Marijuana Business Magazine - March 2018

I f you want grassroots support for your cannabis business in the age of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, you’d do well to form alliances within your local community. Getting neighboring shop owners and community leaders to take your side will not only help protect your business going forward, it will go a long way toward combating the stigma dogging the cannabis industry. To help move things along, host community events like food and cloth- ing drives, reach out to nearby businesses – both inside and outside the MJ industry – and make inroads with nonprofit groups. One industry veteran, in fact, insisted this is something every marijuana business owner should have been doing since Day One. “I hope that we’re not waiting for more pressure from the U.S. government before we do that as an industry,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, a cannabis consultant and former dispensary owner who’s campaigning to be Denver’s next mayor. A responsible marijuana business should strive to inte- grate itself into the community and go “above and beyond to re-create perceptions of the cannabis industry,” he added. Khalatbari has long advocated for businesses to become good partners in the neighborhood. To prove it to the community, he suggests marijuana business owners participate in local programs. A few examples: Hold trash cleanups along roadsides or in parks, host free bicycle repair clinics and offer space for urban gardens. This shows your neighbors that you are “willing to do things that other businesses simply wouldn’t,”Khalatbari said. He pointed to Berkeley Patients Group in California as a poster child for such efforts.The pioneering medical marijuana dispensary – which today also sells adult-use products – has worked hard to show the sur- rounding community that it provides a positive impact on the community. It has hosted free holiday events, including a Halloween party, and given out free cannabis to low-income patients. Khalatbari also recommends that cannabis business owners work with sympathetic nonprofits, faith-based organizations and social justice advo- cates to help advance the cause of bringing the industry into the main- stream. For example, a business could partner with churches to hold coat drives or canned-food drives during the holidays. “It really just puts us in a place where we show we’re just like any other business, or any other industry,”Khalatbari said. – Bart Schaneman A ttention marijuana business owners and investment funds: Be prepared for greater scrutiny from potential investors – and go the extra mile to reassure them. That’s the view of Jon Trauben, a partner at Altitude Investment Partners in New York, and Chet Billingsley, the CEO of California- based Mentor Capital. Both invested in plant-touching marijuana companies after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo. According to Trauben and Billingsley, marijuana businesses seeking investors will probably face more due diligence. Similarly, cannabis-minded investment funds raising capital will probably have to spend more time and effort educating apprehensive investors about wagering their money on marijuana. But all in all, raising capital shouldn’t be harder – although it already is much tougher than in mainstream industries. “The Sessions announcement was not a helpful statement,” said Trauben, whose firm in January invested in Canndescent, a Califor- nia cultivation company. “But it hasn’t changed our underlying thesis.” ORGANIZING ALLLIES GRASSROOTS SUPPORT Marijuana businesses need to educate nervous investors and provide reassurances they are complying with the law CALMING JITTERY INVESTORS FUNDING By Omar Sacirbey The New Normal Kayvan Khalatbari is a cannabis consultant and former dispensary owner. Chet Billingsley is founder and CEO of Mentor Capital. 68 • Marijuana Business Magazine • March 2018