extractions.  When you put good food and good hash together, it’s a recipe that results in a good time had by all.

Cannabis and wellness go hand in hand.  Since this plant is one of the world’s oldest knowsn medicines, the wellness community has been quick to embrace combining the effects of cannabis with meditation, yoga, and other activities.  A few of the best examples I’ve seen are Zen and Kush, hosted by budtender turned Medicine Woman, Lizzy Jeff, Cannabis infused yoga by Lauren Sauders @cannayoga), and Lifted and Gifted, created by the always creative and innovative High Standards Agency.

Other sources for meeting people interested in getting involved in the cannabis industry can be easily be found by a search for “cannabis” on the website meetup.com in your local area.

Formally educate yourself.

Do yourself a favor and come to the hub of the cannabis industry, the Bay Area, California.  Even if it means coming from half way around the world, invest in taking the Basic and Advanced courses at Oaksterdam University, the first and original source for cannabis education.  For 4 full days, you can be immersed in the world of cannabis, while being taught by some of the industry’s most prominent figures, like Dale Sky Jones, who has been advocating for the plant for many years.  Once you’re here, hop over to Harborside dispensary just a short drive away and mingle with the patients, staff, and management.  Everyone in the organization is friendly and helpful, and you may even get a chance to meet one of the DeAngelo’s, who have been pivotal in shaping this industry from the ground up.  

I stress the importance about coming to the Bay Area because there isn’t another place that is so concentrated with dispensaries, events, and opportunities to educate yourself and meet people like you can do here.  When you show up, you can make things happen.  This leads to my next topic:

Visit Dispensaries.  Just show up and find out.

Go to dispensaries, wherever and whenever you can.  Meet the staff, smell the selection, get an idea for what kind of products are out there and what products people are buying.  As a vendor, traveling shop to shop all over the state, the most important and pivotal information I’ve received that has shaped Lola Lola has been information that I’ve picked up in casual conversations with dispensary staff, patients, and management.  The beauty about this plant is that it has the ability to bring people together unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  When I go to a cannabis dispensary, I see people from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, preferences, income levels etc., but everyone seems to have one thing in common.  The desire to learn about the cannabis plant.  Hearing people’s stories about what they use cannabis for, why they got started using it, what types of products they prefer and why.  The education you will receive from being genuinely interested in the plant, the products, and most importantly, the people, will be as good as gold.