A 420-Minute Roadmap To Planning Your Brand

A 420-Minute Roadmap To Planning Your Brand

Building a brand takes time, effort, and strategy, but you have to start somewhere. If you have 420 minutes — that’s 7 hours — you can sketch out the broad strokes of your business idea, brand strategy, and how you plan to reach your target audience. And what better time to start planning your cannabis marketing and brand strategy than 4/20? To celebrate, the CannaContent team pooled together their decades of collective experience in branding and marketing to inform this “speedrun,” showing you how to get started on the right road. 

1. What’s your business idea?

Estimated time: 60 minutes

There’s a chance you have some idea of what you want to do in the cannabis industry. And even if you don’t, the first and most important step is to decide what you want to do, whether you’re refining an initial thought or deciding how you want to contribute to the canna-space. 

Start by getting to know the cannabis industry and the sector in which you’ll operate to strengthen your idea. Use this time to sign up for industry newsletters like MJBizDaily, WeedWeek, and Marijuana Moment; read articles about cannabis business and the market segment you plan to enter; and connect with thought leaders on social platforms like LinkedIn. Build the foundations for further reading that will help you refine your business idea and set the stage for the brand-building steps ahead.

As you gain more insight into how the industry works, think about your skills and the role your business could play. What value propositions do you bring to the table that might set your business apart from the competition? You don’t need all the answers to these questions right away, but considering them while doing your research can help to improve your initial business idea and connect it to the real conditions on the ground in the cannabis industry.

2. Who are your customers?

Estimated time: 90 minutes

As your business idea takes shape, think about who your customers might be and what their needs are. For example, a dispensary should think about consumers in a retail environment and how to provide the best quality products and a seamless, enjoyable experience. A seed-to-sale software company, on the other hand, would be selling to breeders, cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries. Who your customers are and what they need should influence your brand and marketing strategies. The more specific you can be, the better!

Once you’ve articulated who your customers are, think about how best to reach them. What social media platforms are they active on? Would they engage with an email newsletter? How best could you drive them to your website? Also consider messaging and how you might be able to differentiate yourself from the competition. What is special about your business that customers should choose you over another company? Addressing these questions are the first steps toward creating a more detailed omnichannel marketing strategy.

3. What kind of company do you want to run?

Estimated time: 90 minutes

As your business idea takes shape and you identify your target audience, you can start thinking more specifically about your brand. A brand is more than just a logo; it includes your entire aesthetic and vibe, including elements like your brand colors and the tone of voice you will use in your messaging. Your brand should be authentic and relatable to your target audience, reflecting your core values, mission, and value propositions. It should also take into account how you want your company to be perceived by others, particularly your customers.

These initial 120 minutes should be spent researching your market segment and seeing what else is out there. What are some brands that you like and what do you like about them? Are there any brands you don’t like? What are some opportunities to cut through the noise and really grab your audience’s attention in a unique way? Your research here will serve as the inspiration for pulling together a more complete brand down the line.

4. What do you need to make your business idea happen?

Estimated time: 75 minutes

Now that you have an idea of what your brand might look and feel like, you can start thinking about the practical tools and services you need to bring your business to life. The first few minutes of this time can be used to secure some important digital assets, like a domain name and social media handles. Use Google’s domain service or a broker like GoDaddy or Namecheap to search for and buy URLs, then head to Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms to create your business profiles. Securing these properties as soon as you have a name in mind guarantees you’ll be able to build a strong digital presence.

Use the rest of this time to make a short list of the types of vendors you may need to support your business. Attorneys and CPAs are absolute must-haves in the cannabis industry, so research some of the professionals with experience serving cannabis businesses like yours. Also consider what types of business software that could benefit your company, like accounting software, a project management system, and communications tools. Take a cursory look at each type of software you’ll need and identify some of the leading vendors that might have solutions for you.

Finally, certain businesses will need additional tools specific to their operations. For example, dispensaries require support for licensing applications and a menu provider to give their customers an easy way to choose from their inventory. Manufacturers need specialized equipment in order to create their products. Create a list of what else your business needs and how much it might cost.

