If my office walls could talk. Oh, the stories I’ve heard—many of them not good. I’ve heard of business partners stabbing each other in the back and the ensuing lawsuits, of growers misrepresenting their skills to get a job in a large cultivation operation only to cause serious damage (hundreds of thousands of dollars) to their new employer’s crops. I’ve heard of owners who refuse to listen to truly experienced head growers they’ve hired, and I know several growers who moved hundreds of miles to join a cultivation operation only to have the business fall apart, by no fault of their own, just weeks or months later.
I’ve heard of cultivators returning to the black market due to compliance and financial challenges (namely paying steep taxes).
I’ve heard stories of pesticide misuse, witnessed by cultivators, as owners wittingly apply illegal pesticides in an effort to salvage their crops. I’ve heard of disreputable labs falsifying cannabis test results in exchange for higher fees. I’ve heard of underpaid, overworked grow and trimming staff. I’ve heard of employee theft and product diversion.
Most of these stories were off the record, and I’m unable to share details publicly, though I’m guessing that many of you have heard similar tales or even, unfortunately, experienced them. This is why I am so excited to share Christopher Sloper’s first-hand account from inside a cultivation facility (p. 52). This unique perspective is one to which so many of you can relate. It also can help prepare cultivators for what they might expect upon going to work for or consulting for a cultivation operation, and some of the lessons can apply to those starting their own operations. It also contains lessons (mostly of what not to do) for owners with little or no cultivation experience.
On the flip side, I also hear many positive stories, and in this issue, I’m happy to share one with you. One where an owner understands that large-scale cannabis operations have very distinct needs, and that finding the right cultivator with the experience, talent and shared vision can mean the difference between success and failure. The duo (owner Randy Smith and cultivator Sjoerd Broeks, see the Cover Story on p. 30) also understands how technology impacts labor, costs and plant health. And it’s our first feature on a cultivation operation that uses robotic assistants, something more common in mainstream agriculture that will inevitably play a larger role as large-scale cannabis production continues to proliferate.
Every industry has its challenges and temptations to stray from best business practices. We just want to help make sure our readers avoid bad situations. The key seems to be ensuring that you partner with and work with like-minded individuals who share your core values, your vision for the business and your goals for day-to-day operations. It also is essential to communicate openly from the start and document everything. Get contracts signed by both parties, copies of licenses and permits, financial statements, leases, etc.
Nothing can cripple a business more than a bad partner, boss or employee. This is true in any industry, but it is especially true when the product you are dealing with is extremely valuable, not to mention a living, breathing organism in need of constant, proper care.
I hope you can learn from the lessons shared in these articles. And if you’ve had experiences that left you disheartened, possibly desolate and even impoverished, know that you are not alone, and tomorrow is another day.
As Marilyn Monroe once said, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things could fall together.”