The Legalization Leaders (Before the Lawmakers)

Cannabis has come a long way in the past decade. It was only five years ago that Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana. Colorado Amendment 64, which was passed by voters on November 6, 2012, led to legalization in January 2014. Soon after, Washington followed in its footsteps, then Oregon, and most recently California. The cannabis industry is changing and evolving right before our very eyes. It’s pretty amazing to see.

But who is responsible for making these big leaps and bounds? Technically, it’s the lawmakers who sign off on it last, but what happens before then? Who are the cannabis entrepreneurs swaying their minds? There needs to be enough positive buzz around cannabis for the laws to change. Our only hope is that these entrepreneurs keep fighting to make cannabis legal in all 50 states, and possibly around the world.

Karson Humiston – Vangst Talent Network

For our first entrepreneur changing the cannabis industry, let’s look at Karson Humiston, the CEO of Vangst Talent Network, which is ranked as the leading company in cannabis recruiting resources. She started the company in 2015 after attending a cannabis trade show where she recognized the huge need cannabis companies had for employees. Now, she recruits for

  • chemical engineers
  • botanists
  • marketing managers
  • outside sales representatives
  • accountants
  • retail store managers — and more!

As of 2018, Vangst has 31 employees and hundreds of clients. For a while there it seemed like the American economy was rapidly going downhill. Maybe it still is in terms of employment opportunities, which is why Karson is such an icon. She created new openings in an industry that once seemed so taboo and negative. According to Forbes, Vangst grew 567% between 2016 and 2017 and is on track for an even larger growth increase between 2017 and 2018. No big deal.

“I definitely stumbled into what has become my purpose in life: helping others find careers they’re super excited about,” Karson told Forbes. “The average person will spend over 90,000 hours at work (over a third of their life), yet 72% of people aren’t happy or inspired by their career! At Vangst, our goal is to help people land and thrive in their dream job.” Sign us up!


Jonathan Barlow – Cannabis Practice Group

Our next entrepreneur is Jonathan Barlow. He’s Senior President at the Cannabis Practice Group, a Detroit-based consulting firm in the cannabis business marketplace. It was his hard work and passion for medical marijuana that got his city to opt into Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Facilities and Licensing Act (MMFLA). Jonathan comes from a background of community work and service, and has been helping urban communities around Detroit for more than 10 years. He sees the positive influence medical marijuana could have on Detroit’s economy and growth.

“In 2018, if we are able to get the state of Michigan to pass full legalization, the Detroit public school system could benefit from $40 million or more in marijuana taxes to fund our struggling schools,” he told Forbes. “We are also teaching minorities about the entrepreneurial benefits of entering the canna-business and how to benefit from this green rush. We have helped several minority business owners open dispensaries by consulting with them and providing training, legal representation, and other services.”

Richard Huang – Cloudious9

If you have an idea or concept that could change the cannabis industry but have no idea when or where to jump in, listen to Richard Huang’s advice. He’s the co-founder of Cloudious9 (a vaporizer company) who left his mark on the rising vaping trend. It was Richard’s genius idea to combine your standard vape with a built-in water filtration system. He claims the cannabis industry is a “boom town” but your idea has got to be original. “It’s not a gold rush, where just any fool can strike it big. You’ve got to know about the product, about business, and be passionate.”

Will Waldrop – Consultant

Will Waldrop, the CEO of a medical cannabis consulting service, has another tip. From what he’s seen in his company, Signal Bay Inc., there’s lots of room for growth in lab testing. “As demand for cannabis grows, so will product manufacturers’ need for accredited lab testing services,” he explains. The importance of lab testing should not be underrated, understated, or under-appreciated, as it related to public health. It’s vital that legal cannabis is tested for potency, pesticides, and chemicals. Cannabis can only help people if the plant itself is healthy and clean.

And the Research Says … Edibles

Bethany Gomez, Director of Research for a cannabis-focused market research firm, also offered some insight on where the industry is headed. Last year, she estimated that edibles sales would reach nearly $1.6 billion by the end of 2017, so clearly, cannabis-infused food is where it’s at. As she points out, “Infused products offer some of the greatest opportunities for entrepreneurship in the cannabis market.” Now would be a good idea to whip up a new cannabis recipe or cookbook.





Matei Olaru – Lift

But wait — there’s more! Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, a Canadian cannabis media and technology company, said beginner entrepreneurs can help by putting data in front of buyers and consumers. Without functional marketing tactics, how would anybody know about the benefits of cannabis? Half the battle is getting the message out there and convincing people to shop. “As the number of legal cannabis consumers increases exponentially, so will the opportunities for information and media companies.” That includes writing about cannabis in the newspaper, in magazines, and online. You could be marijuana journalist!

The Future of Weed is Now

If anybody has ever told you that it’s too late to get into the cannabis industry, they’re wrong! Cannabis entrepreneurs around the country are in agreement that now is the time to jump in and make an impact. You may not score big right away with millions of dollars in the bank, but you can make a difference. Cannabis can help people — it’s a fact. The more ways we can use cannabis to our benefit, the better. It seems we’ve barely scratched the surface, here. Despite the growing number of edibles brands and vaporizers, there’s always room for more masterminds and entrepreneurs. If you have the passion, the drive, and the ingenuity, you too can shape the world of cannabis entrepreneurship. If you can dream it, you can make it!

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