Management

A Green Industry: Oregon’s Budding Cannabis Business

March 21, 2017 • 8 min read
Byron Beck

Byron Beck

PDX Correspondent

Cannabis is big. And it’s only going to get bigger.

This March, cannabis industry economist Beau Whitney of Whitney Economics released a report, “Cannabis Employment Estimates.” According to the cannabis-centered website, MJ News Network, the report was compiled at the request of the Oregon State House of Representatives Committee on Economic Development and Trade. The Oregon Reps were eager to find out the number of jobs associated with the Oregon cannabis industry, as well as a projection of the economic impact the cannabis industry is having on the state.

According to Whitney’s report, “On a national basis, the $50 billion cannabis market is essentially the equivalent to the U.S. wine market,” which is $55 billion.

Marijuana buds

There are more than 1,000 businesses that touch cannabis in Oregon, Whitney claims, but he indicates that the number is still likely a conservative estimate, based on limited data from the Oregon Department of Employment and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The report estimates there are 12,500 jobs associated with the Oregon cannabis industry, and that the total annual wages associated with these jobs are $315 million. Currently, the Employment Department lists 776 cannabis businesses in Oregon.

On a national level, Whitney reports there are roughly 300,000 – 400,000 cannabis-touching jobs in the United States. “That number will grow to more than a million as more states come online as legal markets,” said Whitney. “Cannabis is a job-creation machine.”

Like many pioneering industries, cannabis comes with its share of highs and lows.

Eric Logan, Vice President of Business Development for private equity group Equity Rock Incorporated, plans to capitalize on this “job-creation machine.” At first, Logan, 47, wasn’t much of a fan of marijuana, at least not personally. “I didn’t care for it,” said Logan. “It made me tired and I love energy.”

But that didn’t stop this energetic partner at Equity Rock from seeing the benefits of being involved in this very green scene. Logan says he is intrigued by the complexity and all of the nuances of the new and growing industry. Logan felt, with his background in both retail and banking, combined with being “a lover of entrepreneurs,” that he could make a difference in the new market.

Logan sees the industry, as it pertains to small business, as challenging but also rewarding. To make it in the cannabis business, he believes you must always have: a high quality product, a passion for the consumer, and an ability to be flexible, as all the regulations that face this developing industry mean change is the norm.

“It’s like any other business,” says Logan to those who are looking to dip their toes into the increasingly crowded pool of cannabis businesses. “Prior experience in retail, banking, restaurants or agriculture is ideal. [Or] a lot of money. And great advisors. That being said, if you start small, and study your craft, it’s a good business [in which] to learn the ropes and get your ass kicked a bit.”

Among the many new weedpreneurs who have had their booties bumped around a bit is Laurie Wolf. She wasn’t exactly looking to be a small business owner before becoming the proprietor of her own cannabis-infused food company, Laurie + MaryJane.

Making cannabutter. Courtesy of RealClark/Wikimedia

“I’ve enjoyed cannabis off and on for years,” said Wolf who will only say she is in her “early 60’s.” She still remembers the first time she was introduced to weed. “I was fifteen and got high at this magical pond in this fancy New York neighborhood near my house. It’s called Fieldston [a section of the Bronx]. Carly Simon grew up there.”

Wolf’s high-quality marijuana edibles company supplies cannabis products to dispensaries in Oregon. Laurie & MaryJane features sweet and savory products made with cannabis-infused butter.

Wolf has a food-friendly background. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a chef and caterer, and a food stylist in New York before moving to Portland. Wolf recently published A Food Lover’s Guide to Portland and The Portland, Oregon, Chef’s Table. She’s penned cannabis cookbooks, gives cooking-with-cannabis lessons, writes cannabis-infused food recipes for several cannabis publications, and will, in the very near future, be profiled in the New Yorker magazine.

Wolf monitors and tests all products from the Laurie & MaryJane kitchen in an effort to take the guesswork out of purchasing and consuming cannabis edibles for her customers. Her customers receive a consistent amount of cannabis in each serving. At 25 mg per serving of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for the euphoric high, the edibles are potent…but not overly so.

Wolf said she created her edibles for those who enjoy cannabis or use it as medication but for whom smoking is not always an option. According to her site, “edibles provide an easy method to treat a wide range of ailments, including pain, anxiety, seizure, and nausea management. As scientific research goes further into the health benefits of cannabis, people are discovering that edibles provide a more gradual psychoactive effect as well as a more powerful body feel.” She also see edibles as a more discreet way of medicating, a big part of cannabis culture.

Wolf offers an honest take on what it’s like to run a small cannabis business.

“It’s a pain in the ass,” said Wolf. “There is essentially no banking, only half the people are responsible, even to return calls, and everything is expensive. That said, cannabis is amazing, more and more people are giving it a try, or returning to an old pleasure.” Wolf says there are new opportunities everyday, but notes that the industry is strictly controlled and “may not be for everyone.”

Wolf agrees with Eric Logan’s assessment that it doesn’t hurt to have an influx of cash to start your business. In the cannabis business, “you need a lot of money,” said Wolf. “Even without investors, there are expensive steps along the way, and everything takes longer than you think it will.” She adds: “Sadly, there is a lot of greed and people are making real estate prices way too high.”

Wolf acknowledges that, as with any other small business, it helps if you are responsible, ethical, and have a legit business plan. She believes it’s essential to have a good working knowledge of cannabis, a good accountant, and a good lawyer.

“And don’t forget to return emails,” said Wolf, referring to her pet peeve in the pot business.

And don’t dismiss this industry.

According to GreenWave Advisors, which conducts independent research and financial analysis of the legal cannabis industry, the market will hit $18 billion by 2021, even if the current White House administration challenges it. If the federal government doesn’t get in the way, the industry is expected to hit $30 billion, assuming every state and D.C. has a medical or fully legal market.

In fact, if the Trump administration begins deregulating banking, it might encourage banks to invest in the burgeoning industry.

And it looks like Oregon’s cannabis industry, much like its now honored and extremely lucrative wine industry, might just be leading the way.

 


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