Growing legal cannabis and starting your own business is an attractive pursuit for many people who want to follow their dreams and make their mark in the legal marijuana industry. Unfortunately, as the industry continues to evolve, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish this goal. Passion for cultivating the plant is not enough. Those who are successful in winning a marijuana cultivation license need to learn more about approaching it as a business and not just a fun activity—regardless of the talent they may have for this type of work. The world of legal marijuana is becoming increasingly competitive, so aspiring cultivators must plan carefully to set themselves apart from the growing crowd of people pursuing the same goal.
Another option for those who want to grow legal cannabis—and a much easier goal to attain—is gaining employment with a legal grow already in production. Many companies are hiring if you meet their hiring prerequisites.
Obtaining a Cultivation License
To become a legal cannabis grower, a person must understand the sometimes-quirky laws that may apply to legal growers in their state. Then, they must work around these laws to set themselves apart from other license-seekers. Accommodating every requirement of the licensing board is mandatory to obtain a license.
One of the first steps is planning far ahead by lining up a highly competent team. Your floorplan and facility design must be exemplary, and state-of-the-art environmental control is a must. Your team should have at least one person with proven commercial cultivation experience, not necessarily with cannabis but in any other commercial growing endeavor, whether it be ornamental flowers, fruits, or vegetables.
People with this type of background typically have college degrees in botany or horticulture. A good basement grower won’t cut the mustard—they’re a dime a dozen in this industry. Not to discount the knowledge and skill obtained through basement growing, because it does have value, but growing for yourself and growing for a commercial market on a massive scale are two entirely different things. A solid plan with standard operating procedures for feeding, watering, pest and disease control, harvesting, curing, and myriad other things must be in place.
For instance, what pest control other than natural methods like ladybugs is allowed in your state? Do the necessary research and find out the answer to this question and any others relevant to cultivation companies. Get out ahead of the ball and have all of the bases covered prior to applying for your license.
Develop a business plan. Besides having a thorough and highly detailed business plan in place, retain the services of consultants and a lawyer. Legal marijuana cultivation is not bong hits and giggles—it’s an extremely competitive, regulated, and scrutinized industry. Realize that you will need to pay for your highly competent staff. Do you have the necessary financial resources? Your consultants can help you identify all your needs and what it will cost so you can obtain the necessary seed capital (pun intended) to allow your business to sprout and grow. Cash flow is vital, so don’t come up short.
Stay abreast of changing laws and regulations in your state, because in many ways the cannabis industry is still evolving in an effort to meet and address variables that continue to emerge. Become familiar with key individuals in your local municipality as well as on the state level. Recognizing the key players and decision makers in your state will help you during the license application process. If the word compliance doesn’t impact you on a day-to-day basis right now, it will immediately after you enter the industry. A thorough understanding of all your state and local laws will ensure you comply with all of them.
Identify your specific needs for real estate, and make sure the area you choose as the one in which you intend to set up shop is zoned for cannabis cultivation and will allow it. Be sure your business plan, license, and location account for expansion—after all, you want your business to grow. What are your initial goals for production? Doing some rough math and researching specific strains and their yield will put you in the right ballpark for space when planning your business.
Cannabis requires a lot of water and energy to flourish. Will your operation rely on hydroponics or soil cultivation? Again, do the rough math and try to get as close as you can to determine ongoing costs for the necessary resources. Marijuana plants don’t take a break, so limiting their light, water, or nutrients if cash flow becomes a problem is never an option.
When aspiring to get a license and applying for one, realize that it’s a process and will take some investing, planning, and waiting. Do everything you can to make your business proposal unique and superior to those of other applicants. You want to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in it. With proper planning to have all of your ducks in a row prior to application time will put you in the best light for attaining your cannabis cultivation license and achieving your business goals.
Joining an Established Cultivation Business
Another option for getting involved in the legal cannabis cultivation field is to join an established company and put your skill set into action. You may not reap the same financial dividends, but you also won’t have the operating costs and be solely responsible for compliance and emerging laws and regulations.
An academic degree in the cultivation field will no doubt help your chances of gaining employment, but familiarity with the plant will be an asset if you decide to join an operation that’s already up and running. In this case, basement growing experience will help you. You will already know the basics and will continue to expand your knowledge as it applies to a large, commercial operation.
Based on your experience level and the needs of the company at the time of your hire, your position could range from entry-level cultivation to more of a lead to mid-range level. Many companies reward from within and advance people who are integrated into their team and are familiar with their methods of operation.
Do you have any experience breeding cannabis and creating your own crosses? If you gain employment with a cultivation business or the cultivation division of a vertically integrated cannabis company that produces its own proprietary strains, your breeding skills could provide career opportunities in the areas of research and development (R&D). Working with an R&D team to stabilize good cannabis crosses and create valid new strains are consistent when grown from seed is fascinating and advance cultivation work. This could be an ambitious but realistic goal for someone entering the world of legal marijuana cultivation.
This type of work also makes you a more likely candidate for acquiring a cultivation license at a later date if that’s your ultimate goal. Having a thorough knowledge of your craft is important. Regardless of whether you start your own business or join a pre-existing company, the future looks bright for this segment of the legal industry.
Those who own a legal cannabis company must prepare themselves for becoming proficient with cultivation as a business and not a hobby. The financial investment is huge, the legal maze can be daunting, and the human resources required are substantial. For an organized, competent person with the necessary drive, however, it is an absolutely attainable goal and a lucrative career choice.