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Five tips for growing and selling marijuana like a pro – from a university instructor

The developer behind a Canadian university’s online course for prospective cannabis professionals offers key advice for success in the newly legal business

A worker tends to cannabis plants. Growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale is not the same as running a professional operation, warns Tegan Adams. Photograph: Abir Sultan/Corbis/Corbis

A worker tends to cannabis plants. Growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale is not the same as running a professional operation, warns Tegan Adams. Photograph: Abir Sultan/Corbis/Corbis

Last modified on Wed 20 Sep 2017 19.44 BST

I f you’ve had enough of your nine-to-five’s wearying toil, perhaps a change of vocation is in order. The Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver can recommend an intriguing alternative starting this September: selling pot.

The shady-looking fellow on the corner will tell you that you hardly need a college diploma to sell weed for a living. But Kwantlen’s new 14-week online course will sculpt aspiring dealers into professionals in a robust – and newly legal – field.

The course promises to be a rigorous survey of the landscape of marijuana production and sale, educating prospective growers in everything from irrigation to marketing.

So what exactly makes for a good professional manager of marijuana for medical purposes?

I spoke with Tegan Adams, the programme’s developer and primary instructor, to get a clearer idea of what those eager for education in the discipline can expect.

1. Don’t rely on past experience

There were, of course, “various growers doing it long before it was legal” but even pot veterans find their expertise distinctly lacking. “People have done the best they can given the resources,” Adams says – but growing marijuana for personal use or illegal sale isn’t the same as running a professional operation. “I’ve noticed that there is a pretty big labor shortage in the marijuana industry,” says Adams. “That’s one of the major problems we’re facing right now: there’s no training anyone can take.”

She continues: “A lot of people have been growing for 20 years. That’s great. Chances are they are very knowledgeable about growing the plant. But when it comes to regulations, financials and everything to do with exchange, they have no idea how that part works.”

That’s where Adams and the programme come in. “Having a standardized education system is going to be important to the licensed producers and anyone doing it legally going forward.”

2. Get to know the logistics

Growing and selling marijuana the proper way is rather more difficult than simply popping a plant under a black light in your closet. Doing it right means planning to grow on a large scale – and planning to deal with large-scale problems.

“As with any agricultural crop,” Adams says, “there are going to be ongoing issues with pest management that you need to look at.” Energy consumption, too, poses challenges few people consider. “Indoor facilities especially have huge electrical bills,” Adams points out. “For a four- to five-thousand square foot place you’re looking at around $30,000 a month. That’s a lot. That’s $360,000 a year for the lights in just a small facility.”

A marijuana field. Photograph: Stephanie Paschal / Rex Features

Preparing for such eventualities is a key part of any business plan. “If you were going to grow any crop, you would sit down and make your production plan. You would look at how much money you would spend on different input, and also look at how your production and labour are going to work within regulations.” Of particular importance is the MMPR – the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which govern the production of pot for legal use and sale in Canada.

Then there are “environmental monitoring and sanitation issues” unique to the growing of weed. “I think the main challenge,” Adams concludes, “is that marijuana is an agricultural or horticultural crop but it’s being regulated from a pharmaceutical perspective. One of the major challenges is joining the agricultural and pharmaceutical ways of doing things.”

3. Build a client base – and keep them

“A lot of people are buying marijuana,” Adams says. “There’s no doubt about that.” But does that mean the would-be marijuana seller has a built-in clientele? Not necessarily. “It’s going to be quite competitive,” she warns. “There are conglomerates who have already joined. There’s some big money involved. And I think you’re going to see a lot of it move more in that direction.”

The solution? “We need to focus on consumer satisfaction. How do you get your messaging out to your patients? How do you retain them, make them happy, answer their questions? How do you get their loyalty?” Answering those questions, Adams says, is “how you’re going to stay in business in the end”.

One advantage the educated and licensed pot purveyor has over his illegal competitors is consistency. “With legal products you know exactly what you’re getting,” Adams says. “There are pesticide tests to make sure there are no residues on the plants. If you get it from an illegal supplier, those guys aren’t allowed to test their products. You have no idea what they’re putting on their plants. You don’t know how they’re handling it. If you get it from a licensed producer, you know that it’s clean and a lot safer.”

4. Build a boutique brand

With so much money in the marijuana game, it may be difficult for the independent supplier to stand out – unless independence is seized upon as a virtue.

“The main thing that’s important is to make a boutique brand rather than a mainstream one,” Adams says. “As long as that mom and pop store is able to market to its local consumers, it will stay in business. And people in its area may even buy more than they would from, say, Advil because they know them and trust them and like their brand.”

Legal in Canada … for medicinal purposes. Photograph: Alamy

But in the end, it comes down to loyalty and marketing: “With beer and wine the marketing and branding is important but the flavours really contrast. Marijuana strains vary, but in terms of actual flavouring there may be less variation. So it has to do with branding.”

If you’ve got a good product, you’ve got to get it into your customer’s hands and have them come back.

