Denver Startup Week contained a variety of topics including a cannabis-focused session that touched on IP, trademark and marketing. Here are some of the top tips from the panelists, who all admitted that at this point in the game “nothing is easy”.
Banking and Taxation: Since cannabis companies aren’t recognized by the federal government they can’t deduct employees’ wages on their taxes, just the cost of goods sold. Bankruptcy also does not apply to cannabis companies, so don’t count on filing Chapter 13 if things go south. One panelist recommended keeping your company name “vanilla” and using a dba that was more cannabis-related. This may not get around the tax issue but banks could be more likely to pick up your call. Other panelists recommended using Credit Unions.
Suppliers: If you’re a supplier who provides a service that works with cannabis companies as well as other industries, you should think about creating a separate company to handle the cannabis portion. Not only will it protect your main business, it will also appeal more to those in the cannabis industry.
Branding: At this point finding a unique name that can be trademarked can be difficult. Make sure you do a trademark search or use the help of a lawyer before you start going full force with marketing. That said, the panelists agreed that branding is key to long-term success, especially now that the playing field is cluttered.
Trademark: You can’t get a federally recognized trademark on a product but you can get one on a state level. The panelists recommended grabbing URLs, social handles and using “™” so you can make your case if federal laws do change. By taking these steps and creating a digital footprint it establishes a date and a time and makes you more likely to win in the end. In the case that your trademark does get rejected keep trying, so you can stay ahead of the competition.
Social Media: In addition to securing your handles on social make sure you know the rules and regulations for advertising on social. Ingestible CBD is a no-go, but you can advertise topical hemp. Advertisers can run Facebook ads that direct to landing pages that feature ingestible hemp and topical CBD, as long as the ads themselves don’t specifically feature those products.
From securing a trademark to running social ads, navigating the cannabis industry is a challenging but exciting new frontier. Where do you think the industry will evolve? Tell us in the comments below.