5. Who brings your vision to life?

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Making your vision for your brand a reality requires expert marketers who can take your ideas and run with them. Having a team of seasoned professionals in your corner ensures you’re investing your marketing budget in the most effective possible way and getting the most out of every dollar. They can also help you devise marketing strategies, brainstorm new ideas, and stay on top of trends in the space so you remain at a competitive advantage. Take some of this time to review marketing agency portfolios, testimonials, and case studies.

Hopefully, though, we can save you some time on that front. At CannaContent, our team of expert writers, designers, and marketers have been dedicated to serving cannabis businesses since 2017. We know the space inside and out, so we know what it takes to build a brand that will make a big impact. Branding and marketing is critical, so don’t go it alone.

If you’re ready to launch your cannabis marketing to new heights, check out the services we offer and contact us for a free introductory call.

In addition to a team of marketers, you should work with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights. Setting up your brand as a registered trademark and copyrighting your proprietary products and processes makes your brand more than just a marketing tool — it creates an asset. Consider whether your general counsel has the expertise to handle these matters, or if going with an attorney dedicated to trademark and copyright law, and particularly one with experience trademarking cannabis brands, may give you an edge.

6. How will you introduce your brand to the world?

Estimated time: 45 minutes 

So, now you have a clear picture of the business you want to build, how you want to brand it, and the tools and services it will take to get you there. Once all that work comes together, though, you’ll still need to spread the word far and wide about your company. Spend the last 45 minutes of your brand planning to think about the ways you’ll do that. This can include big things, like whether you’ll make a formal announcement or host an event to launch your business, as well as simpler things like business cards, web development, email marketing, and so on. 

Remember: it’s not just your target customers you will want to reach, but also other members of the industry. Research networking groups and conferences to become a familiar face in the room. The more you and your brand show up in these spaces, the more valuable connections you are likely to make. No one succeeds in a vacuum, so create a list of different organizations you can join and events you can attend to start plugging your brand into the broader community.

Ready to start building your cannabis brand?

While seven hours of planning is only the very start of your journey, it can go a long way to setting you up for success. When you’re ready to get down to the actual work of building your brand, that’s where CannaContent comes in. From design and web development to social media management and content marketing, our team acts as your dedicated digital marketing department. We’re here to support you in all aspects of your cannabis business’s branding and marketing in strategy, planning, and execution. 

Want to learn more about what sets CannaContent apart? Contact us for a quote or to request case studies of some of our favorite success stories.

CannaContent’s Canna-Loves for Valentine’s Day 2020

CannaContent’s Canna-Loves for Valentine’s Day 2020

It’s the season of love! With February comes a deluge of heart-shaped everything (we’ll take a heart-shaped pizza), roses by the dozen, and every shade of pink imaginable. Date nights, spa days, and at-home solo self-care celebrations are well underway.

At CannaContent, we celebrate doing what we do best: with cannabis!

While there is certainly no shortage of caramel-filled chocolates at CannaContent HQ this Valentine’s Day, there’s no real replacing our first true love: the cannabis sativa plant and all its potential. In honor of Valentine’s Day this year, we’re sharing our canna-loves (thank you, Moeima, for coining that term!). Discover some of the cannabis and CBD products we’re crushing on, and maybe you’ll find your match, too.

Moeima’s CBD product picks

CBD Infused 100mg Peach Rings by Pura Vida Vitamins (10mg each) brought my love of CBD and one of my favorite sweets together. I struggle with various body pain connected to carpal tunnel syndrome and fibroids, so these peach rings have been a lifesaver. At $9.95 a bag, I buy a few and bust them out as needed. They’re also perfect for friends and relatives that have yet to try CBD and are curious; peach rings are hardly intimidating. It’s a regular fight not to eat a whole bag!

The 150mg CBD “Poivre” Incense by Black Dahlia was love at first smell. It’s an earthy, warm spicy smell (but gentle not at all overpowering) that is as relaxing as it is unique. Perfect for setting a luxurious mood at pretty any place and time. 

Black Dahlia is a relatively new brand in the CBD market. Due to a collaboration with Yield Design and The Sowden House Foundation, they put a lot of thought into their design and product development for a small line of incenses and candles. Sowden House is a Lloyd Wright (son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright) Los Angeles property, and the collab aims to promote ‘lifestyle and wellness’ – a goal they achieved. My favorite scent, ‘Poivre’ (pepper in French) is a blend of black pepper, cardamom and ginger, sharing the beta-caryophyllene terpene found in some CBD extracts.

