Op-ed | Jonathan Collier: Let’s Get Down to Business

March 25, 2018 – Imagine if Nevada County announced that over the next three years it would be creating 600-1,000 new businesses, employing thousands of people and generating taxes to help solve some of our county’s most pressing issues? It would be extraordinary as these businesses draw in ancillary help from consultants and accountants, attorneys and engineers, contractors, designers, marketers, even office supplies — everything a business needs to be successful. Meanwhile, we could see well paid workers buying homes, raising families, entertaining themselves on the town and spreading prosperity through our community. Businesses are the lifeblood of society and no one questions their importance…until you throw cannabis into the mix.

Now, if you’re trying to raise a family and you don’t work for the government, the hospital, as a software programmer, or own a local business this might be thrilling news as there are few opportunities that pay white collar wages. There are young people who grew up here, moved to the city for an education, opportunity and culture and now have moved back here for the quality of life. They have degrees and qualifications but are finding high paying jobs a rarity around here. So the prospect of a budding licensed and permitted cannabis industry is cause for excitement. And it’s not just young people who are excited, but also those active aging adults who are dependent on social security or retirement savings, and see an opportunity to work at home, in the soil, and under the sun while making their latter years more secure and enjoyable. Actually there’s a lot of folk from all walks of life who are interested in seeing where this industry can take them, and many of them have been here for a long time doing this work. A professional cannabis industry is old news, pick up any mainstream business magazine or type ‘cannabis’ in their online search and you’ll find that it’s been going on for years now, we in California are just now catching up.

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However, there are still those that believe a local cannabis industry is about as scary as the apocalypse. Even so, this pool is shrinking and quickly. According to Politico journalist Kevin Robillard, the chief polling firm for Donald Trump’s campaign, Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, recently performed a survey and found that, “77 percent of likely 2018 voters had a favorable opinion of medical marijuana….That total includes 68 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats.” That being said, the local prohibition minority is far from silent and still wields a formidable amount of influence.

They are hesitant and for good reason. Decades of unregulated impacts have left their legacy. The Wild West thrived under the grey market and we saw clear cutting, erosion and hills washing away, bad neighbors tearing up dirt roads and staring down old timers, armed robberies, and youth sneaking edibles into classrooms. Worse case scenarios, but they have happened.

This is changing. We have now arrived at a time where there are black and white rules and we can have legitimate businesses run by transparent, accountable and professional people who are willing to pay taxes, comply with regulations, be good stewards of the land, and contribute to the community just as every other business does. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t begin to happen until our county leadership decides that it prefers the legal market over the black market. (By the way, we are still currently stuck in the Wild West and everything that goes with it – write your supervisor and vote).

That being said, our local ganjapreneurs are doing their due diligence, performing their research, getting informed, writing business plans, defining their markets, reaching out to other resources in the community to help them move forward when the time comes. They will need help and a lot of it. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of resources that they can draw on. Having a retirement community here provides us with a large population of accomplished business mentors that they can partner with. Also, this Tuesday the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance will celebrate its membership with the Grass Valley and Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and they are excited to work with the Chamber’s affiliates and utilize their networking and business development services. With licensing, these businesses can access another level of the business community that they were averse to reaching out to, and who might have been reluctant to respond. This is changing.

There’s a real opportunity to bridge the cannabis community with the larger business community and have a lot of people benefit. At the same time we’ll start cleaning up the negative impacts as we transition our rogue operators into the regulated and legal marketplace. It’s time for us to work together and get down to business.