When the Professional Goes to Pot

I suppose I need a mental purge. So I figure it would be best to summarize my life in the cannabis industry…with a pre-quel.

What seems like a lifetime ago, I was a new MBA who started a successful medical sales career. Life was good for a lot of years, well, money was good, my marriage to a complete narcissist was volatile, but manageable. Years later, and countless regulatory changes, my pay began to dwindle, and we were in a good place financially, so I took a chance on myself and started my own business in the natural foods industry. Truth be told, I was a better than average cook, and people loved my food, so I turned it into a business that would last 5 years before I would need a large injection of funds (since I had exhausted my own). So I had to make a decision – do I go back to medical sales and settle back into a career I never truly wanted, or do I do something I’m passionate about? I chose the latter.

Even Before All of That

When I was 29, I tried marijuana for the first time and aside from the high being wildly enjoyable, the relief I felt from my constant struggles with anxiety can only be described as life-changing. I knew I loved this plant for all it stood for and since I live in Colorado, there was no better place to parlay all I had learned to help the cannabis industry become a success. From the moment I set out on this journey I have met with great successes in some ways, and wild failures in others.

From the industry perspective, I have been successful in selling brands to dispensaries, supporting them, and building business. The only problem is, most cannabis businesses don’t understand basic business practices, and many players from other states don’t understand how the industry truly works…they simply see dollar signs. Allow me to explain, I had taken a major pay cut and settled into a company as a sales rep, but they had never even written down a marketing plan, done market research, properly forecasted territory yields, you know, done the basics of structuring their marketing plan and execution strategy…but somehow had millions of dollars invested in them. So, when the opportunity to work for a seemingly well-funded cannabis tech company based in Connecticut came along, I thought it would be my time to shine…and it was, for 10 months. I was managing the sales team, and their performance was substandard, to say the least…so I went out and started selling.

I suppose this is where I should mention that my first paycheck bounced.

I closed 14 accounts in my first 60 days and was promised shares in the company. Needless to say, those never materialized. The company paid payroll via PayPal, which was a huge red flag I ignored for the sake of a “start up.” I still have never seen a paystub from them (which is illegal in the State of Colorado). As time moved on, the sale became harder and harder, simply because the company didn’t have the end-user presence it needed to be successful…not to mention that the data they were truly selling was completely meaningless to the industry. I persevered, even though they could not seem to secure funding and payroll was iffy every two weeks. Then, all of a sudden, management began to change and somehow, they thought their attorney could do my job better than me…so I was informed by company-wide email that he was taking my position.

The attorney tried to bilk me for all of my sales and industry knowledge, which I never divulged in its entirety. That was, after all, my competitive edge. Within two weeks I was released from my employment agreement. That’s when I learned that the woman who founded the company had legal issues of her own. Her husband was recently found guilty in a high-profile $300 million “pump and dump” securities fraud scheme…he was not only found guilty, but found to be “the ringleader.” She was mildly implicated, as she did the marketing for his scheme, but was never charged. Which explains why she used her maiden name. You see, once upon a time he was married to a Hollywood A-Lister, which made a simple Google search of his name explode with results. I had never thought to Google the owners, I suppose that’s generational…lesson learned. Anyway, I sought unemployment and their attorney turned VP of Sales said that my performance is why the company was floundering. They were literally putting their $1.64 million dollar raise solely on the sales department. Needless to say, I was awarded unemployment, even though I never collected it.

This is when I began consulting in the industry as a marketing and sales strategist, but quickly learned that by the time companies made their way to me, it was almost too late. They needed miracles to save their brands, and establishing relationships and sales takes time…sometimes 6 months, which isn’t unusual for new sales representation in any industry. Some of the time I was selling ice to eskimos, but I was doing it and that, to me, proved that I knew what I was talking about. 90 days later, I was contacted by the company in Connecticut asking me to come back…I guess my performance wasn’t as bad as they liked to make out. I listened and politely declined.

Anyway…

During my consulting, I’ve had cannabis brands use my services and never pay, I’ve had brands tell me they have no competition, honestly, I think I’ve heard it all…and I’ve watched those brands run out of money due to poor structuring, or entrepreneurial faux pas. But these industry challenges aren’t the point of this post. What most people don’t know about me is that my ex-husband and I separated when I had to make the tough decision to close my food business. He was angry at me for so many things, primarily, investing our money in the business…which he had happily supported for 5 years. I knew our marriage was a sham long before that day, so our separation was mutual. Since then, he has supported the household while I awkwardly tried to find my new career path. I am thankful to him, but it didn’t come without a price.

What Price? you ask.

I have been subjected to countless verbal beatings, including what a “piece of shit loser” I am, how I “can’t hold down a job,” how “worthless” I am…you name it, I’ve heard it. But he continues to support the household, at least for 2 more months…so in a way, I have to put up with it until our financial agreement is over. Well, yesterday, my client informed me that they are almost out of money, even though they just made the changes necessary to successfully penetrate the market. So now, I am out of a job…and was once again subjected to a barrage of hateful words from my Type A ex-husband…who, by the way, walked away squeaky clean in our divorce, with the exception of having to give me a bunch of money.

To Summarize The Point of This Post

I love the cannabis industry, and I love its mission…but if you’re looking for stability, this may not be the right place, unless you can find one of the few, stable companies out there. But I’m compelled to mention, from my market research, I’m watching some of the founding/cornerstone brands lose market share, so I suppose nothing is “stable.” My advice to those looking to get into cannabis because of its growth potential and exciting media image…be prepared for anything, work hard, thicken your skin, and hold on…it’s a wild ride!

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