Our work with the International Cannabis Business Conference and Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference gave us a good look into the culture and complexity of the Oregon Cannabis Industry. In the following blog we’re happily sharing some of what we’ve learned with our local business partners, friends and loyal readers.
The 411 on Oregon Legalization
Possession of marijuana is now legal in Oregon. Purchasing marijuana? That’s a different matter. The Oregon legislature has been discussing a plan allowing dispensaries to sell to adults who are 21 and over, beginning October 1st, but the legislature has until next year to create more permanent rules for the retail sale and purchase of cannabis products. So, while it’s currently still illegal to buy and sell the stuff, if a stork delivers a baggie on your doorstep, or a stash appears via immaculate conception on your coffee table – you’re totally in the clear!
Legal possession has its limits, too. Adults are allowed up to 8-ounces of cannabis in their homes and up to one ounce away from home without fear of criminal prosecution. Oregon residents 21 and over may have up to four plants in their home.
It’s also still illegal to consume cannabis substances in public places, but oddly enough, at the “giveaway and smoke out” event celebrating an end to prohibition – participants were granted the right to LEGALLY trade, test and posses up to seven grams of cannabis.
The Cannabis Industry
The cannabis industry culture is unique, but members are as serious as any member of Oregon business community. Conversations with cannabis entrepreneurs are nothing like the ones you may have had with your best friends’ older brother back in high school. For example, any references to “grass” should be saved for conversations about Linn County horticulture.
With the successful legalization of cannabis in Oregon, Washington Alaska, Colorado and, likely, California in 2016 – the “Cannabis Country” of the West Coast will be a multi-billion dollar industry. Growth of the cannabis industry will have a broader impact on the economy by increasing demand for innovation, supporting technologies and professional services. Examples include:
- Commercial Real Estate Brokers – More than 300 dispensaries have already been approved in Oregon. Growers, wholesalers, processors and retailers all need space and brokers have the expertise to find the best options and negotiate the best deals.
- Lawyers – Any business owner should have an attorney to help set up their entity, but cannabis industry entrepreneurs are blazing trails and all the laws have yet to be settled and defined. Lawyers with cannabis industry knowledge and expertise will be in demand to help business owners ensure compliance, protect their intellectual property, guide the licensing process and negotiate contracts.
- Investment Brokers – All the big investment groups are offering cannabis portfolios, but now some firms specialize solely on the industry. Smart investors are seeing a cash crop potential and the number of interested parties will continue growing.
- Public Relations/Marketing – As stores become established across the state retailers and related product manufacturers will need to differentiate themselves to stand out and compete for customers. Cannabis growers will discover they face education barriers that create communication challenges similar to other agricultural and natural resource industries. Likewise, they’ll need to educate consumers – much in the same way that vineyards discuss terroir, palate, nose and qualities unique to different grape varietals and growing techniques. Entrepreneurs will benefit by thinking about branding, communications planning, social media strategy and media relations early in the game.
- Security Firms – Dispensaries and growth operations will be wise to protect their premises and hire guards. These properties are at risk for break-ins and theft like liquor stores and distilleries – likely greater risk. Just as with investment brokerages, specialized security firms have already spawned.
- Insurance Agents – All businesses need insurance and the cannabis industry has its own unique needs and requirements. Specialty insurance agencies have cropped up to serve the industry and this area of the insurance sector will continue to grow.
- Tourism & Hospitality Stakeholders – 420-friendly hotels have popped up in Colorado (Bud & Breakfast) and there’s no reason to think they won’t in Oregon. While most hotels, B&B’s and new economy rental businesses like VRBO, Vacasa or AirBnB are smoke-free, many may decide to make an exception to attract cannatourists. Additionally, who’s to say that taxis and Uber and Lyft drivers won’t benefit from a surge in ridership with an influx of these tourists, many of whom will look to enjoy the best of Portland’s dining experiences.
Time will tell what the cannabis industry will bring to Oregon’s businesses and economy, but getting in early will offer the most opportunity for those who want to capitalize.
For more on the industry, the current status of laws and potential opportunities, check out these sources:
International Cannabis Business Conference: http://internationalcbc.com
Marijuana Politics: http://marijuanapolitics.com
The Northwest Leaf: http://www.thenorthwestleaf.com
Oregon Cannabis Connection: http://occnewspaper.com
Dope Magazine: http://www.dopemagazine.com
The Cannabist : for a wonderful glossary for cannabis industry lexicon