Starting a Business in the Stigmatized Industry of Cannabis

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A lot of people consider pursuing the cannabis industry, but are concerned about the personal, professional, or financial ramifications of working in an industry that is federally illegal.  Many people ask how a type-A, rule-following type like me got comfortable pursuing a career in a "sin industry".  Many ask for advice on how to address the ever present stigma.  There will be raised eyebrows at elementary school events, family dinners, and when you run into the supermarket after a site visit and have the familiar and telling odor on your clothes. 

I choose to embrace it.  I include my client's stickers on my hydroflask water bottle.  I talk responsibly and openly with my kids, friends and family about my work.  I don't hide behind euphemisms in social media.  This is all because I believe that I am doing something good, something important, and that shame reinforces the stigma. 

How should cannabis industry professionals accept and work to change the unfair stigma?  It starts with open conversations.  I love being asked what I do, and I love exploring people's perspectives, clearing up misconceptions, and showing them through my actions that responsible upstanding citizens can be involved in this industry.  Furthermore, the same responsible and upstanding citizens can partake in the products of this industry, just like adults responsibly use wine or beer to relax or have fun.   I tackle concerns about social responsibility and public safety by emphasizing the fact that legitimizing, regulating, and taxing this industry paves the way for safe and responsible use.  An illicit black market will never as safe or responsible.  Moving on from "adult use", I can't accept any argument that casts a negative light on the medical use of cannabis.  And, for those that insist that it's "unproven" as a medicine, remind them that as long as it's illegal, medical uses for cannabis cannot be "proven" at all.  It helps that I truly believe all of these points and my conviction in these beliefs motivates me to wake up every day and forge onward!

In any case, my approach has been to embrace it.  I speak openly and frequently about what I do, and why it's important.  


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