a photo of women who might work in a cannabis business

Cannabis Businesses: The Future is Female

Last week I attended the MJBizConNEXT conference in New Orleans for cannabis entrepreneurs and professionals. This was my first marijuana
conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The structure was the same as other conferences I’ve been to, keynote speakers and specialized sessions, and of course networking. But what made this one different was, I was surrounded by other professionals who are in my industry—cannabis. It gave me much needed context and perspective on what’s going on in North America, other than my microcosm of West Michigan.

One overwhelming topic from the conference was the importance of women in cannabis businesses.

Irie Selkirk

Irie Selkirk, with Emblem Cannabis in Ontario, gave a great presentation about engaging not only female consumers, but female leaders. She thinks it’s crucial that we establish an industry with strong female leaders, and I couldn’t agree more.

According to a 2015 survey from Marijuana Business Daily, women held 36 percent of leadership positions in the cannabis industry. MJBiz conducted an updated survey on the topic in August 2017, and the number of women in leadership roles had dropped to 27 percent of executive roles. Women need to continue to not only represent in this industry, but to lead this industry. And if we don’t want to see continued drops in women leadership we have ensure that women have power and voice in this industry.

Ms. Selkirk reflected on her first cannabis conference and how she and other women there felt left out. They felt more comfortable sitting outside the building to network, than the expo floor. This brought up a great discussion about how women feel outnumbered on the expo floor, and how men (the vast majority of the vendors are men, with a few booth babes) interact with them. Several of the women in the session felt intimidated by the overwhelming presence of men on the expo floor and didn’t interact as much as they normally would. Ms. Selkirk encouraged women to speak up and take control of what you want to accomplish in cannabis. If you can’t find what you want, create it. Can’t find other women in cannabis to network with? Create your own network. Want a more balanced expo floor? Get some booth space. Make your voice heard and lobby for change.

Kevin O’Leary on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Bob D’Amico)

The keynote speaker was Kevin O’Leary from the hit TV show Shark Tank. Mr. O’Leary, or Mr. Wonderful, as he’s fond of calling himself, said he prefers to invest in women-led businesses because he gets better returns. O’Leary found that about 95 percent of the women-led companies meet their financial targets, compared with just 65 percent for businesses with male leaders.

He has a couple of theories about why female-led businesses outperform male-led ones:

  • Women are better at time management
  • Women set more achievable goals

He also talked about how when goals are achieved, company morale goes up, which can help create a great culture, which obviously leads to less employee turnover.

In short, his largest returns have been from women-led businesses.

Women—we make up over 50 percent of the US population, yet according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, we made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

The cannabis industry represents the future—a chance to enter a growing industry with relatively low barriers. It is an opportunity to help make medicine available to people who desperately need an alternative to opioids and other over-prescribed drugs. And we have a chance to shape the future of this industry into a more equitable and inclusive environment, where women can make their mark, and open doors of opportunity for future generations.

After all, the future is female.

Tami VandenBerg Appointed to MI Legalize Board

We were thrilled to help our friend, Tami VandenBerg, announce this great news today. We’d like to extend our congrats to Tami on this appointment. We know that she will do great things in this new capacity.

Grand Rapids community activist and business owner Tami VandenBerg was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of MI Legalize, a political organization that aims to end cannabis prohibition in Michigan. Presently MI Legalize is leading a coalition that is circulating petitions for adult-use cannabis in Michigan.

Vandenberg is well known for her outspoken views regarding cannabis and helped create the successful campaign that decriminalized marijuana in the City of Grand Rapids in 2012. In addition to her cannabis activism, she is the co-owner (with her brother) of two successful businesses—The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme. She also serves as the executive director of Well House, a nonprofit that provides permanent housing for people who have been homeless. She is a former Board Chair of The Red Project in Grand Rapids.

“There is a startling amount of money spent on cannabis prohibition—millions in Michigan and billions across the United States and the ROI is dismal. It’s time to end prohibition and spend our tax dollars in a more productive manner,” said VandenBerg.

“When I was a social worker, maybe 15 years ago, I was trying to help a woman find housing and a job— and the more we talked the more I understood that it was just a small marijuana infraction that stood between her and having a place to live and finding meaningful work. She also shared with me that her three brothers were incarcerated for marijuana possession and it had torn their family apart. It was obvious to me then, that marijuana laws were applied differently to people of color and that still exists today,” VandenBerg said. According to the ACLU black people in Kent County are 7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

“Tami brings an entrepreneurial lens, experience and a passion for fundraising. She understands how to run a persuasive campaign and her ability to organize and engage in outreach especially in West Michigan is critical to the statewide presence of this campaign. Her leadership qualities add to the strength of MI Legalize as we build a diverse unity coalition to succeed at the ballot. We’re pleased to have her joining us,” said Jeffrey Hank, chair of the MI Legalize Board of Directors.

