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Tough Times, Tough Truths

Cannabis has an identity problem that better regulations alone can’t fix.




IT WAS A ROUGH year in cannabis. In the U.S., comprehensive federal reform never materialized. Cannabis stocks took a deeper tumble in 2022. When we put our ear to the ground on Main Street, we heard the depressing sound of too many shutters closing on too many licensed dispensaries and shops.

When things are as difficult in an industry as they are now in cannabis, conflicts that simmered during good times start coming to a boil. The biggest clash is a battle for the very soul of cannabis as a business. The ideological struggle between artisan producers and corporate cannabis has been baked in from the start of the legal industry —but now it feels like the knives are out for real.

In his column this issue (p52), Andrew DeAngelo explores the tension between the pursuit of “scale” in cannabis production and distribution, versus goals of quality and sustainability reflected in smaller grows and craft products. For the counter perspective, see our interview with Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin (p30).


In other industries, scaled-out giants and small-batch producers can co-exist. There’s rooom in the market for both Budweiser and Fiddlehead Brewing Company, winner of Brewbound’s Craft Brewery of the Year in 2022.

But the legal cannabis markets in the U.S. don’t yet function like the beer market. Licenses are scarce and expensive to acquire. The vertical integration model pursued by the MSOs prevents the largest retailers of cannabis from selling third-party product that could be supplied by smaller producers. Imagine a grocery chain that only sold Coors!

It feels like a wild forest canopy is enveloping the industry—there’s too little sunlight to be had and too many individuals fighting each other to access it. The model isn’t working. Can we fix it?

Damon Poeter

5 Smart Tips From This Issue

  1. How you handle the aftermath of a big retail date like Valentine’s is just as crucial as the event itself. (Planning Calendar, p12)
  2. Nothing makes a more immediate impact on your store’s floor and merchandise appeal than a lighting upgrade. (Planning Calendar, p12)
  3. Part ways the right way. Treat departing workers with understanding and respect—you may change their minds and you will boost your rep as a good place to work. (Tip Sheet, p46)
  4. Consider cash bonuses for staff birthdays. Greenbacks in an envelope convey that personal touch of consideration. (Tip Sheet, p46)
  5. March 23 is World Puppy Day—a great chance to host bring-your-pet store promotions. (Benchmarks, p50)

Damon Poeter is the editor-in-chief of Global Cannabis Times, produced by SmartWork Media. Damon has had a decades-long career in journalism and publishing, including stints at, Venture Beat, Extreme Tech, Ziff Davis, United Business Media, The Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, Japan Times and the Gilroy Dispatch.



Cannaconvo with Peter Su of Green Check Verified

Cannabis Last Week with Jon Purow interviews Peter Su of Green Check Verified. Peter Su is a Senior Vice President with Green Check Verified, the top cannabis banking compliance software/consultancy in the space. A 20+ year veteran of the banking industry, Peter serves on the Banking & Financial Services committee of the National Cannabis Industry Association. He chairs the Banking and Financial Services Committee for the NYCCIA & HVCIA. He is an official member of the Rolling Stone Cannabis Culture Council. And, he is on the board of the Asian Cannabis Roundtable, serving as treasurer.

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