Business owners and the employees that work in the medical marijuana community may not think about whether they have public support for their marijuana dispensary. And why should they when the primary focus is on serving the people who already find value in their products and services. But there’s a larger picture here that affects the long term livelihood of any cannabis-based company and it’s centered around neighborhood sentiment about the industry as a whole. If this speaks to you, without the support of local municipalities, businesses, and the people who live nearby, your marijuana store won’t have a leg to stand on.
Know the Legal Challenges
Enthusiasm is great when you want to open your doors with the intention of serving the public well. But intention doesn’t pay the bills; your customers help you do that. The playing field for the pot industry is tightly woven with regulations and laws that may have loopholes for constructing workarounds, if you can find them.
Although marijuana laws differ from state to state and invariably with the federal level as well, following specific laws pertinent to your state of business is paramount to setting yourself up for success. And while some states may seem to have more forgiving or gracious pathways to starting a cannabis business, government strategies have long been set up in a manner that won’t be in your favor.
This is why you need to hire legal experts in marijuana, real estate, and intellectual property. Here’s why.
There are intricacies involved in the medical marijuana industry that don’t enter into any other business. And if your cannabis business is going to have a website, which it should, intellectual property may be involved. In addition, since the marketing of marijuana has other laws that must be abided by (especially when marketing products for sale online), you’ll need to know what you can say and visually display, and what you can’t. An attorney with expertise in cannabis will know how to properly draft the terms and conditions of your website, as well as what’s needed in the physical location of your operation.
Real Estate Aspects
Searching for and securing the right space for your marijuana business can be a lofty battle, likened to a chess game that you’re stepping into – with a deficit.
It isn’t about knowing what you need today to run effectively and efficiently, but foreseeing your needs one, three, and five years down the road. Even if you’re looking to rent space from a property owner, (if they are good with your business model) adjustments will most likely be required to accommodate your needs. Tenant improvements can easily be worked into the lease agreement. But unless you’re taking up an entire strip center or planning on being housed in a standalone facility, you will have to share your intentions with nearby tenants, property owners and homeowners.
This is where the challenges can come at you from all sides. We witnessed this in Phoenix, Arizona.
Embrace the Negative Nancys
A desired location for a medical marijuana dispensary is more than just logistics. The property has to come with the right zoning. If it doesn’t, a zoning variance is required. This is where it gets sticky. To prepare for the zoning hearing, other public meetings will take place designed to help the cannabis business acquire positive sentiment behind their proposed zoning variance request.
Here’s what can happen, and does.
By proposing your cannabis enterprise to the local residents (business and homes) you will be opening yourself, your personal and business brand, to a litany of ridicule and judgment. Not everyone is an advocate of what you do. In fact, there remains a lot of fear about it in the minds of many naysayers.
To have a viable shot at easing their fears, perhaps even removing them, give them a forum to speak. Make sure you listen to them. What the naysayers will tell you often provides the clues to what you’ll need to do to quell their negativity. If you can do that, they are less likely to show up at the zoning variance hearing and derail your plans for occupancy.
If a nearby homeowner is concerned about his family’s welfare and the risks that a cannabis store might bring, explain the characteristics of your security protocols. If privacy is an issue (should neighboring property back or side to the proposed cannabis shop location) discuss how to remedy it by adding height on an existing perimeter wall. Share your operating hours with them and come up with a plan that everyone can live with.
Marijuana Industry Advocacy Is a Full Time Job
Just like in any industry, not everyone is going to love you. But staying cognizant of potential setbacks fueled by misinformation or unflattering public sentiments will help you avert the same.
Top Tips for Public Support in Marijuana Dispensary Marketing
Public relations will have an impact on marijuana dispensary marketing, be it good or bad. To arm yourself and create a strategy ahead of time, you’ll need to map out potential challenges. Once you’ve identified them, generate a list of solutions for each challenge. This will save you time, energy, and money because you’re eliminating prospective setbacks to your business launch that would come with being positioned on the defensive, instead of the offensive stance.
Tips to Stay On Top of the Public Outcry
- Stay current on state marijuana laws
- Stay current on local legislation
- Know key players in local government who are marijuana advocates
- Forge positive relationships with other business owners who will speak well of you
- Attend community and charity events
- Host neighborhood meetings to show local support
- Retain solid legal representation who knows the marijuana industry
- Partner with a marijuana dispensary marketing agency
- Keep facility security and employee professionalism as a priority
The Sweet Spot between Outreach and Off the Grid
It’s been said that people can’t criticize you if they don’t know you exist. True. But with easy access to people, places, and all the what-ifs and what-fors that fall within them, a point, click or swipe on social media makes staying silent a virtual impossibility, pun intended.
While it may be an initial preference to keep your cannabis business on the down low, it’s not a strategy that will give you any traction and credibility. If you want to be a leader within your community, take on what’s necessary to get you ahead, use the existing laws and regulations to your advantage, and leave the rest behind.