As the cannabis industry becomes legalized in new states and regions, one of the most important questions facing growers and processors is how they will fit into their local communities. This is the subject covered by Ganjapreneur, a website dedicated to cannabis business news and culture, in their recent interview with Shango Los, founder of the Vashon Island Marijuana Entrepreneurs Alliance (VIMEA). Among other topics, the interview covers the story of how one organization began the process of building bridges between medical cannabis growers and the general public on a small island community in Washington State, and how they adapted to the state’s legalization of cannabis for recreational use.
Discussing how he came to be one of the founding members of VIMEA, Los says “it occurred to me that the growers could use a representative who was not a grower themselves to help normalize cannabis business on the island and make a case that growers are good people and should be embraced by the community at large. Only then could we implement safe and authentic marijuana agriculture on the island. If the community did not embrace cannabis growing, then it was likely that only the fringe elements outside of the social mores of the community would move in that direction and that is exactly who we do not want running the businesses.” From setting up a stand at the local farmer’s market to holding public meetings, Los details how VIMEA came to exist and how it has grown since its inception in 2013. “For marijuana agriculture to be implemented in a sustainable and community enhancing way, we needed the good neighbors of the island to get involved and open the businesses. […] I wanted to create a space for these good folks to come out of the shadows and partner with prohibition-era growers to create a partnership that would create jobs and island revenue and good cannabis.”
One thing that has set VIMEA apart is an emphasis on the combination of cannabis production and food agriculture. By supplementing their organic food production with a small crop of cannabis, farmers on Vashon Island are able to enjoy economic stability without needing to compromise their environmental standards. “The goal is to integrate legal cannabis into our organic food farms so that they can take some of the weight off the margins of the food crops,” Los explains. “Organic farming is expensive and even more so at the small family farm size. Growing cannabis outdoors is relatively inexpensive because it relies on the sunshine instead of electricity and growing equipment. Once at market though, cannabis income far outweighs any organic food crop. Our aim is to support organic farmers to add cannabis to their organic farms so that the marijuana income can pay the mortgage and buy the new tractor and put the kids through college.”
The full interview can be found on Ganjapreneur’s website. Ganjapreneur, which launched in summer 2014, has published a series of interviews with prominent business owners and investors in the cannabis industry. The site has also announced the availability of a mobile app for Apple and Android devices, a domain name market for cannabis start-ups and venture capital firms, as well as a live feed of job postings from the leading marijuana job boards.