In addition to her work, VandenBerg has been the recipient of numerous awards including: six years on Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list and four times on the publication’s 50 Most Influential Women list. She is the 2017 distinguished alumnus for the 40 Under 40 Award. She has been honored with awards from the American Institute of Architects, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and YNPN, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Well House has also won numerous community awards for its work.

Be Brave for Cannabis Campaign Gets Political

The Be Brave For Cannabis social campaign is getting political with the addition of a House Bill written by State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor). The bill, which has bipartisan support, was created to prevent Michigan’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries from being shut down by licensing delays. Be Brave for Cannabis is encouraging people to share to create and share their ‘be brave’ social media videos or posts with legislators and to reach out by phone and in person to encourage support of the bill. The hashtag  #bebraveforcannabis is used for the effort.

Last year, the legislature passed bills to license medical marijuana businesses giving local governments control over whether to allow such licensed facilities to operate in their municipalities. However, the bills did not specify a process for licensing established medical marijuana businesses. The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Board said recently that existing businesses must close by December 15, 2017, if they want to seek licensure. Because license applications will not be accepted before that date, provisioning businesses will be forced to shut down for an indefinite period while applications are processed.

Rep. Rabhi’s bill establishes a timeframe for processing the license applications of existing medical marijuana businesses and allows existing businesses to continue operating while their applications are processed. The bill also clarifies those existing businesses that apply before February will not be barred from licensure solely on account of having operated without a municipal enabling ordinance before this became a requirement. Municipalities retain control over whether to allow licensed medical marijuana facilities.

The time is now to harness the power of social media and encourage everyone to use it as a platform to really put a voice of support out for this bill. We also want them to encourage their audiences to be brave and do the same. Medical marijuana patients have kept quiet for years and now is the time to let elected officials understand the demand that truly exists within their communities.

“We’re asking the 240,000 people in Michigan who hold medical marijuana cards to contact their representatives in the Michigan legislature. It’s more important than ever that people have a voice on this important legislative issue. Dispensaries provide vital cannabis medication for thousands of patients in Michigan and leaving them without access for what might be several months is a punishment they don’t deserve,” said Roberta F. King of Canna Communication.

About Be Brave For Cannabis

The social media campaign, Be Brave for Cannabis was created to give people a platform and community for their support of cannabis use. Whether people are patients, recreational users or simply against cannabis prohibition #bebraveforcannabis is a place for standing up and speaking out. More information at www.bebraveforcannabis.com.

image of marijuana which is part of any new marijuana business

Cannabis Taxes Are Improving Communities

“Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is credited for saying this in an opinion he wrote nearly 100 years ago.

We’ve been reflecting on this quote since our trip to Colorado on 4/20.

A Closer Look at Where the Money Goes

Consider this receipt from downtown Denver dispensary Native Roots. We found the tax details to be so interesting!  For $48 in products we paid over 20% in taxes—that amounted to nearly an additional $10 on the transaction.

Frankly, we were delighted to pay it. In fact, we might even say that we felt altruistic seeing that we were supporting cultural facilities and RTD (Denver’s bus and rail service provider), in addition to paying the state and municipality taxes.

During our visits to dispensaries (at which there was always a healthy line of customers) we didn’t hear anyone whining over the seemingly hefty cannabis taxes. For us, this was a small price to pay for the chance to legally obtain marijuana products for recreational, adult-use. Cheers to Colorado for tapping into this vast new stream of tax revenue.

Let’s be honest, “stream” seems like an insignificant word to describe what this is really doing for Colorado. Tax flood, perhaps?

It has been reported that cannabis sales in Colorado last year easily topped $1 BILLION.  From that, the state took in nearly $200 million in cannabis tax revenue. Data shows that this amount has been steadily increasingly over the past 3 years.

To be fair, cannabis taxes in Colorado are not (yet) enough to solve all societal woes there. This point was well covered last summer in this story from Colorado’s 9 News. Utopia,no. Better than nothing, for sure!

And the state has not yet reached its full potential when it comes to tax revenue. Not only are sales steadily increasing year-over-year, but now legislators are considering maxing out the recreational marijuana special sales tax to fix the budget. For our receipt above, this could equate to an additional $2.40. Would we pay it? In a heartbeat.

Adult Use Coming to Michigan?

While Colorado is an awesome state, we are really excited for what this could all mean for Michigan, with twice the population of Colorado and an active tourism industry, we could finally solve a few issues here (the pothole-riddled roads). Our enthusiasm elevated last week when our Board of State Canvassers approved the petition to put recreational, adult-use marijuana on the ballot in 2018, assuming the petitioners can garner enough (250,000) signatures with the 180-day time frame.

Help the cause and find a location near you to sign the petition today!