Adam’s cannabis and CBD product picks

I really enjoy sativa pre-rolls when I’m traveling through legal adult-use states. One that really knocked it out of the park on a recent trip to California was a hash-infused Citrus Jack pre-roll from Humboldt County Indoor (HCI), which boasts a rousing 37.5% THC content. For $20 ($3 more than most of the other flower pre-rolls available) you get a gram of flower and 0.25 grams of hash. Awesome flavor, real clean and clear high. I wanted to save it for several sessions, but my cousin and I liked it so much we split it in one; we were feeling very nice, but were also very capable of kicking it with my family immediately after, who are not well initiated in the world of cannabis. Big recommendation for anyone who likes pre-rolls and wants flower with an extra kick. 

And of course, I love anything Core Roots CBD! I recently injured my ankle during a rugby match (and then re-injured it several weeks later,) and their CBD balm supported my ankle through two healing processes. It took the edge off the pain I was experiencing. Editor’s Note: Core Roots CBD is a client of CannaContent.

Stella’s cannabis product pick

I spent some time in California after MJBizCon 2019, and one of my primary goals while there was to try Dosist pens. Knowing how much I’m consuming is always a priority for me, as it helps me explore my own tolerance levels and which other external factors, like how I’m feeling or what I’ve eaten that day, may impact how I feel when consuming cannabis. Each Dosist inhalation is a precise amount, so I can carefully track and monitor how much THC and CBD I’m taking. The pen vibrates once the “dose” is complete – no more guesswork. I tried the Relief and Calm pens and absolutely loved both. I would love to see these products on the East Coast!

Jason’s CBD product pick

I have been applying the Chiki Cannabliss Balm to my lower back, knees, and trapezius muscles around my shoulders. This balm blends CBD with arnica, magnesium, camphor, peppermint, and many other essential oils. Incorporating the Chiki Cannabliss Balm into my typical muscle recovery routine has truly brought it to a new dimension! Plus, it smells fantastic.

Brie’s cannabis product pick

I fell in love with FLWR Cannabis when I visited California last year. Naturally, the packaging is what drove me to them: these creative dielines literally blossom into a rolling tray when opened, revealing a beautiful frosted jar. The inspirational messaging on the inside is an amazing touch, too. The pre-rolls were my favorite: not only are the joints covered in an elegant paper, but there’s a mirror on the lid as well. They’ve really thought of everything – I admire it so much! 

I first tried a TribeTokes CBD vape pen at a Proud Mary Networking event and couldn’t get enough of the smooth-hitting cartridge and super-long battery life. The mini vape pen fits in the palm of your hand, perfect for pockets and discrete puffs. Then I got a bottle of their CBD super serum as a gift and oh baby! Not only did it brighten my complexion, it protected my pale skin from free radicals and sun damage. Their full line of CBD vape oils, skincare and wellness products is truly a one-stop-shop for self care.

Celebrating our canna-loves as cannabis marketers

When you choose to work with a cannabis marketing company, look for a team that’s passionate about the plant. Beyond understanding marketing best practices and restrictions in the industry, it’s important that your marketing partners understand trends, innovations, and up-and-coming products to keep you on the cutting edge, too. These are just some of our favorite products at CannaContent, but our growing industry has so many more just waiting to be tried.

Why do we call it marijuana and not its proper name, cannabis?

Why do we call it marijuana and not its proper name, cannabis?

As legal cannabis becomes a familiar part of everyday American life, you may have heard some conflicting opinions over the usage of the term “marijuana.” Some see no issue with its use, and even many states use the term to refer to their legal programs. However, others have called to attention that the term “marijuana” has prohibitionist, racist origins, used to demonize Mexican immigrants more than a century ago and used to punish people of color today.

The truth, it turns out, is a bit muddier, but there are certainly significant flashes of xenophobia that mar the history of cannabis prohibition and usage of the term marijuana. What’s the history behind these differences — and why does the cannabis industry prefer to call it cannabis?

