No matter what anyone tells me, the clear reason why so many people are excluded from the market, going from one system to another, or from the black market to a licensed facility, is not a lack of skill, knowledge, or professionalism, it is a reflection of big money forcing terrible measures through the willing ignorance of the public - at the advantage of immoral government agents [that use everything from prison, small arms, and nuclear weapons to assure their extortion and control is not questioned - nor are their ‘stakeholders’ offended]. There is a very big difference between regulation and government reinforced monopoly [See ‘Mao’ for historical data]. As well as a lack of legalization and instead the act of ‘decriminalization’ [whatever that means].
The answer is no. There is no current clear path. It will be case-by-case. There are somewhat easier states and easier paths, it will always depend on the actions of that state, but without proof of concept and an above ground resume, the odds are increasingly less as each day passes [that they will achieve a license, investment, or employment]. I would say the most clear method to advancement at this point is to be overly prepared, humble, or quit.
In Washington State for example they stated that they would ‘look the other way’. They did. They allowed people to bring in their plants over the course of two weeks after inspection without traceability. All kinds of things that made the medical growers and underground growers feel warm fuzzies that things would work out for them. They held a fictional lottery for Retail licenses [selling to the public] but had an open policy for a short window for Wholesale licenses [growing]. The requirements were not to bad at a glance - but the fine print and ‘emergency rulemaking’, in the end, excluded most people without solid financial backing and most of the black market dealers failed because they could not source their income / savings [no seasoned funds with a history]. This included, importantly, the dispensary owners in the state [whoa, right? But they had a legal operation, right?]. This was possible because of the financial requirement put forth you had to meet. Why can’t you have a small operation that is just a small family owned business? That is easy forensics to pass. They also acted as financial planners - deciding who they thought had a good business plan and who didn’t. That is just one mild example of what took place - the list goes on so long it hurts my head. So they need to plan to fight and they need to plan to have lawyers, above board investors or lots of money from their day job, etc. There is a lot to it. If even possible - look at Florida…
Further, the statements people make that this is a ‘new and exciting industry’ are offensive. That is the equivalent of the state legalizing prostitution and since it is now taxed and condoms are required under regulatory guidelines - this must be a ‘new and exciting career opportunity in a brand new unknown world that is learning to have sex as it goes’. “Want a career as a stripper? Come and join our team. No stripping experience required. Minimum two years in tap dance and a degree in underwater pottery required. Be able to lift 50 lbs and file my taxes for me. $10,000 a year and dental.” As though decades of others succeeding in this business has somehow been deleted from the matrix and they hold the keys to reinventing the wheel [in to a square in most cases].
I find it disrespectful to those that came before them. Last week the government was ready to put me in prison for my ‘industry experience’ and now I am just lucky to be underpaid by you or to follow your poor regulations? Oh, please… So I think a lot more respect is due to the history, bravery, and survival of those that ignored the law when the law was immoral. However, the government and a lot of investors see them as dangerous and usually, leading up to and just post passage, demonize them [and everyone else not in the newly forming boyband] as much as possible [and the local news will love to ignore the good voices and join in the pro monopoly chorus]. “Applicants may not have any prior drug convictions.”
I personally was able to go from the black market [sort of], to ‘lawfully’ growing with medical recommendations, to ‘lawfully’ growing under ‘new regulations’. At no point was I not considered a criminal regardless [to this day]. The only people that will have escaped that insanity will be those that now enter industrial hemp. It isn’t as comfy as one might imagine. In a sense, we are all black market just sort of shifted to gray. These regulations are terrible. Beyond the damage of poor regulation I detect no difference in the skill set required to perform a role or to profit from experience. There is nothing unique about the Cannabis community as a whole that is more or less equipped, will succeed or fail [naturally] more or less, than any other community. The Cannabis community is the world’s largest subculture and reflects the population as a whole [every style and sector]. The same people that would fail in the Cannabis industry to make correct decisions and form proper planning are the same people that would likely fail with any other startup for the exact same reasons. Some if it is just luck. Everyone deserves the opportunity to fail. I, for one, will not disrespect history or people and assume that ‘black market’ would somehow mean ‘incapable’. If anything, without such experience, good luck when the budget gets really tight, “Harvard.” Ever fix a ballast? No, you will recommend to your employer more people with more special titles are hired to make up for your lack of knowledge [in actually running the operation].
So, if someone comes to me, and tells me that they are a black market grower, or extractor, or whatever the case may be, I am all ears, and will make the best judgement that I can based on my own experience. Their resilience alone might be valuable to me [as well as their ability to read situations, spot a liar, and hustle]. The problem is that a lot of the people that run these companies and do the hiring do not know how to detect fact from fiction or even what the correct questions to ask might be. They also do not have any street smarts in most cases and cannot determine if this person is a ‘criminal’ or if they will ‘jeopardize the operation’ with their ‘old ways’. ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ does not compare to, ‘I saw a Russet Mite. What is your response?’ or ‘the crop suffered a botrytis infection. What is your process to remediate and what changes do you expect to see in the lab results?’ - The other problem is how many people got burned at the start by the claims made by people that ‘looked and dressed the part’ but had no experience or business acumen when the rubber hit the road [“but he looked like a stoner!”]. They cannot ask the right questions - because they do not know the answers themselves to confirm. Most of the time I am in a job interview, with someone in charge, at current, I easily recognize that I must attempt to educate them in general, let alone on anything complex, for them to even start to understand my value, which they may never be able to understand [maybe a decade from now]. Some of my latest interviews though went very differently - oddly, it wasn’t that either of these two potential employers were more experienced than the others - flat out, they were just wiser people that had really done their research and had very clear and defined [detailed] goals.
So they will have a tough time, at this point, on all fronts.
It can be done though. It has been done many times. It is just a matter of planning, playing the game, and putting the right team [and money] in place to get through the licensing process.
Also, I like to remind people that turning your passions or hobbies into a job is not always the best idea. It sounds great on paper. I just so happen to love what I am doing but for reasons beyond the passion for the plant or end user. If that were not the case I would not participate. When I look out at a canopy I do not think to myself that I am impressed, or happy to help people, or anything like that, that is a forgone conclusion, so my mind is instead focused on the concept that if that nice person I met in accounting is going to put food on the table for their children, this week, next year, ten years from now, that is on me, and my job is to defend these assets and ensure that is possible. That is amplified the more ownership you have. I might bring all kinds of things to the table, that is good, that helps me survive and be useful to others, but at the end of the day I am an insurance policy that costs a small percentage of the operations goals, and fills enough responsibility to reduce the necessity for additional employees. So yes, an underground grower can get in to the industry, just consider how far you want to go, and how willing you are [I had to suffer a lot to go from one end to the other and that includes impacts on my family]. There is nothing wrong with making enough money per year for you and your family, serving up good products, and staying small [if the government will let you] - So remind them of that, and what really matters, that they do not need to shoot for the moon or become the ‘Bill Gates of Cannabis’. Also, note that the ‘thrill’ will be gone and replaced with “TPS Reports” and “I cannot seem to get this label to print right in…”