5. Be a well-rounded grower and seller

“I’ve done a lot of consulting work,” Adams says, “and one of the main issues that I see, especially in startups, is that there’s a knowledge gap between the marketing guys and the people on the ground. The people who work in the facility really need to be able to communicate with the patients and marketing side of things, and vice versa. It’s important that both sides understand each other.”

For the prospective grower that means knowing both the production side of the industry as well as the sales: you’ve got to be as good at producing pot as getting someone else to pay for it and smoke it.

For Adams, it’s about a union of personal assets. “You need to be someone who is able to balance technical abilities and social and communications skills,” she says. “Maybe understand numbers and look at finance and know what they need, but can you then go and talk to an upset customer and know what they need, too. That’s the key. Having both skills is necessary.”

The developer behind a Canadian university’s online course for prospective cannabis professionals offers key advice for success in the newly legal business

How much money can you make growing weed?

Growing weed is lucrative, as you may already know. But just how lucrative?

How much money can you for instance make with a spare room? Remember some UK police forces have pretty much claimed they are no longer pursuing small scale cannabis growers. There are even cannabis clubs operating with the agreement of progressive thinking local police.

A program on the BBC ‘hash in the attic‘ revealed all. This is quite an old program now so you can probably add a little to the projected income figures.

You could have 3 or 4 plants in a wardrobe, generating £2-300 every 3 or 4 months.

Using a spare room you can generate £10-15k ($16-24k) ever year.

You could generate 1 kilo every ten weeks, selling a little to friends (that’s what the program said!)

If you used a whole house you could have 5 crops per year at around £15k per crop – adding up to a pretty massive £70k ($116k) per year.

Industrial operations can easily make £400k ($663k) per year. That would be generating 30-50 kilos per crop. Each crop could be worth around £120k.

Another interesting fact the program brought up was that 1900 cannabis plants can make a huge £500k ($829k) every eight weeks!

And it’s so easy to buy your own cannabis seeds! Maybe they are trying to tell us something.

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is this a joke? this is more illegal than rape.

I’m not quite sure how one thing is more illegal than another – it is either legal or it is not.

I think if you look at the harm caused to people from either one rape is a whole lot worse than growing some weed.

It’s a plant, and if you have some space I would encourage you to grow some. It can save you having to come into contact with those ‘criminal elements’ that the government force us to go to by making a plant unlawful.

So no, it’s not a joke, it’s quite useful information actually.

And obviously, growing it is one thing. Moving it all, in such large amounts is a completely different affair (though certainly not impossible).

very nice blog DP
soon to come a website for activism – incredible how slow we all got politically here in the uk. look at norml in the US… – Nu labour has betrayed the pot people

@dope smoker
true shit, I like to save my weed seeds and put them in the dirt at random places I go. I’m kind of like a modern day Jonny Appleseed, if you will.

Thanks anon, I’m ready to help fight the good fight!

I grew some hydroponicly (6 plant crops a few times in my cupboard)
the cuttings were from a top quality Big Bud mother plant and those fuckers yielded huge returns.
Kept them small and compact via pruning/cutting back and they ended up as 1 massive bud
bout 2 oz a plant 😀

Hydropnics is easy to set up and maintain.real anal growers will say you have to have the PH at exactly 7,you must clean and re-feed the water every few days and have temprature control & fans etc

Yes this is true but for a small scale operation in a cupboard then it really isnt an issue.
Afterall weed and most variants are actually weeds and will thrive as long as they have light/CO2 and nutrients (either via hydroponics or the old fashioned potted with compost type)

Illegal does not = wrong, Legal does not = Right

Never a truer word (or two) spoken.

@Dick Smallington
Is it still good bud thou?

And if they made the wardrobe legal, problem solved, everyones happy. 😀

arrrrrrrrr the romance. i think most smokers like to ponder the idea of growing, but sit and think carefully, have u a loose tong, do u like showing off, have u got warrants, have u got gas/electric checks, do u have a private landlord? the list is endless, growing in this economic climate is risky stuff, also there are plenty of random events that can bring your grow to the attention of the law. what im saying is just flirt with the idea of doing a bit of jail, cause dude u gotta be prepared to do the crime and do the time (like me)and to finish this little chapter of realism if u own your home and have alott of STUFF they can confiscate the Lot under proceeds of crime(twats leave u with nothing)in it great growing, wait theres some one banging on my door……………………………………

Haha that’s funny u can make 12.grand every 3 months from just 2md100 trays and 2 600 watt lite in a decent size bedroom.

It’s such an established illegal market now, thanks to prohibition.

If you have a big private back garden you could probably do the same with virtually no costs..

More illegal than rape….I don’t think you would be spouting that if your sister, mother, or wife was brutally raped. Nothing to joke about a-hole.

I think he means that you would get more jail time if you were caught growing than you would if you actually raped somebody. Yes our priorities and justice system are pretty screwed up when growing or selling weed is considered more serious and more deserving of jail time than raping somebody.

How much money can you make growing weed? Growing weed is lucrative, as you may already know. But just how lucrative? How much money can you for instance make with a spare room? Remember some