The demonizing of marijuana may be traced to a century-old misconception

When Mexican immigrants brought the practice of smoking the cannabis flower to the United States in the early 20th century, the anti-marijuana, reefer madness-type stories soon followed. These stories claimed that people who smoke marijuana become paranoid, violently aggressive, and sometimes even die. The rumor mill wasn’t U.S.-centric, either: the same misconceptions were common in Mexico, which outlawed cannabis 13 years before the United States.

Today, it’s clear that the effects of what we know as marijuana – the flower of the cannabis plant – do not lead users to commit rash, homicidal acts, nor does it result in sudden fatalities. Nevertheless, stories of exactly those effects were commonplace in the time period leading up to prohibition in the U.S. Some research suggests that this occurred because there was confusion between marijuana and a plant called “locoweed,” which is poisonous when ingested. Locoweed has absolutely no connection to cannabis, and yet the stories stuck around.

The origin of the term marijuana in the U.S.

Until around the turn of the 20th century, cannabis was a popular ingredient in many pharmaceutical products, used to produce industrial textiles, and hashish use was gaining prominence among the wealthy class. However, cannabis and its derivative products were rarely, if ever, called marijuana; the prevailing term, then, remained simply “cannabis.”

In 1910, Mexican immigrants began crossing the border into the U.S. to escape the ravages of the Mexican Revolution. By 1920, nearly 900,000 people had entered the country, stoking xenophobic fears among white Americans. At the same time, the Mexican term “marihuana” — and the aforementioned fear that the plant made its consumer violent — began gaining traction in the U.S. This finally culminated with cannabis prohibition in 1937, a storied and complicated history in itself best saved for another blog, with legislation entitled “The Marihuana Tax Act.”

Using the term marijuana today

The use of the term “marijuana” today is pretty much out of habit: that’s how it was encoded into law in 1937, and consequentially, that was the term most commonly used in discussion. While the public is far more familiar with the term marijuana, the growing industry prefers the term cannabis, because it is more accurate and divorced from the propagandized past of prohibition. Cannabis not only refers to the entire plant, rather than just the flower, but it invokes the more mature and professional image the industry is hungry to embody.

However, it’s pretty hard to discuss the term without acknowledging the racist implications the term had in the first place. The switch from “cannabis” to “marijuana” in the United States was one of the ways Mexican immigrants entering the country more than a century ago were demonized — a convenient scapegoat for society’s ills for the nationalists and white supremacists of the day.

There is no denying that cannabis and racism have been tied up in the same sordid history. That history continues today, as arrests for cannabis possession disproportionately target people of color. Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as white Americans, even though whites and black Americans use cannabis at roughly the same rates. In New Jersey, that figure fluctuates between three and five times the rate of white Americans, depending on the county. This racist effort is ongoing in the era of legalization, destroying lives and costing states more than $3.5 billion in enforcement and incarceration funding each year, even though 60 percent of Americans support legalizing recreational cannabis.

So as we move on from the era of prohibition, so too should we move on from the era of racist fear-mongering and misguided propaganda. We can start by leaving the term “marijuana” in the past, both in our daily use and in our marketing efforts as much as possible, and educating others about the dark history of prohibition. These are the building blocks for a new industry and the new, evolving perspective on cannabis.

Legalization is Underway in N.J.: Phil Murphy’s Swearing-in, Bill Update

Legalization is Underway in N.J.: Phil Murphy’s Swearing-in, Bill Update

Phil Murphy’s inauguration is something to celebrate for cannabis advocates in the Garden State.

In his inauguration speech on Jan. 16, Murphy addressed New Jersey’s widely-anticipated – and widely-expected – cannabis legalization efforts, noting that comprehensive justice reform “includes a process to legalize marijuana” for “a stronger and fairer New Jersey.”

Actions to achieve said “stronger and fairer New Jersey” are already underway in Trenton, with the re-introduction of recreational adult-use legislation in the state Senate from Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D). Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D) is likely to follow up Scutari’s move with the introduction of his own bill in the state Assembly expected by Feb. 1.

As CannaContent reported last year, a legalization effort has always been a possibility within Murphy’s first 100 days in office. While ambitious, the introduction of Scutari’s bill signals that Trenton’s legal cannabis debate remains at the top of the agenda.

