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Balancing Advocacy and Business
The cannabis industry serves so many different types of people, it was almost a given that this community would begin to polarize. We are seeing this divide now as more pro-cannabis campaigns ramp up nationwide.
There are some activists who believe that “no regulation is the best regulation,” and likewise there are a few businesspeople who would sacrifice all humanistic elements of this legacy industry in order to turn a profit. Neither are helping the movement, and luckily, both are rare.
Steering clear of the extreme ends of the spectrum is incredibly important in this industry, and being aware of and constantly reevaluating your company culture and messaging can help you avoid falling to one end of the spectrum or the other.
In this space, the vast majority of us are advocates to some degree. While not all of us consume cannabis, typically we all share similar beliefs that cannabis should be legalized, and similar aspirations that one day the negative stigma of the plant will be but a distant memory. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here are some tips for balancing cannabis advocacy with your business model:
Decide who your target audience is, and how you want them to perceive you. As more states propose and implement legalization measures, this industry is slowly becoming fragmented into recreational vs. medical proponents, and some that fall in between. If you’re in financial services, clients may not be interested in hearing about any direct involvement with medical marijuana - and depending on the regulations in your state, it could even hurt you. On the other hand, pandering too much to the medical marijuana community may come off as inauthentic unless you can back it up with some solid philanthropy and a cooperative business model. Claiming to have policy influence and expertise will definitely backfire at some point, unless you’ve got a full-time employee poring over policy in all 50 states. When acting as an advocate, stick to what you know and do best, while keeping an open mind to helping others in the industry do the same.
Think globally, act locally. If you do choose to take an activist stance (or at least support activism in the industry), decide exactly how you want to help and always keep a focused scope on your goal. Is your interest in expanding safe patient access in the United States? Get involved with your local chapter of ASA, NORML or other patients’ rights groups, attend their meetings and stay networked. More interested in bringing cannabis to a foreign market? Sponsor an international conference in that country or region, while inviting other companies or individuals in your area to join you on the trip. Is your goal to change drug laws worldwide? Start locally to build momentum and show that you understand the various power structures involved in drug policy.
Get the word out. Sometimes, simply participating and showing your solidarity with a movement is the best thing you can do as an advocate. If your goal is to make an impact on pediatric patients, hold a benefit or fundraiser for the family of a child who needs medical marijuana treatment. More interested in pushing policy forward? Host an official campaign fundraiser gala, or plan a company-wide day off to assist with get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. Cashinbis donates to an organization called CannaEffect - they have a similar mission to ours, only instead of sharing stories of entrepreneurs and innovative businesses, they share the true stories of medical marijuana patients and advocates nationwide, getting them the attention they deserve for their cause.
Advocacy can open many doors in the business world, if done correctly. When you take a sincere position on cannabis, and work collaboratively to make your vision a reality, others in the industry will see that and want to network with you. Cannabis is a plant that naturally connects people - follow its lead to success!
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