Recently, I listened to a Hempfest Hemposium panel titled “The Business of Cannabis: Expert Advice Before You Take the Plunge.” If there was one thing to take away from the panel, it’s that professionalism is key. Cannabusiness is a gray area in policy. In some regions, the entire cannabis industry is underground. In others, it’s out in the open, operating cautiously due to federal drug scheduling. Because of this ambiguous business environment, it is extremely important for the cannabis industry to have have a united front.
The speakers for this panel included the following:
- John Davis, Executive Director of Coalition of Cannabis Standards and Ethics
- Hilary Bricken, Attorney at Canna Law Group
- Andrew DeAngelo, General Manager, Harborside Health Center
- Alex Cooley, Cofounder and Vice President of Solstice
- Henry Wykowski, J.D., Henry G. Wykowski & Associates
While there was some speaker disagreement over issues such as trademarking, holding companies, and proper banking procedures, the entire panel agreed with Henry Wykowski’s statement that the cannabis community “shouldn’t air its dirty laundry.”
Coupled with the emphasis on professionalism was the idea of 100% compliance. Nearly all of the panelists stressed the need to be transparent; make it obvious that your cannabusiness follows all of the relevant federal and state laws. This is particularly important when it comes to taxation, which is where many businesses have the most trouble. Tax laws such as Section 280E prohibit any business related to illicit substances from deducting what would otherwise be standard business expenses from their yearly federal taxes. In order to protect yourself from laws such as 280E, it is important for prospective industry professionals to do their homework and make sure they are compliant with all legal restrictions.
When you begin a business in the cannabis industry, you represent a part of the community as a whole. “If you come up against hard times,” advises Alex Cooley, “do not lose your temper. Be professional. We need to do our best to maintain a handshake relationship with every single person.”
Cannabis is a tricky business, and prospective professionals cannot underestimate the potential resistance from state and federal governments. In order for cannabusiness to gain mainstream legitimacy, each member has to do its part to show that this industry plays by the rules.