We’re lucky in this industry. On top of issues ranging from a lack of bank accounts and financing options, producing and distributing a Schedule 1 narcotic, and being a start-up company with none of the usual resources available, we have an added bonus: 70 years of misinformation distributed to the general American public. Don’t you feel special?
Community outreach is important in any industry, but it’s particularly important for those in the cannabis industry. Thus, joining the local chamber of commerce was a no-brainer for our company. When we joined, in the beginning of 2014, we knew there would be moral resistance and obstacles to overcome. We had to make an impression. We had to be better and more professional than anyone would have expected. We wear professional attire, come presentable, memorize 59-second elevator speeches and follow up every contact with a “great to meet you” video or email.
In the beginning, I’d say a third of the business owners we met were excited, a third wanted nothing to do with us, and the other third responded to our emails with “I support what you’re doing, but I can’t be public about it.” We began to volunteer at chamber events. And slowly … ever so slowly … we began to make progress.
Our mission is not to push cannabis down the throats of the community. Rather, it’s to be visible in the business community as just another business. If you take the product out of the equation, we’re no different than any other entrepreneur working toward the American Dream. The biggest issue we’ve seen is a lack of education; an amazingly large number of people have never seen cannabis, much less tried it. The whole idea is so foreign to them. Since many have been indoctrinated with the idea that “drugs are bad,” they have no idea how to react to us. Our local Bellingham Chamber of Commerce has embraced our industry by taking a neutral stance: The people voted, our members have a business license, and it’s not our job to discriminate.
Through tenacity, cheerfulness, and professionalism, we are changing the perception from anti to neutral in nature. Now those who were against cannabis before, due to a lack of understanding, are now nonaligned because “they know someone who does the weed thing” and we’re nothing like they thought we would be. So, the moral of the story is: Do your part! Join your local chamber of commerce. Volunteer at local non-profits while wearing a shirt with your company logo (preferably non-profits that your local government officials are partial to) and help change the public’s perception of the cannabis industry. Think of it as an investment in the future of your business. At the very least, it can’t hurt to put yourself out there and get involved with your community.
Danielle Rosellison is one of the co-owners of Trail Blazin’ Productions, a state-licensed producer/processor in Bellingham, Washington.