Cannabusiness: The New Wild West

. July 1, 2016.

The Wild West has come to Michigan in the form of the emerging statewide cannabis industry, and Shelly Smith, long-time sales coach at Southwestern Consulting (a sales consulting company), is trying to give it focus. And ethics.

“The laws are different all over the country,” she says. “Even though new people I’ve met getting into the industry are trying hard to follow the rules, the rules are hard to follow. That huge gray area means that there could be a temptation to slip into the mindset of ‘The law is stupid and difficult and no one respects it anyway and you know they’ll raid us if they want to so I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.’”

To make it ethical, she says, a huge start would be changing the laws so that cannabusiness owners aren’t blocked from essential banking services.

“Those discriminatory laws make it tough to keep the best records and prove your value in the economy. Business persons who are blocked from resources that they need to be viewed as legitimate business entities might wonder why they should respect a system that doesn’t respect them. Business owners have to think like activists and activists have to be vigilant professionals who have no cause to be seen as untrustworthy. Cannabusiness owners can ask themselves, what can I be more honest about with my team? How can I be more service-minded? How can I treat my employees better?”

She emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurs taking care of themselves if they want to remain healthy and long-lasting in the business: remembering to get that occasional massage, laughing with friends, eating lunch. “As a coach, I am granting everyone in business the permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself, because if you don’t have your health you have nothing.”

At the same time, she cautions entrepreneurs to avoid or overcome bad business practices, including having improper expectations and not having systems in place to grow. She recommends instead asking more advanced industry veterans what they wish they had known when they were starting out, and asking employees to list anticipated challenges and possible solutions.

Women in the cannabis industry face the same challenges as women face in any industry, she believes: “Do you have a clear vision? Do you know what it takes to make it happen? Are you willing to learn the things you need to learn to get it done? Are you pulling together wise mentors to help you along? Do you have a sound financial plan? Are you willing to keep going when everything seems to suck?”

But in one significant way, their challenge is unique:

“Motherhood. Yes, it’s so obvious I almost forgot it. Depending on where they are and how their local laws are being enforced, women have to fear people judging  them, wanting to take their children away because they grow a plant, being raided by a SWAT team and having to suffer the insane consequences of how the drug war tears apart families. They have to face losing custody—and often they are following the law to the best of their knowledge and ability.”

Kind of like the Wild West.

Ken Wachsberger, editor of Bloom Blog at, is an author and founder of Azenphony Press Writing and Editing.


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