The cannabis industry no longer operates on the fringes of society. Since the approval of California’s Prop 64 — greenlighting the state’s recreational cannabis market – there has been a surge in consumer interest in this new industry, much of it spurred by the positive impact of tax dollars in their respective communities.
According to the California Department of Tax and Free Administration, recreational cannabis sales generated more than $74 million in the Q2 2018, an increase of 22 percent over the previous quarter. That’s money currently being used to fund roads and schools and educational initiatives. California’s economy is a humming marvel of modern commerce, and the cannabis industry is now a vital part of that story.
But the true success stories are coming from cannabis industry leaders who are forming connections in the community, winning the hearts and minds of those skeptical of the benefits beyond tax revenues.
“I think it’s a perception thing,” explains INDUS Holding Company co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Robert Weakley. “This industry still has a perception issue and it’s going to take a while to overcome that.”
“We have to be out there in the community. We can have a perception that we’re making money, but how do we give back?”
Weakley, who co-founded INDUS Holding Company in 2014, is an active member of the Monterey Business Council and sits on the Board of Directors for the Monterey County Boys and Girls Club. INDUS is also part of the California Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association (CCMA), a statewide network which, among other things, helps the company build relationships beyond its home base in Salinas.
The way Weakley sees it, civic involvement is closely intertwined with business, and what’s good for the community will be good for the culture his organization is building. At the same time, forming relationships with community groups, local and state leaders gives INDUS a seat at the table during conversations about regulations and the best way to move the industry forward.
“We are very fortunate. We have to be involved so we can continue to evolve that perception that this is a mainstream industry. That any mother, father, or grandparent could be using this product. In California, that stigma has changed greatly.”
To further his point, Weakley has assembled a team of executives that bears no resemblance to the outdated “stoner” stereotype, including former Salinas Police Department chief Kelly McMillin, a board member for the California Cities Violence Prevention Network and a representative to the U.S. Department of Justice National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
The cannabis community, according to Weakley, is booming with talented individuals who come from other industries and have already formed connections with national organizations and nonprofits. This integration builds trust and creates opportunity on all sides.
“Locally, it’s about volunteering, showing up at city council meetings, becoming involved,” Weakley says of the connection between cannabis and the community. “Look at where you can get involved, know the regulations, and be passionate about what you do, while staying open to meeting new people and accepting their ideas.”