retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The growth of the medical marijuana industry has been enormous over the past few years and it is fascinating, when one is in the place where it is legal, to see how dispensaries are popping up on various corners.

I went into my first medical marijuana shop a few weeks ago when I was in Boulder, Colorado; I was feeling fine and didn't have a prescription, but I'd never been in one and I was curious. What was most interesting to me was the fact that this dispensary seemed more like a private bank or a really exclusive doctor's office than I expected.

But I never really thought about where the marijuana was coming from.

Which made the piece this weekend in the Sacramento Bee particularly Eye-Opening...because it detailed how "a rush to profit from patient demand for pot has resulted in irresponsible forest clearing, illegal stream diversions, and careless pesticide and fertilizer use that has polluted waterways and killed wildlife."

The story goes on to note that "the problem has become so big and so unregulated that the California Department of Fish and Game has resorted to aerial surveys to assess its scale. It has a new high-resolution, computer-controlled camera mounted in the belly of an aircraft to help pinpoint problem marijuana areas," and points out that the emergence of marijuana farms has been, in some areas, astounding.

To be clear, this is not always the case. Some growers are religious about being environmentally responsible. But there are both legal and illegal growers who are less so, and who, in their approach to the land, are careless and irresponsible, creating problems both current and potential: "The environmental problems they create are similar, in large part because the state's ability to regulate marijuana cultivation remains hazy. Though state law makes it legal to grow and use medical marijuana, it provides little guidance on how to regulate it.

"In addition, medicinal grows remain illegal under federal law, putting state and local agencies on uncertain ground when they attempt to set limits."

I was surprised by all this. Not sure why, but I was sort of working under the premise that legal growers of marijuana were behaving within a legal and organic framework. But the reality is, not so much.

It is a great business lesson in the importance of context - of understanding that sometimes how a product is created can be important as what it does, and understanding that if you cut corners on how you produce a product, it can become a headline in a newspaper and a topic for social media.

Context matters. Always. It's an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: