When power players operate under the radar

Businesses on the whole like to appear in our magazine’s monthly lists of top players in their sector.

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But what happens when you try to create a list of companies that often prefer to operate in secret?

In our June issue, we decided to create a new powerlist of cannabis growers to reflect the growing importance of marijuana to Oregon’s economy.

Because it is a new list, we do not have a comprehensive database of contacts we can reach out to. So I looked for public data on marijuana businesses that I could use to create a ranking.

But I soon found out that very little data is publically available on cannabis brands. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) was my first port of call as anyone who wants to set up a cannabis-related venture has to obtain a license from the agency.

The OLCC makes very little data publically available on recreational marijuana license applicants. Other than the business name, type and county where they operate, there is not much else to draw on.

An OLCC spokesman said the agency considers most business information on the marijuana sector as proprietary because the industry is still in its infancy. The public can find far more data on the agency’s website about the more established wine and beer industries, for example.

We started to contact businesses that have applied to the OLCC for a grower’s license to ask if they would like to be on the list. Our powerlist ranks growers by licensed acreage of land used for marijuana cultivation (indoor and outdoor).

There are more than 500 businesses that have applied for a grower’s license in Oregon. Many do not have a website. A good portion can only be contacted via a Facebook page. Some just have an Instagram account.

Those businesses that do have a website often do not have a marketing or communications contact — a testament to how new many of these businesses are.

But also many marijuana ventures want to operate under the radar. One company representative said he didn’t want his business in the list because of concerns his bank would close the company account if it found out it grows cannabis. “For that reason, we have to remain anonymous outside of our industry,” he said in an email.

Most companies that sell or grow pot still have to operate on a cash-only basis because banks do not accept them as account holders. 

Despite the secrecy that shrouds this sector, more growers have submitted details to be included in the list than we initially expected.

The marijuana market is very competitive for both growers and retailers despite the challenges the sector faces. Being on a list of power players may be just want they need to stand out from the crowd.

If you would like to be included in our powerlist of cannabis growers, fill out the following survey: www.oregonbusiness.com/marijuana-growers