How to Use Tech and the Web to Exploit Cannabis-Industry Margins
Legal hurdles don't mean you can't have skin in the game.
The cannabis industry has grown in leaps and bounds following the legalization boom, and is currently worth $10 billion and employs 250,000 people in the U.S. alone. By 2017, marijuana-related stocks skyrocketed, becoming the hot topic among investors. Further driving this point home, cannabis-investement group Arcview and BDS Analytics have estimated that sales will grow 38 percent to $16.9 billion by the end this calendar year.
These stats are impressive and are no doubt urged on by continued expansion of legalization for both medical and recreational use. But there has also been a sharp growth in interest following the demystification of many concerns about CBD oil’s side effects. However, there is still a big distinction between the cultivation aspect of the business, e.g. opening dispensaries, and trading shares in cannabis companies.
That being said, tech and the internet can help you exploit the industry's margins (though we strongly recommend you acquaint yourself with federal and state laws and regulations first), especially if you are an individual with shallower pockets than those of major players. Below are a select few.
1. Sell cannabis-related paraphernalia online.
It's not uncommon to see cannabis-inspired artwork, t-shirts, dog collars, glassware, ashtrays and other items displayed on sites like Etsy. The cheapest way to make a business out of this movement is to start an e-commerce store where you can sell hand-made accessories or re-sell stuff you find online if craftsmanship isn’t your forté.
You can also sell edibles like cannabis-infused snacks like teas, hash browns, pies and even cakes! One other viable option gaining popularity is cannabis-infused cosmetics and body products, as research continues to reveal the plant's antiviral and antibacterial properties.
If you decide to sell wearables like T-shirts, neck scarves, hats or bags, print-on-demand platforms like Teespring and Cafepress are seamless options that allow you to make a profit with little or no overhead costs; these companies just take a percentage off sales, remitting the remaining earnings to you.
2. Develop cannabis-related content.
This could mean starting a website or blog that reports on cannabis events and legal developments. Royal CBD is an example of a company that has become a go-to for accurate information on various CBD products and their use, helping provide clarity in an industry that doesn't always promote transparency as a cornerstone focus. You could also create a cannabis product-review site, though you would need to have significant knowledge to help consumers make informed decisions. This is also a great way to leverage expertise as a means to secure consulting relationships with companies looking for guidance.
3. Start an online cannabis-consulting practice.
This option is largely for those who have a legal degree and are willing to jump on the bandwagon and make a profit. Starting a virtual law firm is the cheapest way to go about entering this aspect of the market. Not that it's a walk in the park, but all you need to launch is knowledge in a field where demand exists, e.g. FDA compliance for hemp-derived CBD businesses, and you’re off to the races.
Diverse legal regulations are governing the production, handling and sale of cannabis and cannabis-related products. These regulations also extend to how it's marketed and consumed, and they are so dynamic that they vary across the entire country. Businesses will certainly be willing to pay for legal advice and consulting, especially for partners and firms with this niche area of experience.
Related: How to Start a Cannabis-Focused Branding and Design Business
4. Start developing apps, websites and software.
As expected, there has been a sudden proliferation of online resources that cater to the cannabis industry, ranging from online apps that connect farmers with dispensaries to software that helps companies market their cannabis-related products. LeafLink, for example, offers a technology platform that connects brands with retailers, and MassRoots provides maps of local dispensaries to recreational and medicinal cannabis consumers alike. Last but not least, Kannatopia has taken the long road in creating the "Facebook of pot," a social media platform that connects marijuana users with businesses in the industry. Being able to market your background as a freelance app developer for cannabis-based businesses is sure to provide dividends in the short term as well as down the road as this boom continues.
These ideas may not seem like the most financially rewarding way into the cannabis biz, but when implemented properly, they could become a viable new income stream that allows you to sidestep some legal restrictions while pivoting your skillset into a rising industry.