Growing Opportunities From Problems

Exclusive MJNN Report by Dr. Rick Freeman

The emerging marijuana industry is all about innovation  – just like its underground parent was.  The very idea of legal weed is innovative, not to speak of all the ingenious growing and processing techniques and accouterments.  Innovators are growing this industry into a whole new world, applying adaptive, creative thinking to problem-solving and far beyond.   When meeting a challenge, the innovator goes beyond fixing the immediate problem to address the dysfunction that generates the problem in the first place.  The innovator transforms problems into opportunities and creates value in the process.

In this sense, the marijuana industry faces a giant opportunity – an opportunity that might seem like a problem.  The “problem” side of the opportunity is our recent bad press for being caught – repeatedly – selling pesticide-tainted products.  Colorado growers have attracted the most attention, and the press isn’t just local.  Here’s a doozie from the Huffington Post:  “Dangerous Pesticides Are Being Found in Colorado’s Weed.”  Here’s a story (separate incident) from USA Today: “Denver Halts Some Pot Sales Over Bug Spray Worries.”  Ugly.

But, that’s only the “problem” side of the equation.  The opportunity side offers an encouraging vision.  Please let me tell.

First of all, bad press is press, and it is free press.  Free press means free publicity, and publicity is a marketing asset.  In the end, people are looking, and they’re looking at us.  Some are seeking information; some are merely curious.  Others are lapping up evidence to support their contempt for marijuana; others for their unflagging support.  But, all of them are wondering what comes next, and hence, my next point.

In our hands we hold a juicy, engaging and unfinished story that is ours to complete.  If we don’t write the rest of the story, someone else will.   Better it be us.  And, that story has to carry a load.  It has to regain the trust of a large group of consumers who believe that buying marijuana in retail stores is risky.  Plus, it has to make consumers feel good about the industry and the social and environmental good that it’s doing.  And, of course, the story has to be interesting.

Fortunately for us, we have that story.  Our story is teeming with life, complexity and potential.  It’s about pairing marijuana agriculture with ecological pathways to grow clean, high-quality pot at commercial scale – sustainably and profitably.   It features designed agro-systems that mimic and interact with natural ecologies – systems with numerous advantages.  These systems invite natural pest-enemies to thwart mites and other pests, and they grow super-productive soils that accumulate organic matter and disease-thwarting biodiversity.   Through time, productivity and resiliency increase, and the systems require less effort to maintain – the reverse of conventional agro-stories.  What’s more, as scale increases, natural resiliency and natural defense mechanisms become more robust.  On the operations side, well-designed systems optimize labor, equipment and material flows, trimming wasted labor hours and saving tremendous costs over the years.  In this story, the grower combines ecological function with operational function to sustain the agro-system over decades.

This story of clean, sustainably-grown commercial marijuana has yet to be told.  It’s yet a vision for the future that combines the best of what we know with a bold optimism, and it is only one of many possible story lines that are emerging in the industry.  It’s really up to us to determine which story line we want to read about when we sit down to read the news – and what kind of products we want to eat or smoke at 4:20.