Part 2: How to build a community-owned cannabis company.

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Last edited June 5, 2024 by carlygrowlaborganics-com

Welcome to part 2 of our ‘how to’ series where we explore just what it takes to build a community-owned cannabis company. 

This week we are talking to Carly and Alex about the journey of crowdfunding and the complexities of doing this in such a tightly regulated market. 

Patient ownership model

In a pioneering move, GLO offered community investors a stake in the company. Despite facing hurdles and scams, the campaign resonated with investors, highlighting the power of collective engagement in driving positive change.

We had a chat with Alex about this process:

So, a community-owned cannabis company, has this ever been done before?

“No, as far as we are aware, this is the first time a community ownership model for a fully licensed cannabis production company has been done allowing patients ownership.”

What hoops did GLO have to jump through to make this happen?

“So many hoops and we are still jumping! Crowdfunding platforms are regulated by the FCA in the UK and have extremely rigorous due diligence processes because they are ultimately representing a crowd of investors. This due diligence included obvious things like licences and planning applications, but also route to market, brand strategy, investor decks and business models. It takes months to start a campaign, then you go live and see what the world thinks, before entering a closing period that also takes months.

In terms of raising money it’s not the easiest route, but if your objective is to create a community then it is such a valuable opportunity.”

What was the most surprising challenge?

The most surprising challenge was the amount of scammers that approached us. Whether it was being on the crowdfunding platform, the social media campaigns, or the mainstream press we attracted, we were targeted by sophisticated online scams by fake investors. We didn’t get caught out but it took hours of due diligence to establish whether interested parties were legitimate or false.”

Empowering patients

Embarking on the path of community ownership was not just a financial challenge — it was a  journey of trust-building, transparency, and patient empowerment. Carly Barton, Head of Community at GLO, shares insights into the challenges and triumphs of engaging patients as investors and fostering a sense of ownership in the space.

How hard was it to get people onboard as investors?

“It is tricky to get your head around something so new and  complex. We were so committed to offering the patients the right to own a piece of the industry that they are already/soon to be buying from. Communicating this and building trust has been tough at times. The cannabis community has been let down on a number of occasions – by their doctors, their peers, the medical industry, the government, the press, patient groups and advocates who have taken advantage of them – we were essentially asking for trust where there was little left. I am so thrilled we managed to engage with and welcome in as many patients as we have done.”

What have the challenges been like for patient investors?

“For patient investors they must feel like this is going so slowly it’s almost going backwards. Whilst on the inside the hurdles are coming thick and fast and are swiftly pole-vaulted over – it is still a slow process of box ticking and doing things in a certain order so that we meet regulations. 

We have chosen to do things the hard way – whilst we could have taken 100% private investment and made this easier, we, for our sins, decided that we had an ethical responsibility to patients in the UK to include them, not only in the financial returns of the business, but in the heart of our decisions. Doing this means we are creating more work and slowing everything down – but would we change it? Absolutely not! Our patient investors are the cornerstone of our company, they are uniquely placed to benefit from a successful model and also to be pioneers in championing the research and development required to ensure this medicine is available for generations to come.”

What is happening right now?

“As of today we have products waiting to come into the country – once the paperwork is completed these will be released. We have clinic options ready to service our patient investors. We are in the middle of ‘closing’ the round with seedrs – which is a long winded process for such a tightly regulated sector as no cannabis company has this amount of investors!
We have launched our GLO platform technology that will help support a good service and help us do our bit for research to promote access on the NHS. “

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We love hearing from people who believe in the power of cannabis. If you are a patient, a potential supplier or an investor please say hello!

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