When the federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 began to scare off would-be entrepreneurs, Cassandra Farrington, CEO and co-founder of a brand new marijuana trade newsletter didn't blink. She and her business partner "kept the ...
Cassandra Farrington, CEO, Marijuana Business Daily speaking at the 2016 MJBizCon in Las Vegas
When the federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 began to scare off would-be entrepreneurs, Cassandra Farrington, CEO and co-founder of a brand new marijuana trade newsletter didn't blink. She and her business partner "kept the lights on" in their small Denver publishing house while their only competitor went dark. They ended up building what they hoped would be "The Wall Street Journal" of legal cannabis.
"It always made sense to keep going," says the former Citigroup exec who helms the website, print and email publication Marijuana Business Daily, a.k.a., MJBiz Daily, plus its mega trade conference that will draw more than 14,000 attendees next month in Las Vegas. The Marijuana Business Conference & Expo is the largest B2B gathering in the burgeoning landscape of legal weed and was named to Trade Show Executive's "Fastest 50" the last two years. With 843% overall growth across its verticals in 2016, MJBiz Daily won accolades as a top media company by Inc., landing on its Inc 5000 list.
"We're not a lifestyle publication or a culture magazine or a celebration of the plant type publication. We are truly all about the dollars, cents, actions, partnerships: the business side of the industry," Farrington explains of her company's position in a market that has seen an explosion of media startups devoted to covering all aspects of legal weed like Merry Jane, Weed Week, Green Rush Daily, and Marijuana Investors News. With some form of pot legalized in 29 states plus the District of Columbia and consumer spending across North America projected to jump from $6.7 billion to $20.2 billion in 2021, the race is on to cash in on cannabis.
"It is a huge industry, not just in the United States, but globally and getting bigger every day," says the mom of two who laughs that she was "outed" to her neighbors and friends as a cannabis entrepreneur one evening as she was co-leading her daughter's Girl Scout troop meeting. It was November 2012, in the days following Colorado's historic vote to end pot prohibition and after the local media covered MJBiz Daily's very first conference in her hometown. That night, curious parents recognized her from the news. One dad shyly asked if he could take her to coffee to learn more about the industry. Another parent wanted advice on where to buy a joint.
"Between those two interactions, I was like, 'This is going to be just fine," she recalls.
In the years since, the legal market has swelled and so has the appetite for business content. Farrington saw early on that founders and investors venturing into the new terrain of legal marijuana needed news and timely information to navigate the changing scene. When a 2011 article in The Atlantic reported there were more marijuana dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks, she and her partner knew they were on to something big.
"We had a set of criteria that we judged everything against. Is [an industry] growing at a certain pace, at least 7% a year? Does it have a certain number of actual businesses with actual employees, not solo entrepreneurs or consultants or individuals, but people who actually have to make payroll every two weeks or every month? Pay rent on a facility that sort of thing that shows their level of investment," she explains of the metrics they used to measure the market. What they discovered was a demand for unbiased news affecting the practical aspects of running a business, including tax policy, licensing and regulation.
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