The Cannabis Career Institute held its first-ever East Coast seminar in Boston earlier this month, offering local cannabusiness hopefuls a daylong crash course in Cali-style marijuana commerce. Tickets to the event sold for $250 apiece, but CCI managed to fill every seat in their Hilton conference room — maintaining a class size of about 40 students throughout the day.
Other than a handful of mostly older women, the crowd was predominantly male. One handed me a business card for his grow-supply store as I pondered the possible backstory of a gray-haired man with crutches. I also met multiple cannabis consultants, dudes selling advice on everything from plant nutrients to nonprofit business status.
During a lesson on bud tending, a youngish cultivator started telling me about his plants in a thick Boston accent. He showed me a video on his smartphone, of an old grow looking more like a jungle than the contents of a closet. He says he now uses tents to grow indoors.
But long before we reached the segment on cultivation, CCI founder Bob Calkin advised the prospective patients and profiteers alike that the first step toward building a marijuana business plan is identifying your niche and determining your role in the market.
At CCI's event, like other marijuana business seminars I've attended in Boston, I repeatedly heard insiders saying that they wouldn't need to start a business directly related to selling bud in order to profit from the impending marijuana boom.
One cited a phrase I've been hearing nonstop since Question 3's passing: "You don't sell gold in a gold rush." True entrepreneurs, the phrase implies, sell picks and shovels.
Consider: if you're really dead-set on opening one of the first dispensaries in Mass, you need to have the liquid capital necessary to fight for a license. But if you're already a plumber or electrician, you could cash in on consulting and construction for grow-ops. If you're a real-estate agent, you could track down properties fit for future dispensaries.
"Fun as the world of cannabis is, it is deadly serious," reads the first page of CCI's course book. "If you want to be a part of it, you had best be armed with every weapon you can muster. We hope to offer you an arsenal."
The traveling marijuana school's messaging suggests it's never too early for cannabis entrepreneurs to learn everything they can about the business.
"See how he knows about growing, even though he's not a grower?" Calkin asked the class while we watched a video of Jason Scoby — a California medical-marijuana patient and founder of the Orange County education center Cannabis State — identifying and grading different cannabis strains based on the smell and appearance of buds.
But while lessons on deep-water-culture hydroponic growing and finger-hash sidebars may seem a bit premature for Massachusetts, one guest lecturer said her private classes on homemade medibles (like cannabis tinctures, salves, and lip balms) have already been filling up. During lunch, she chatted with other attendees, sharing stories about ditching pharmaceuticals and aiding ailments with homemade medicine.
Having found his niche in cannabis educating, Calkin outlines his curriculum in a massive course book covering everything from patient compliance to hydroponic horticulture and dispensary management — plus enough edibles recipes to draft a restaurant menu.