After sharing confessions from my first year in the legal cannabis industry, every day I get questions about how people can get into the industry themselves. The vast majority of these inquiries are focused on growing, cultivating or selling cannabis directly. Hands down, if you want to touch the plant in your business, you will need to establish and conduct business within a state where a legalized medical or adult-use program exists. And, there are challenges breaking into an already established legal market in most states, particularly without a large sum of money available to invest in application and licensing fees. For individuals in states without legal marijuana laws, touching the plant is only viable to those willing to take the risk to relocate. Yet, most people do not have the means nor desire to relocate to another state in pursuit of solely entrepreneurial ventures. If Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act has you looking more seriously at the industry, consider making marijuana your side hustle. Wondering where to get started? Here are four reasonable and legal ways to enter the green rush without leaving your day job.
1Become An “Expert” For The Industry
The rapidly growing cannabis industry definitely needs more subject-matter experts to help standardize global best practices and to elevate the overall industry experience, for business-to-business and direct-to-consumer. Start with what you know best. If you’re a seasoned professional who is already established as a thought leader in your field, this is an ideal transition point for you to begin making an impact and generating revenue fairly quickly.
Initial investment is fairly minimal, simply requiring a cannabis-focused digital presence for your brand to be “searchable” within the space and the time investment for client acquisition strategies. Update your LinkedIn to include interest in bringing your skills to the cannabis industry in your summary. Use of the cannabis keyword will make the profile more searchable by many reputable marijuana and hemp business owners leveraging the platform to find expert talent. Do your research to determine the potential knowledge gap within the industry that you can fill. Join industry-specific networking communities like Minorities for Medical Marijuana to increase your reach. Things can move quickly after you connect with someone who is in need of your specific expertise.
2 Become a Cannabis Writer
Companies, organizations, publications and magazines need folks who are well-versed in the topic to create original content. Since laws and bills in the world of cannabis change regularly, staying abreast of what’s now is a must. Professional writers must invest in a reliable computer to kick-off a freelance career. Budgeting for educational classes on the topic, networking events and the occasional coffee or lunch interview are also a must.
3Become a Social Media Manager
Everyone is on their smartphones these days. And that’s where social media management comes in. Social media managers help run the digital presence of dispensaries and marijuana companies. There are some caveats to cannabis social media though… Because cannabis is still federally illegal, some platforms discriminate against marijuana and cannabis lifestyle profiles that use certain jargon, key words and hashtags in their descriptions and ads: such as #weed and #pot. Social media managers must stay abreast of these rules to make sure they are operating within guidelines and not sullying their brands by causing social media shutdowns. A background in communications, digital media, or web and graphic design are helpful when trying to land a job in this space.
4Become a Brand Ambassador
Want to just be yourself and educate others? A cannabis brand may be looking for someone who can represent its values and bring them followers, which means potential customers. You need to have a general knowledge of marketing with an established online presence on all your social media sites to be competitive in this space. Begin by either building your follower base and upgrading your engagement. Your social media profiles should also have a cohesive and appealing design that draws people in. Be authentic. And above all, make sure you understand cannabis laws and the industry. Once a company chooses you as an ambassador of a product or service the skies (or clouds) are the limit. You become a thought and product leader in the space, showing your knowledge and aptitude to sale. This can land a full-time business. Your initial investment essentially sweat equity. You should begin by uploading content and pictures to your own social media profiles. You can also reach out to brands and pitch a partnership. Consider setting aside some cash to purchase products on your own at first help build your brand cache. Do it right and your brand equity will eventually lead to picking up a check.
5Become An Educator
Not nearly enough people are aware of the benefits of cannabis as a whole plant nor is the public made aware of opportunities to support decriminalization. The marijuana industry undoubtedly needs more people willing to share the truth, preferably in an organized way. For this reason, this is a great entry point for experienced health professionals, teachers and non-profit executives.
You may need to invest in re-educating yourself first by way of accredited coursework, like the CME credits offered by Greenhouse Ventures, a Philadelphia-based cannabis accelerator. From informal home events to formal webinars, the opportunities to get started as an educator vary depending on your target audience along with how much time and/or money you have to invest. Decide on your target market first. This will determine the appropriate type of education and delivery style. Start aggregating information from quality resources. Curate relevant content and advocacy opportunities for sharing via digital or in-person platforms. Start small, but think big. Don’t be afraid to create your own content and be mindful of potential partners that can help amplify your message and reach.
6Become a Digital Investor
When I bought my blog domain, www.theweedhead.com for $11.99 last year, I had no idea that in less than five months, I would have serious offers to purchase my URL and others like it for over 10,000% return on investment. Although I’m not in the market to sell my marijuana-affiliated domains any time soon, a key insight from my first year would be the high perceived value of a URL cleverly using common cannabis terms, like “weedhead,” “mary jane,” or “pot”. If you are already very familiar with the back-end of GoDaddy or understand the importance of the algorithm in Google search, chances are you can successfully pick up a few high perceived value domains. Get your creative juices going and if you find an available one that your tribe agrees is fly do not pass go— head right to the checkout.
At $8.99/year to purchase one domain, this is an easy investment decision. Be mindful, however, that bulk domain purchases can start to add up. Auto-renewing 100 domain properties is nearly $1K/year in investment. Decide early after acquisition if you plan to build on a digital property now or in the future. If you have strong urls that are simply waiting for the right offer, you can still capitalize on the domain popularity by setting up CashParking® by GoDaddy or another domain monetization program that allows you to earn revenue per clicks on ads placed on your parked url.
7Become a Salesperson for CBD-only Cannabis and Accessories
Regardless of industry, direct sales and affiliate sales programs are an awesome way to make extra income on the side—think of all the women pushing flat tummy tea. If you’re into direct sales, you should consider selling hemp-derived CBD products (CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, the active ingredient in cannabis) or cannabis lifestyle accessories, which can be sold legally in all 50 states or online.
Investment depends on the product assortment and sales channel. Direct sales programs selling CBD-oil products like Kannaway can cost you under $50 for annual membership, while a Canna Closet consultant OG kit, which includes a large assortment of top smoke accessories for at-home demos, will cost you over $1,000 in investment. Or, you can build your own affiliate marketplace geared towards cannabis enthusiasts.
Regardless of your entry point into the marijuana hustle, consider investing the money and time to attend a cannabis rally, festival or conference. There are several hundred across the country annually, offering opportunities to connect with potential partners or mentors. Marijuana is going mainstream. This a rare window to get into the game early. Whatever you choose to do, do your research and bring your “A” game.
Dasheeda Dawson is a cannabis executive, digital growth hacker and brand equity builder. Check out more of the Princeton alum’s marijuana musts at theweedhead.com.