What’s in the bills?

Currently, Scutari’s bill is quite similar to the version introduced in 2017. Under the proposed legislation, residents would be allowed to possess and use up to one ounce of dry cannabis flower, 16 ounces of edibles infused with cannabis, 72 ounces of liquid cannabis, and seven grams of concentrate. Possession of up to 50 grams would be decriminalized as well, and the criminal records of those arrested for possession of cannabis would be expunged.

“We’ve got to get this bill ready for signature,” Scutari said last year when he introduced his legislation. “We should be prepared to move ahead with this program and end the prohibition on marijuana that treats our citizens so unfairly.”

Moreover, the bill contains provisions to establish the Division of Marijuana Enforcement in the state Attorney General’s office, an agency that would be responsible for the licensing of cannabis cultivators and retailers. It also imposes a sales tax on tangible cannabis products starting at seven percent which would gradually climb to 25 percent over a five-year period.

What Scutari’s bill doesn’t contain is a home grow provision, which would allow residents to privately grow a small number of cannabis plants in their homes. This component is present in every other state with legal recreational cannabis; Scutari has said he would consider supporting such a measure later. Gusciora’s bill is expected to include a home grow provision, an important item for those who wish to grow medicine at home.

Yet another bill introduced by Assemblyman Patrick Carroll (R) goes a bit further. His version, introduced in the Assembly, calls for responsible cannabis education incorporated into the school curricula and limits the tax increase proposed in other bills.

It’s important to note that nothing is set in stone right now and there are still many advocates working hard for changes. Bills would have to be reconciled before a final vote is held.

A mixed reception from NJ’s municipalities

As Trenton prepares to move forward with its legalization effort, New Jersey towns have offered mixed responses. Some towns, such as Asbury Park, have lauded the move and expressed their full support for legal cannabis in their towns if the state law is revised.

“I have no problem with medical or recreational marijuana, as long as it’s legally dispensed and taxed,” Mayor John Moor told the Asbury Park Press. Councilman Jesse Kendle, Councilwoman Eileen Chapman and Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn told the press they agree with the Asbury Park mayor.

Then there are cities such as Jersey City, who are approaching legalization positively, but with caution. Mayor Steven Fulop has said he supports legal cannabis but prefers a zoning process that takes into account residential input before openly allowing cannabis sales in the city.

“I think that there’s certainly pros and cons,” Fulop told NJTV News, “and we’ve heard both sides of it and we’re trying to learn what works in other states and it’s very early in the conversation still and we wouldn’t want to do something that has an adverse impact on urban areas like the one I’m responsible for.”

Some cities, like Point Pleasant Beach, have already made moves to limit or prohibit recreational cannabis sales in their towns.

“The cities that have come out for it, that’s good. That’s a nice fit for them. For us, it’s not,” Point Pleasant Mayor Stephen Reid told News 12 New Jersey after his town voted to not allow dispensaries to open in Point Pleasant.

New Jersey is home to 565 different municipalities, each with its own perspectives on legal cannabis. Each will have the opportunity to craft ordinances running the full spectrum from prohibition to zero additional regulation on top of state law. As the legalization efforts move forward in the state’s capital, it will be important to keep an eye on the Garden State’s towns – and fight decisions made in local municipalities made on inaccurate information, stereotypes and a lack of education.

How can you speak your mind?

At this stage, New Jerseyans who support cannabis legalization can, and should, express their support to their legislators, county officials, mayors and councilpersons. Residents can find their representatives in Trenton by searching on this website.

In addition, we recommend keeping up with the news to learn what’s going on in this ever-changing legalization process. Use Twitter to follow newspapers such as NJ.com (@njdotcom) and The Record (@therecordnj), advocacy organizations such as New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (@NJU4MR) and Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey (@CMM_NJ), and New Jersey cannabis businesses such as CannaContent who stay in the know.

Did CNN help or hurt cannabis on New Year’s Eve?

Did CNN help or hurt cannabis on New Year’s Eve?

News networks certainly have, um, creative ways to cover the calendar change from 2017 to 2018. That lead-up to the stroke of midnight is filled with performances, news recaps, ridiculous man on the street interviews and plenty of awkward moments. News crews often want something “different” to cover among the ball drop prep and midnight check-ins around the world, and CNN certainly found something different to cover.

