The Real Cannabis Entrepreneur virtual conference featured many cannabis business leaders giving valuable insights to budding entrepreneurs.
The Master of Ceremonies this year was Gary George, who runs a mastermind business group (which I’m a member of, full disclosure). Last year, they held a conference and a great after-party in Newark.
Pot Brother at Law Marc and Craig Wasserman gave great legal tips to cannabis consumers.
“Cops are looking for a reason to pull you over,” Marc said.
“They’re looking,” said Craig. “For something other than the traffic stop.”
They gave insight on how to avoid a serious conviction.
“Know your limits,” Marc said. “Keep it in the trunk, whatever it is.”
Open container laws against beer also apply to open cannabis containers.
Roll down your window enough to pass your license.
“Cops have a hard job. We do not hate cops. We hate bad cops,” Marc said. He added cops are sometimes afraid of being shot when they pull someone over.
Notably, they advised the audience not to admit illegal cannabis possession. The brothers engaged in role-playing to illustrate to say when stopped.
“Am I being detained, or am I free to go?
“Tell me where it is. It will be a lot easier on you.”
“Sir, I invoke the 5th. That’s where you shut the fuck up,” Marc said.
“The script is not there to prevent you from going to jail,” Craig noted. “I’m not discussing my day respectfully.”
They said it is still possible to get arrested and beaten, but it is easier to defend yourself in court, especially if they violate your rights.
“You’re protecting your rights, and you’re being nice,” Marc said.
“I’m not discussing my day respectfully,” Craig advised if an officer seeks to engage you in small talk.
Marc also advised that you should not travel with cannabis on an airplane.
“You run your own risk if you’re flying with cannabis,” he said. Despite having medical cards, that does not help. Even leaving Los Angeles’s permissive LAX airport, people have had an issue, he reported.
“Know the risk,” Marc added.
Raising Money for a Start-up
Dr. David Cunic has started 13 cannabis companies over 17 years. He has since become an expert in raising money for a cannabis company.
To attract investors, Cunic said at the virtual conference you need to get your house in order, figure out your goals, and prepare an elevator pitch. In terms of finding investors, he advised reaching out to people in your natural communities of religious congregations, hobbies, and others. People you already do business with will also be very helpful.
He said that networking is crucial to raising money, citing LinkedIn, virtual conferences, and real-life conferences after COVID-19 as the best way to meet people.
Cunic said one-third of the investors he meets ultimately decide to invest instead of launching a business.
Raising money can be difficult. Even if you have $300,000, it’s hard if you ultimately need to raise $1.5 million.
If you plan to do so, you must want to do it, Cunic advised.
“Running a business is a lot of work,” he said.
He said entrepreneurs need to be 100 percent committed.
“I’m not trying to discourage anyone. Food for thought,” Cunic said.
“For every 100,000 raised, be prepared to spend $10,000 and so on,” he said. “Most people do not understand how expensive it can truly be.”
“It costs money to make money,” he said to the virtual conference audience.
He advised entrepreneurs to know their audience and background. If they know the industry’s nuances, do not bore them with details of the future of cannabis. A finance person doesn’t care about scientific data as much, for example. Objective data is always valued.
“You can’t just make shit up,” Cunic said.
Also, an exit strategy of selling your company is harder than many who watch the machinations of Silicon Valley companies believe.
There also different ways to receive investor money in terms of a loan, a convertible note, or equity. He said people should get creative and sometimes offer royalties instead of equity. Or find a way to get equity back.
There is also value in hiring a consultant
“Free only gets you so far,” Cunic said. People do not hand out their best insight for free.
Tara Misu on Building a Canna Business
Cannabis Maven and advocate Tara “Misu” Sargente also spoke on her various experiences in cannabis.
“There’s nothing proprietary about a plant. It’s a commodity. It’s volatile,” she said.
She noted that in the near future, cannabis will be mass-produced cheaply.
Thus, a budding entrepreneur needs to create a brand like Starbucks. The best way to do that is to create a product from extracted cannabis.
One way to do so is to create a product from the oils extracted from the cannabis plant. While 100 percent of the THC cannot be obtained, a great deal can. The oil can then be used when making edibles or a sauce sold as a product or used with a product like her own Blazin’ Bakery brownie mix.
In terms of a logo, “Don’t make it green and put a pot leaf. You’ll look like everyone else,” Misu said. “Don’t just throw it in a baggy.”
“Keep in your lane. Don’t make an edible then a topical,” she advised.
In terms of started, she advocated using ones’ modest resources to get off the ground.
“I started Blazin’ Bakery with a $2,000 credit card, and not a penny in the bank,” Misu said.
As cannabis is legalized, people are starting to enjoy micro-dosing, Misu noted.
“People want predictability,” she said.
Another significant part of building a company is assembling talent, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
“I’m Jesse. Not Walter,” she said, referring to the meth-making duo of a hustler and a scientist in Breaking Bad.
Like others at the virtual conference, Misu noted how difficult it has been to get a medical cannabis business license in New Jersey thus far and the need for massive change from that.
“Let the small people get the American dream and support their family,” she said.
Virtual Conference Features Hope Wiseman
Maryland-based dispensary Mary & Main owner Hope Wiseman based in Prince George County spoke. She formed the business with her mother.
She has since become an expert on the industry and its nuances.
Wiseman gave insights into building a business for budding entrepreneurs. One crucial point is understanding the risks you’re willing to take.
“Can I afford to pay $50,000 on real estate for a year? She asked rhetorically.
“Being a Real Cannabis Entrepreneur means being an advocate,” said Dawson, who was educated at Princeton and Rutgers.
She said entrepreneurs that advocate for just rules know the rules put in place the best. This will help secure a license.
“Get involved in the advocacy early,” she said. “Especially in New Jersey.”
She urged people to get involved in politics and get to know their Members of Congress and local representatives.