One of the great joys and benefits of working in any ascending industry such as cannabis is the opportunity to continually serve as a teacher to others while learning from the expertise of those who arrived ever so slightly before you. 

Beyond an appreciation of the plant and its self-evident benefits to our health and well being, most of us entered the cannabis industry after feeling stagnation in our previous line of work. It’s nice to have a new professional mission – in this case mainstreaming marijuana. 

Having worked within and built professional networking organizations for the early Internet, mobile application and educational technology industries, I picked up a few things that may help you in your journey. As you read these nuggets of wisdom, think about key experiences you have that can be passed along to others.

Listen and learn to inform what you say

Remember that as human beings we have two ears and one mouth. While there will be countless opportunities to share with others why you are in the cannabis industry, there is tremendous value in learning from the experience from others on parallel paths or who may have arrived here before you. Whether it’s dealing with uncertainties from state and municipal regulators who are also navigating new terrain, representatives from financial institutions willing to do business with those who produce and market federally illegal product or so-called “legacy” operators more attuned with the culture of cannabis than leading corporations driving the industry, there is much to learn from others facing the same challenges, opportunities and ambiguities you are.

Own your expertise

Any craft, competency or mastery you developed over your career will be applied to your cannabis journey over time. Veterans from consumer packaged goods industries are among the most prevalent pioneers in today’s cannabis industry as they have an understanding for how to move products at scale. Accountants that understand federal tax codes are in high demand to address challenges faced by 280e. Innovators and entrepreneurs who seek to disrupt current industry constraints are the lifeblood of today’s industry. So, sooner rather than later show what you know to others in the industry as there is a shortage of competencies your experience and skill-set is designed to address.

Avoid transactional conversations

While at the end of the day most of us are required to sell something on behalf of our enterprise or organization, don’t keep score on introductions as quid pro quos in cannabis can be a real buzzkill. If a peer at an organization thoughtfully requests an introduction to a grower and purchasing decision-maker in your network, extend the introduction with no expectations of a return. This is still a small industry where everybody talks. Your reputation and ability to advance in the cannabis industry at this stage in particular is predicated on how kind you are to others you trust and respect.

Do your homework

When Grown In emerged more than three years ago, there was a dearth of reliable information and education sources to guide newcomers and seasoned veterans through their careers in cannabis. Now there is a wealth of newsletters, industry associations and professional events (some with consumption!) that instruct and showcase how things work in the industry. There is even a Cannabis Innovation Lab to tap into!

Be joyful

Amidst the creative chaos and capital constraints of the current cannabis industry, it’s sometimes easy to forget how fun and rewarding it is to work in weed! Seriously, if you’re not having a good time working in this business, you may want to find something else to do. There is adventure, intellectual fulfillment, creative tension and the potential (longer-term!) of significant financial upside in building an industry from the ground up. Mostly importantly, there is the opportunity to work alongside people just as crazy as you! Have fun.

Watch a Highlight Reel from Week Two of Our Cannabis Innovation Lab:

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.