By: Rachel Namoff

According to cannabis research firm Arcview, sales of legal weed in North America rose by 34% to $6.9 billion in 2016, ( and based on estimates from investment firm Cowen & Co., U.S. legal sales could reach $50 billion by 2026.

So what does this mean for industry insiders?  What are the steps needed to keep up and not get swept up, or swept aside, in this torrent of growth?

The most important aspect of any business is your brand.  Developing a strong brand strategy that encompasses all aspects of your business will set you apart.  The cannabis brands that will experience the greatest growth are those that have successfully made the transition from a ‘blue collar’ brand to a ‘white collar’ brand.

If you're confused by what that means, consider the difference between the corner coffee shop and Starbucks.

Starbucks has taken a simple product, a cup of coffee, and found a way to elevate its status and create consistency internationally.  When you enter a Starbucks, the thought of ordering a simple coffee is foreign-the choices are grand, and the barista walks you through the customized process with ease.  Shanghai or Chicago, you can count on your experience at Starbucks.

There is consistency and identification my 5 year old is aware of.

The corner coffee shop is unique; one of a kind, and different from every other corner coffee shop.  It lacks consistency and identification, though it may have some quirky nuances that draws patronage. They probably won't have the milk I desire, and I will most likely order a plain coffee.

In the torrent of growth, plummeting wholesale costs, increased regulation and quality control, the corner coffee shop cannot keep up.  Add to that my inclination to order a low cost item, a plain coffee doesn’t help its competitive advantage.

I see the corner coffee shop as unique, but mostly its brand story is based on convenience.  Convenience is its differentiator.  The coffee shop will only capture patrons whose proximity is near.

Now, more than ever, it is so important to distinguish your differentiation.  What is your brand strategy?  What makes your brand stand out?

If you are concerned you are getting lost in the crowd, don’t fret. Become a billowing brand.   Lead the pack.  Lead the way.  The future is yours.