During a recent trip to the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Orlando, Fla., Wendy Robbins, an Emmy Award-winning director and marketing guru Karen Paull met a woman from Atlanta with a pressing question.
She was very passionate and wondered how she could get involved in the cannabis industry. "She said, What can I do, I live in Atlanta? They all told her to move," said Robbins by phone from Beaufort, S.C.
Robbins and Paull are quickly becoming television's queens of the cannabis industry with their series, The Marijuana Show, described as Shark Tank meets American Idol for budding entrepreneurs -- or rather entrepreneurs of the bud.
With one season completed and season 2 under consideration for a Netflix series, the duo is looking to cast contestants for the third season. So far, Robbins and Paull haven't had a single Atlanta applicant for the show, but this year they are hoping to change that.
"We would love to come to Atlanta, but it is harder to find qualified businesses. There is no one that we know of yet that lives there and is boasting that they are in the cannabis industry," said Paull.
When they hold show auditions in Denver, hundreds of hopefuls show up. In the rest of the country, those number rarely go above 20. For one group of 15 in Michigan, they held a Skype audition. But mostly, they round-up contestants from online applications and invite the most promising candidates to come out West for filming.
Georgia law allows residents who suffer from certain illnesses to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with the permission of a physician. The oil must be low in THC -- the chemical that gives you a high.
However, the state does not allow for the legal production or selling of marijuana which means anyone with a medical need has to find a way to obtain and transport the oil across state lines, Robbins said. You also have to find a doctor willing to sign off on the whole thing, and there are not that many in the metro-area on the record with a willingness to do so.
The best bet for the entrepreneurial minded in prohibition states is to consider ancillary products, they said. "You don’t have to touch the plant to be a successful cannabis entrepreneur," Paull said.
In the U.S. the cannabis industry is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020. At least half of that will be ancillary products, said Paull. Supplies for growers, security companies to transport product and artisanal products for recreational users will all be part of that growth.
One example, is Florida-based Cannamoms who will appear on Season 3 of the Marijuana Show. The moms run a website, sponsor events and speak with politicians and the public to increase education and awareness.
Through the show, the duo have also supported a CBD farm which provides cannabis for medicinal purposes, a ten-year old who created CBD dog bones and a maker of a cannabis car. Another entrepreneur from Boston proposed a Facebook-like community for the cannabis industry -- since that isn't the kind of thing that gets encouraged on the social media platform.
This year, they have $20 million from accredited investors to award to entrepreneurs on the show. And despite the challenges ganjapreneurs face, Robbins and Paull see many opportunities for the future.
One company has made advances in automated growth pods which allows the user to control plant care and tending through an iPad. There is also likely to be growth in the area of regulation with everything from measurement to purity becoming more exact.
"We are trying to get people to move away from reefer madness and talk to people who have had great success with health solutions rather than depending on [traditional medical treatments]," Robbins said.