History was made Nov. 4, 2014 in the state of Alaska. Cannabis was legalized. The entrepreneur in me immediately felt that familiar itch. The cannabis user in me breathed a sigh of relief. The celebration was jaded though. It’s legal, but where do people get it? That began the waiting phase of Alaskan legalization of cannabis.
In December 2014, my husband and I decided on the name and the initial vision of Midnight Greenery. The dream is to create a fully vertically-integrated operation from seed to sale. As a long-time cannabis user, grower and a veteran who treats his PTSD with it, my husband had the cannabis experience. As a former cannabis user and an entrepreneur with an MBA, I possessed the education and experience to take the black market operations legal.
We began to build our team in early January. In hindsight, we should have read books like “Big Weed” by Christian Hageseth before we started this journey, but the lessons we have learned are invaluable. The best lesson we have learned so far is not all black market growers, producers or sellers are cut out for a legal market. Black market experience does not automatically qualify anyone for a position in the new legal market. We learned this the hard way.
We also learned two other excellent lessons: Business relationships should not be mixed with friendships until after loyalty has been gained; and some people are only loyal to their perceived need of you.
Midnight Greenery is an employee-owned organization and it is difficult to ask people to work for expected future compensation and build a vision, but as we build our team we are finding the right people who will help us build this multi-million dollar company. We have spent the last seven months traveling the path of building our cannabis dreams here in Alaska. Actively involved in the political climate and the regulatory development process, our team has stood strong through replacing members, internal destruction attempts, changing political climates and infusion into the business community.
The mission of Midnight Greenery is to change the stigma associated with cannabis through education, giving back to the community and creating awareness. Team MG, under the direction of Tina Smith, our community relations director, has developed community give-back programs such as our Park Clean Up and Summer Blazin’ music festival events. Additionally, our educational classes focus on helping consumers understand cannabis and promote responsible consumption.
The journey has been hard. I lost my job in March because I worked for a federally-funded organization. They asked me to choose between my job and my dream of Midnight Greenery. The choice was clear. Changing lives with cannabis is the only future I can envision. Our team may have to wait until May 2016 to sell as a legally licensed marijuana establishment, but it is worth the wait. In the meantime, we learn lessons, build the team, write the business and operational plans, build the brand, educate the community and wait.
Sara Williams is the CEO of Midnight Greenery, a cannabis business license hopeful in Alaska. She is an entrepreneur with a degree in political science and an MBA.