Hard to Grow
Introduction to Season 1
With the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, California became the first state to flout federal drug laws and legalize cannabis for medical use. Since the 1990s, cannabis has been legalized for both recreational and medical use in 21 states, and for medical use alone in 18 more.
Though cannabis remains completely illegal in 11 states and regulations surrounding everything from growing and manufacturing to branding and retailing remain balkanized, a vibrant industry has bloomed. Seeking to mainstream a plant used worldwide for millennia, entrepreneurs in the legal weed industry reckon with a recent history of racism and stigma brought about by the federal government’s war on drugs. Today, that industry is estimated at over $25 billion in sales and supports close to half a million jobs.
Growing a cannabis business, however, is hard. It’s much harder than building a traditional consumer goods brand. Federal regulations hamper banking and marketing, leaving entrepreneurs frequently reliant on cash and prohibited from advertising on key social platforms including Instagram.
In this first season of Growing Season, American Cannabis, I will speak with the people who are at the forefront of the rapidly-changing cannabis industry. Hemp farmers, health advocates, culinary professionals and more seek not only to grow successful enterprises, but to educate a new generation of consumers. Building a brand often doubles as advocacy, dispelling negative stigma around cannabis and creating attractive use cases for an ingredient that is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA.
Over the next several months I will sit down with the founders who have been pushing the frontier for years or decades and entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Subscribe to Growing Season to hear their stories.