Sandwiched in between banter from Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen and a bizarre interview where John Mayer not once, but twice, declared that he would mandate wipes in bathrooms if he were president, was CNN anchor Randi Kaye, donning leaf-shaped earrings and holding a joint, interviewing people in between massive hits from gas masks and huge bongs at a “puff, puff paint” party in Colorado.

The segment was certainly… something, and the cannabis community quickly took note. It was clearly a party to excess — after all, it was New Year’s Eve, where being not sober is pretty much the norm — but was it a good idea to portray such excess to millions of people who may not know the most basic information on what cannabis is and what it does? The conversation around the broadcast has driven some fascinating commentary on the subject of cannabis in the public eye, proper education and the need for intelligent discussion and marketing around the plant.

Some celebrated the open visibility of cannabis on a mainstream news source. For a major cable network to dedicate time to showcasing how cannabis is used in a similar way to alcohol (after all, how is puff, puff, paint any different from paint-and-sip parties?) was a victory in itself. Millions of people got to see that cannabis isn’t about drug dealers or lazy unemployed pizza-gobblers, but that it’s used simply to relax and unwind with friends in the same way as having a beer. The segment, therefore, was simply “normalizing” cannabis in the public eye.

Others are calling out CNN for what could be perceived as mishandling of a delicate and complicated subject. In an environment where rampant social stigma is still at the center of the mainstream conversation, was it really a good idea to show gas masks on TV? While shock value is certainly desired to keep eyeballs fixated on the channel, doing so was at the expense of many who continue to fight for access, employment and civil liberties.

At CannaContent, our staff took positions on opposite ends of the spectrum. Here’s what we had to say:

“It’s important to destigmatize cannabis”

“I’m with the ‘glad cannabis is on TV’ group for sure. It’s important to destigmatize as much as possible, to shine light on the benefits rather than the common misconceptions. That includes showing all sides of the community. For those tweeting against the segment, I feel that those people would say that cannabis is destroying America’s youth no matter what the segment showed.

From an overall branding perspective, the pot leaf earrings were not only a fashion monstrosity, but I know I would’ve taken her more seriously if she’d have nixed them altogether.”

-Brie, Creative Director

“It enforced the stereotype of the lazy stoner”

“I saw this live on New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t believe what I saw, yet I’m not surprised. The subject of cannabis is so nuanced and complicated, and by reducing the subject to heavy recreational participants using gas masks, CNN further enforced the stereotype of the lazy, useless, good-for-nothing burden on society so often associated with adults who consume cannabis for recreation. I don’t think the average Joe needs affirmation of their preconceived notions of what cannabis is and how it’s used.

And take off those leaf earrings. They look ridiculous.”

-Stella, CEO & Content Strategist

“Good — within limits”

“This segment is a mixed bag. On one hand, this type of normalization is good across the board — for business, society, patients and more. However, showing it in a revelry-type atmosphere, pot leaf earrings included, without defining it as a safe, adults-only party does a disservice to the serious discussions and business propositions which have arisen around legal recreational cannabis. It could also inadvertently contribute to existing stigmas around people who use cannabis as medicine or for recreation.”

-Adam, Director of Content Development

Normalizing cannabis at the heart of the discussion

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it’s important to note that normalization is an important element of the discussion around cannabis and it should include an accurate portrayal of both the industry and the people who partake in cannabis products. However, decades of bad messaging have created an image of “stoner culture,” much of which was on full display during the CNN segment. There’s really no wrong answer, and just like any industry or community, there are differing opinions with valid points in each camp.

At CannaContent, we did find common ground on one thing, though: Randi Kaye, puh-leeze don’t wear those earrings again.

Do you want to open a cannabis business? Start with these 5 steps

Do you want to open a cannabis business? Start with these 5 steps

The cannabis industry has taken off! Have you thought about jumping in?

Analysts predict the industry will be worth more than $21 billion by 2021, and that’s just in the handful of states where cannabis is legal for either medicinal or recreational adult use. The industry is expanding rapidly and there is even more room to grow.

