Michael Zaytsev, author of the book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis, is uniquely qualified to advise anyone interested in joining the Green Rush. The New York City-based cannabis entrepreneur, activist, and co-founder of High NY, the city’s largest marijuana meetup, not only has personal experience to draw upon, but also a vast wealth of insights gleaned from extensive conversations with other cannabis industry leaders.
It was after spending years connecting with others in the community that Zaytsev decided to compile all of the insights into a book. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis features advice from 25 of the greenest and most successful entrepreneurial minds in the cannabis game, including Steve DeAngelo, Ethan Nadelman, and Betty Aldworth. It’s a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs—especially those who think that a hunger for money will deliver them to the mountaintop.
Zaytsev spoke to MERRY JANE to share five things that everyone entering the industry needs to know. Read on to improve your chances of a having a successful entrepreneurial career in the cannabis industry.
Activism is mandatory.
“Cannabis is the Internet of our generation, and it’s one of the biggest and most interesting opportunities for entrepreneurship that has come into existence in the last decade or so. I firmly believe that if you want to participate in the economic success of this industry, then you have to be an activist first.
“This industry would not exist had it not been for decades of activism—and we’re still in great need of activism, because prohibition is not over. For this industry to truly expand, it’s necessary for the business community to get involved with activism. Social entrepreneurship is the innovative force that will solve a lot of these problems.
“Anyone who’s had significant or meaningful success in this industry isn’t purely profit-driven—they’re social entrepreneurs, they’re working day and night because they want to see people get access to medicine, they want to see justice reform, or they believe in sustainable business and think that we should take care of the planet. Social entrepreneurship—responsible mission values-driven entrepreneurship—is going to characterize this industry in the long-term.”
“The biggest limits are the lack of quality research and the fact that people are still going to jail for selling pot. Both of those things are absurd, and frankly I’m amazed that people aren’t more outraged about those two things. There’s loads of evidence that suggests that cannabis is a safe medicine for a number of conditions. There’s certainly enough evidence that any rational person would support doing high-quality research, the same kind that’s done on every pharmaceutical or medicine. And, in half the country, if you’re selling cannabis, although it’s still federally illegal, you’re now an entrepreneur, a job creator, someone who is keeping their municipal government funded, and you’re doing a lot of positive economic activity. But, in the other half of the country, you’re a felon for the same exact behavior.”
It’s not hard work—it’s harder work.
“It’s crazy how powerful the stigma against cannabis is, there’s a ton of people who come into this industry and assume it’s going to be a walk in the park to do business with cannabis, but in reality, it’s pretty difficult. Every successful cannabis entrepreneur I know is working around the clock because they have a lot of demand and growth that they have to work hard to meet. Because of some of those other challenges, like banking, it makes it harder to run a $10 million business when everything is in cash. This industry is no joke, and the competition is only going to get fiercer, which is why I encourage people who are looking to get involved to do it as soon as possible.”
You can’t do it alone.
“It’s extremely difficult for anyone to start and scale a successful business on their own—you need help. I always say that entrepreneurship is a team sport, in cannabis especially. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed with the cannabis industry is that it’s a people-driven business. I guess that since it comes from this underground legacy, you have to know the people who have the expertise or the relationships and resources.”