“The more stable the industry becomes, the more money it generates, the more likely it will gain the power to move mountains,” I wrote in my editor’s note, titled “Let’s Move Mountains,” for Cannabis Business Times’ very first print edition in 2015. I cited Hezekiah Allen, the California Growers Association’s executive director at the time, who said, “It is time to work together to advance a cannabis industry that honors our heritage, creates opportunity today, and sets us up for future successes.”
When I co-founded and launched the CBT website in 2014, Colorado had just rolled out its adult-use program, and Washington state was ramping up to its rollout, the first U.S. states to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis. It seemed surreal, but I also worried that prohibitionists would somehow chip away at the progress, sending us back to square one. The rollouts were not flawless—but regulators and newly legal businesses had nothing on which to base anything—no regulatory precedents, no business guidance, no data, nothing. They were the pioneers and got this train rolling.
The 2013 Cole Memorandum—written by then U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and stating that the federal government should not intervene in state-legal cannabis programs—continued to dominate news stories, as it gave cannabis businesses a semblance of safety/protection. Until then, the industry lived in fear. Would the federal government arrest those involved in what was still a federally illegal industry? We didn’t know. CBT quoted many people who only allowed us to publish their first names or aliases.
We later watched California navigate the adult-use legalization gauntlet; the subsequent regulatory and financial burdens sent shock waves across an industry that had largely regulated itself since 1996 and left businesses crippled left and right.
We’ve seen a lot of businesses in other states come and go, particularly Washington. But 56% of all small businesses fail in their first five years of operation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a sign that all business ventures come with risk.
What I love about this industry, however, is despite intense competition, people generally want others to succeed. I hope the belief in the old adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” continues, as the work is not done. As an example of those striving to raise all boats, see our Editorial Advisory Board. These amazing people give significant time and insights to better the industry through the pages of CBT. We are ever grateful for their support of and influence on this magazine. We also have been extremely fortunate to have contributions from some of the most respected experts in cannabis.
To celebrate five years in print, CBT is sharing its most popular and important articles from the past five years. Though the topics vary, the reflections, lessons and strategies remain relevant today.
We hope we’ve contributed to helping cannabis cultivation businesses succeed in this constantly changing, ever challenging, wonderful industry. I am grateful that this is my home, and as the past five years have proven, we are moving mountains. Here’s to moving many more in the years to come, and continuing to, as Allen said: honor our heritage, create opportunity today, and set us up for future successes.