With numbers that promising, you may have found yourself thinking about launching a cannabis business of your own. But where do you start? There are truly limitless ways to secure your piece of the cannabis industry’s predicted revenue, many of which newcomers haven’t even considered. These five steps will guide you as you consider the options in this vast, expanding industry.

1. Decide how you want to be involved

Cannabis industry businesses are generally broken down into two categories: plant-touching, which come into direct contact with the cannabis plant, and ancillary, which do not.

Some examples of plant-touching business are cultivation, owning a dispensary or making edibles. Ancillary businesses support the industry without touching the plant, such as accounting, legal advice or cannabis marketing. Like any other industry, the cannabis industry requires all kinds of professionals of both types to achieve success.

Last November’s MJBizCon in Las Vegas saw nearly 700 exhibitors, from cultivation technology to packaging manufacturers to security solutions. It’s proof that everyone has a skillset which could be applied to the industry, from chefs to design infused menus to contractors who can build facilities. Decide which is right for you – working directly with the plant in a new role or utilizing an existing skill to serve the industry.

2. Read up on your state’s cannabis laws

While consulting with an attorney is a must, it’s important that you brush up on your legal knowledge as well. Legal cannabis is still a new industry everywhere, even in the earliest states to legalize, and state laws are various and ever-changing. It’s crucial to not only learn the lay of the land in the state or states in which you operate, but to keep tabs on regulation as it churns its way through state government. If you assume today’s regulations will be there tomorrow, you could find yourself running afoul of new laws, a literal and figurative costly mistake. As the industry expands and stabilizes, this might change, but for now it’s imperative you remain on top of public policy developments.

3. Educate, consult and network

Once you’ve developed an idea for your business, it’s time to hit the books. Knowledge is of utmost importance in the cannabis industry, and the circumstances are constantly changing in this ever-evolving legal landscape. Read cannabis industry news every day so you are well-versed in the topic. We recommend making a Twitter list to help you easily follow trusted news sources, magazines and blogs.

Once you have a firm grasp on what’s happening, you’ll be able to better identify the industry’s pain points. This will help you determine where your business idea could flourish, either geographically or along the supply chain. This may also be the appropriate point to consult with a law firm which specializes in cannabis. An attorney can confirm if your business can operate within the proper legal framework.

Finally, it’s time to hit the pavement and network! The cannabis industry, more than others, is largely built on face-to-face meetings and personal relationships. Cannabis businesses tend to work with people they’ve met in person and developed a rapport with, so make sure you get in front of other professionals for a chat and a handshake.

4. Determine if you need funding

Funding is always the million-dollar question, and that’s quite literal in the legal cannabis industry. Financing for the cannabis industry works a bit differently because cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. As a result, many banks are hesitant to work with cannabis businesses in any capacity, and that includes access to conventional sources of funding. Luckily, many private investors have seen the opportunity and have jumped in to fill that gap.

Determine early on if you can afford to be self-funded or if your operation needs outside financing. If you do, you’ll likely have to appeal to investors, whether that means friends and family, angel investors or venture capitalists. To do so, it’s wise to have a professionally-created pitch deck and other materials with which to wow your prospective investors. Landing this deal could be the difference between launching a top-notch cannabis startup or struggling right out of the gate.

5. Develop a great website

Your website serves as a landing page for all potential customers, investors and partners who find you on the web. It is often the first thing that people see, as they will Google you to find out more about your company. Their judgments will be made on the quality and the content of your website, which could make a significant difference in an ever-growing, but still emerging industry.

Additionally, your website is a central location for traffic driven your way via organic search. The cannabis industry currently cannot pay for advertising on Google Ads, Yelp and other digital advertising avenues, so organic search through content and social media becomes of the utmost importance. A properly-built website therefore becomes a key hub for all of your online activity.

The train has left the station: legalization cannot be stopped

Don’t be discouraged by the recent revocation of the Cole Memo, which directed U.S. attorneys to not go after cannabis businesses which were operating legally in their home states. There is too much on the line in terms of political clout, tax revenue, economic stimulation, public health and criminal justice reform to scrap an entire industry. The memo was a suggestion and not rule of law, and although the industry is still working through the consequences of revocation, early signs point to business as usual for legally-operating entities.

The legal cannabis industry train has long since left the station. Now is the time to board!