Cannabis Is The Most Misunderstood Billion Dollar Industry In the World

Insights from an industry moving from Street Corners to Wall Street

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I woke up on Wednesday, June 21st ready

It was my final day of high school, and I was preparing to take an economics exam later that day. It was also the same day that I was preparing to move half-way across the world from a small town in rural Ireland to Toronto, Canada.

About 4 hours later after the completion of my economics exam, I found myself on the way to the airport (some 5 hours away to Dublin) to catch a flight to Toronto at 2.AM the next morning - all of this courtesy of reading a brilliant book called Narconomics.

Within this book, I found one of the most logical arguments that I had ever heard, an argument that we as a society should effectively embrace legalizing all drugs. This was not a moral argument, instead, it was a highly convincing argument based on economic theory and practical use cases from around the world, and I wanted to learn more.

After many months of diligent planning, I arrived in Toronto, slightly jet-lagged after more than 15 hours of travel. With less than $500 CAD in my bank account, I had a modest first few months upon my arrival in Canada, however, shortly afterward I found myself working as a budtender at a cannabis retail store in Vancouver, B.C.

Starting off at this ground level provided me with the best foundation that I could have asked for as an entry point into the cannabis industry, and it was from here that I worked tirelessly over the next two years to gain all of the insights that I craved into everything that encompassed the cannabis industry to learn exactly how it operated.

As I fast approach the three-year anniversary of my joining the cannabis industry. Here are the five biggest things I’ve learned over the last three years.

1. Assume everything you currently know about cannabis is wrong

When I first started working in the cannabis industry, I had little to no understanding of cannabis.

Although in the beginning, this seemed to serve as a significant disadvantage, with all of my initial interactions with customers being very uninformed, within four weeks of working as a budtender my understanding of cannabis had already surpassed everyone I was directly working with by virtue of assuming that I knew nothing, to begin with.

My own approach was to spend every moment on days off or wasn’t serving a customer in-store to read as much of the research that has been done on cannabis to date, of which there was surprisingly a lot more than what I had expected there to be.

2. Get very comfortable with constant change

One of the most important lessons I have learned from working within the cannabis industry is to get very comfortable with the idea of constant change.

In the three years that I have worked within the cannabis industry, I have seen the industry transition out of the black market into a fully federally legal framework - with cannabis stocks being traded on some of the most prestigious stock exchanges in the world, and with this, we have seen cannabis companies valuations experience meteoric rises and with this meteoric declines shortly afterward.

Although all of these changes may seem significant, I suspect that many of these changes will seem minor in comparison to some of the changes I see on the horizon for the cannabis industry in the coming years.

3. The best is yet to come

When I joined the cannabis industry three years ago working in the store below, what captivated me the most was not where the industry was at this point, what captivated me was where I thought the industry would be 20 years from now.

Here in Canada, it’s estimated that 15% of Canadians over the age of 15 have consumed cannabis within the past 12 months, while this number is 78.5% for those who have consumed alcohol.

As someone who no longer consumes alcohol in favor of consuming cannabis-derived products, I am perhaps blinded by my own basis here, however, the approach that I took to make this determination was simply by reading research.

Truthfully, when presented with the known evidence, going Cali Sober was the easiest decision I have ever made.

4. We stand on the shoulders of giants

Sometimes we have to look to the past to understand the future.

To understand the future of the cannabis industry I personally think it’s essential to understand the path that has brought us to where we are today.

This path has been paved by activists whose endless passion for this amazing plant has ensured that the draconian policies our politicians have sought to implement don’t prevail and that those who need access to cannabis will be provided that access.

There is also a long list of researchers to thank for providing the cannabis industry with the evidence that it needed to fights its case in court to prove that cannabis is not the cause of many modern problems, rather the solution.

5. An enormous regulatory burden

Regulations, regulations, regulations.

As someone who operates a cannabis business, operating in the industry is by no means an easy challenge as it requires a level of attention to detail that adds on significant costs to cannabis companies who choose to operate in the legal market.

In the long run, I personally think it’s inevitable that the legal industry will overtake the existing legacy markets that exist around the world today through cheer innovations, of which there is no shortage on the horizon.

In the meantime, all cannabis operators will have to operate within a high fragmented regulatory environment that will make it harder to expand into new markets at the rate which perhaps many would like to, however, many are already paving the way.

A final word.

In an industry whereby the only constant changes, it’s abundantly clear that the cannabis industry will undergo many additional changes in the coming years.

Courtesy of being a member of this community, my aim is to provide you with the most up to date information to allow you to understand all of the complexity that is the cannabis industry.

- Matthew O’Brien

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