The Importance of Community in Cannabis

The Importance of Community in Cannabis

October 14, 2021 Written by Marcy Leventhal

Community is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. This sense of community applies to cannabis users on both a local and global level. It also applies to cannabis business owners on a municipal and national level. And now that cannabis is commonplace in so many states in the US, it applies to the neighborhoods and the states in which cannabis businesses operate. 

The “Cheech Club”, our dispensary staff in Wellfleet’s consumption club that they created to exchange experiences as they test new products, is a microcosm of the global cannabis consumer community. People all over the world use sites like Weedmaps, Leafly, and other social media-based groups and networks to share information about their favorite strains and products. They provide anecdotes about how the products made them feel, the duration and strength of the effects, and pricing. These conversations, both between our dispensary staff and between consumers all over the world, are important for a multitude of reasons. 

Cannabis remains classified by the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug, which places it in a group with other drugs that have no accepted medical application and a high propensity for abuse, such as heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Frustratingly, for those of us that exist in the disparity between federal classification and regulated substances, very little scientific research has been conducted and we are in an information vacuum. That pesky classification means there are excessive restrictions placed on the scientific community if they want to engage in cannabis research and therefore, there is a lack of available statistical and scientific data about cannabis, and its byproducts. What does this all mean? That the absolute best resource we have at this moment in time…is our community. 

As a consumer, you may well know that when casual conversation with a stranger turns to cannabis and you fall on the same side of the fence, you can generally expect an instant feeling of familiarity and common-ground with the person with whom you are discussing it. Whether you knew each other before becomes irrelevant and it is a seamless transition into, “What type do you like? What products do you prefer? Have you tried ______?”  or an intimate discussion about how it changed the quality of a sick friend or family member’s life at a time when they had no relief during a difficult health battle. The conversation is like going from strangers to friends. It is a bizarre phenomenon, though an exhilarating one, and all too common in cannabis. When you have few reliable resources in books or articles, and a general lack of good information out there in the ether, who can you turn to? The answer is the cannabis consumer community, which is ever-growing and highly informed. 

What about cannabis businesses? Why is community so important to us? The answer is rooted in psychology and evolution. For one, regulated Cannabis is so new, unique, and intense, the businesses operating within the confines of state-run programs need to congregate for a few reasons. The first one is very basic: to vent. Commiserating with your peers as you meet burdensome requirements, clear regulatory hurdles, and establish new standards is rewarding. As a business owner or operator, we feel validated when we hear that others were challenged by similar issues. We are able to support each other through particularly difficult situations (such as the challenge of operating during COVID times), and in some cases, offer tips and tricks to each other to assist in navigating the oft-tricky language and frequently evolving requirements of our local and state regulations. Notably, when rules are particularly unmanageable, together our business community can effect change. A local cannabis business may have a small voice, but a community of businesses will have a more impactful one. When cannabis businesses unite as a supportive community who all aim for sensible regulation and a robust marketplace, there is no question that more can be achieved on a regulatory level. 

Finally, why does this matter to the communities where cannabis operates? They will likely benefit from its presence, but that only matters if the neighbors feel comfortable and confident about the business and its leadership. While it seems clear that the trajectory of cannabis is changing on a national scale, there is still a contingent of the population who are either against cannabis and/or cannabis legalization. Though their opinion about cannabis may not change, regardless of compelling data about the lack of danger cannabis presents and the fiscal and social benefits of a regulated market, it is important to make them part of the conversation. People’s comfort level only changes with more information. Promulgating the message that we are a responsible, compliant business that cares about following the rules and providing safe, informative access to customers is the first step. The next is ensuring that the community knows that we are good neighbors.

In addition to running a transparent, well-organized business, we prioritize communication and community-based, philanthropic initiatives. We want open dialogue with community members and neighboring businesses, so we are able to address their concerns and needs. We understand, as do most cannabis businesses, that some people may not like us no matter what we do, but every time we are able to start a conversation with someone wary of cannabis, we have an opportunity to change the narrative. Making the community part of our operating strategy contributes to the overall legitimacy of the business. We exist to undermine (or hopefully eradicate) the black market. If the community doesn’t embrace and support us, we won’t be able to fulfill that purpose. 

Both our TERPS company community and our involvement in the communities where we are operating is so important to TERPS as we grow our business. Now that we are up and running in Wellfleet and will be opening several new locations, ensuring we are good stewards of the regulated cannabis industry is paramount. Community is the key to that goal.