03 May 2022 |

3 Things We Need to Fix in Cannabis

By Kaitlin Domangue

1. Better Grow Management 

Testimonies abound of brands selling moldy bud. 

And not just online, either. I’ve talked to cultivators in person who have told me the same thing. 

There have also been plenty of recalls due to mold. The Department of Cannabis Control in California just issued a recall for black mold in January of this year. 

Worst of all, some companies know full well that their flower has mold. But it still makes dispensary shelves. 

Oftentimes, there are ways around it. Labs sometimes don’t test the full harvest, some only test the biggest and best nugs, with of course – no mold. 

Mold can grow during just about any phase of the cultivation process, from growing to storing. If the environment isn’t right, mold is bound to grow. The temperature, humidity, and facility’s ventilation can all play a part. 

Mold can even grow on the retail shelves if not stored properly, or in transit to the testing lab or dispensary, especially in the summertime when temperatures are high, and many brands aren’t accounting for that ☀️

Mold isn’t the only problem, either. 

One of our recent newsletters (you can read it here!) talked about six major problems commercial cultivators are currently facing, three problems being cultivation-focused and three problems being business-focused. 

31% of respondents in a survey polling cultivators said insect/pest/disease prevention and control was their biggest cultivation problem facing the grow. 🪴

According to one source, roughly one-quarter of a commercial cultivation facility’s total loss can be attributed to pests and diseases. 

Mites suck the sap from cannabis plants and can severely stunt the plant’s growth. One female spider mite can lay 20 eggs a day, after just being fertilized once for life. Needless to say, mites are a pain to deal with and plenty of commercial grow operations have trouble with them. 🐛

Establishing industry-wide standards to prevent and treat pests is one way to handle this issue, however, pests are a part of commercial cultivation – there’s almost no way to prevent them entirely, even in an indoor facility. 

But, it sounds like some industry operators can take better care to prevent and eradicate the problem. 

2. Greater Representation & More-Diverse Ownership 

The idea of social justice in our space is one of the issues our community is most passionate about, so much so that legalization bills include this language. ⚖️

81% of cannabis business owners in the United States were white in 2017. 5.7% were Hispanic, 4.3% were Black, and 2.4% were Asian. The War on Drugs famously affected Black Americans at a disproportionate rate over White Americans, but they aren’t being represented equally in our industry. 

In Canada, 84% of CEOs in cannabis are white. Just 1% of CEOs are Black and 2% are Indigenous. 

Many cities and states have launched social equity programs, but with lackluster results. Last fall, the California Cannabis Industry Association released the 2021 California Cannabis Equity Accountability Report. 

The report identified a lot of holes in California’s current program, one being the financial barriers to entry being much higher than the local grants being provided to social equity applicants. 💸

Where licenses are $500,000 to $1.5 million in California, checks don’t usually go higher than $25,000 and sometimes as little as $2,500. 

A lot of the challenges highlighted in this report can be applied to other states with similar programs, as well. 

Women are also underrepresented in cannabis. 

2019 was a banner year for female CEOs in our space. Approximately 36.8% of CEOs in our industry were women, and we’re now down to 8% female leadership in 2022, which is actually higher than other industries. In Canada, 86% of cannabis CEOs were men. 

The recent Women in Cannabis Study compiled data from over 1,600 women working in the cannabis space. They found that 39% of their respondents were cannabis business owners, 60% worked in a full-time role, and 26% worked in a part-time role. 

Almost 40% of respondents are female entrepreneurs in cannabis? We love to see it. 💃

While we celebrate, just know there is still room for more women to join the cannabis workforce. 

Especially when you consider companies with women in leadership roles produce more than twice the revenue per dollar invested than those without females in those roles, according to a recent white paper.

The same goes for hiring diverse team members. One study found that diverse companies produce 19% more revenue than their non-diverse counterparts. 🤝🤝🏾🤝🏿

3. Treat Patients Like Patients

The above tweet was so great, we want to hit on both points in this newsletter. 

Oftentimes, medical cannabis patients are looked at like a consumer rather than a patient. 

And the reality is – patients are consumers because cannabis dispensaries aren’t non-profit organizations. Even though medical cannabis markets serve patients, they still have to make money. 💰 

But, plenty of us feel dispensaries could be doing more to serve their patients over their business interests. 

I’m a medical cannabis patient in Missouri, and I’ve visited a 7 or so different dispensaries in my area over the last few years. I am usually there once a week. 

Less than three times the budtenders have been helpful in assisting me select a product.I’m an experienced consumer and I know what works for me, but I do occasionally ask for recommendations for the symptoms I’m feeling. 

I’ve learned to stop doing that, because their suggestions aren’t tailored for my ailment. They suggest what they need to get off the shelves. Regardless of whether or not the characteristics help the patient’s needs.

I’ll often browse the online menu before going in, many times products are labeled best-sellers or staff picks – when they aren’t. 🤷‍♀️

I’ve walked into the dispensary and asked “what has the staff been buying?”, and the answers have been wildly differentthan what the website labeled as the top-selling products. 

And look, I get it. Dispensaries operate with a notoriously tight profit margin and need to make money.

Budtenders have a high turnover rate, the highest in our industry, so dispensaries don’t often want to invest time and resources into education if budtenders will just leave. But, budtenders often leave because the pay is low or they aren’t being trained properly, so it’s just about finding a balance that serves:

  1. Patients 
  2. The Staff
  3. The Business

And in our opinion, if it’s in that order – the business will do just fine. 

PS – there are PLENTY of other areas to hit on outside of budtenders. But since budtenders are often the point of contact for patients, this area is one of the most important for us to highlight. 

Looking Forward

Thankfully, all of these problems can be handled right now. Or at least begin to be tackled. 

Unlike battling cannabis banking challenges or regulatory frameworks, we don’t need legislation to begin making the above 3 changes. 💯

But, we do need to unify as one industry and in our opinion, this doesn’t mean everyone in the industry will agree. We shouldn’t waste our time trying to convince everyone. 

In our opinion, unifying in this case just means those of the same mind should move in unity towards their common goal, and let go of minor differences in opinion that distract us from accomplishing what we want to see. 

Our Take

This industry is full of things to fix. 

I could probably do 2 more newsletters just from my Twitter replies to my question a few weeks ago asking what we need to change. 

The idea of forming groups and organizations and coalitions and the works is quite frankly – exhausting to me. Sometimes, I feel like that’s all we do is fight and create movements to fight and initiatives to fight and campaigns to fight, but the challenges seem endless. 

I know I’m not alone.

We just have to remember, our industry is so new. Our industry is federally illegal. 

What other industry has faced what we face, day in and day out? There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that comes with building a new industry and though we all want to wake up tomorrow and suddenly work in the perfect space with no growing pains, it’s just not going to happen. 🙅‍♀️

I truly believe 10 years from now, we won’t even recognize this space. I’d dare to say even five years from now we might see things that are shocking & exciting us. 

All that to say, don’t lose hope and don’t let the waves of this industry toss you around. If we stay on the same path and of the same mind, we can carve the industry we want to see over the next decade.