Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Zoned Properties, Inc., a strategic real estate development firm.
Across the United States, hundreds of cities, towns and counties are discussing and deciding the fate of local planning and regulatory code for the emerging cannabis industry. The results of those conversations will have a tremendous effect on billions of dollars in real estate transactions and investments over the next decade. While most people may not pay close attention to local planning decisions, the lagging effects on various industry metrics are significant, and even more so when it comes to emerging and highly regulated industries such as cannabis.
Those lagging effects can cause a significant shift in the targeted locations for real estate transactions, investor land grabs and development projects. These shifts have the potential to restrict or encourage a flood of investment dollars into local economic development where regulatory bodies have either allowed, denied or delayed zoning authorization and permitting of regulated cannabis development projects.
While you may read about some of these local regulatory decisions in the headlines, the vast majority are happening under the radar. Most local planning authorities or commissions are made up of local community members individuals just like you and me. And providing for an optimistic view on the circumstances, most of these representatives genuinely want to do what is best for their community and for their neighbors whose livelihoods depend upon how that community is regulated and managed. In the cannabis industry, the core of these debates comes down to whether or not regulated cannabis will be a good thing or a bad thing for the community.
The challenge in answering this question comes from where the basis of information is sourced and the time frame in which facts are presented. These are the puzzle pieces that will guide the opinions and ultimately the votes to determine the local laws and regulatory codes that will allow, deny or delay the development of regulated cannabis in each local jurisdiction. A lot of the information presented during these local discussions has a very strong likelihood of being biased, outdated or simply taken out of context, depending on who is presenting that information and what their agenda may be for doing so. The reason this happens is often simply because it takes a long time to turn a large ship. The cannabis industry has been subject to propaganda for decades, and even the best-intentioned community members on both sides of the discussion are likely to fall victim to various biases. But new studies, facts and data are uncovering positive new information about cannabis and society on a regular basis these days.
So how do we present accurate information and encourage productive discussion and discourse at the local level, which can have such significant impacts on the community and its economic development?
We must keep pushing forward with objective education on the subject, and keep an open mind to new information, both the good and the bad, putting aside our own bias. On a case-by-case basis, we are watching in real-time as dozens of state-by-state case studies unfold that will help form our knowledge and help answer the long-debated question of whether or not regulated cannabis will be good for our communities and, thus, influence a tremendous amount of local development, entrepreneurship opportunity and tax dollars.
Here are a few key strategies and tactics for real estate professionals and investors operating in regulated industries like cannabis when it comes to the local community:
1. Educate yourself constantly: Stay up to date on new information that comes quickly in regulated cannabis. One of my favorite resources is Marijuana Moment, and educational specialists in the industry are paving new frontiers with mainstream partners such as Green Flower.
2. Participate in state and local community discussions: Now, most state-legalized cannabis programs have organized web pages and email updates that aim to communicate to their constituents, such as the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division or the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
3. Be patient, respectful and kind: Very often, the best tactic for advancing difficult discussions in local regulatory debate is to simply apply the golden rule, and make sure to frame your arguments and objectives in a way that others can understand and may even be persuaded to agree with out of mutual respect.
4. Be honest and transparent: At a community level, it is essential that real estate developers engage in honest and transparent discussions and interactions with regulatory officials and local community members. Nothing puts a project at greater risk than misleading a local community and jeopardizing the project down the road.
5. Understand the risks: The titanic paradigm shift that is happening with the transition of cannabis from the legacy marketplace to the regulated marketplace will take time and will be turbulent; understanding these risks is critical in real estate development and investment in the regulated cannabis industry.
I am more optimistic than ever that we are heading in the right direction for both our communities and for regulated cannabis, and that’s a great thing for the future of real estate in emerging and highly regulated industries.