Despite the rules, one cannabis industry group still thrives on Facebook

Despite the rules, one cannabis industry group still thrives on Facebook

VicesJune 25, 2018 By Spencer J. Ward

In the state of Colorado, the marijuana industry is notoriously competitive. It can take a lot of time (and B.S.) before the right job materializes for those looking to break into the field or for the workers already in it.

That’s where Colorado Badged Network (CBN) stepped in just a few short years back — a type of digital water cooler of the industry. It’s a place to find work, get advice, pick the grapevine, make friends, learn stuff about the business and sell weed all in one online destination.

With over 5,000 members and quickly growing, CBN might be the largest network of licensed marijuana professionals in the world.

It began in 2016 as a quick and easy way for Joe Webb to find people to work a grow. Realizing that practically everyone in the industry was on Facebook, he chose to use a group on the platform as his recruiting tool. He dubbed it Colorado Badged Jobs.

Before long, Webb sensed the group’s potential and needed others to help him manage it. Phil Maccarone, a longtime friend of his from back home in New York, joined as the second admin. Soon after, Hayley Witherell — who had been long acquainted with both through the industry — became the third. The three then became the co-founders of CBN.

“We really try to cater to the needs of our members,” says Webb of the group. “When we started, the rules were a little different than they are today.” It’s taken time to develop just what the mission is, he says, and where the team wants to go with it in the future.

“We will continue to grow the group to the best of our abilities and strive to make it a place for all industry professionals to gather and network as Facebook was initially intended,” Webb continues.

In its first year, CBN grew steadily. Yet despite the modest growth in numbers, the ways the group was being used multiplied like weeds. Suddenly, trimmers were debating everything from how to wash the weed smell out of their clothes to the best brand of shears. Budtenders were bantering about best practices and new products. Dabbers were asking for the best place to buy cheap live resin. And everyone was complaining about Metrc.

At the beginning of 2017, the name would change to Colorado Badged Network, to better reflect its broadening purpose.

Its primary mission is to connect the cannabis industry. For that reason, its structure is open. As long as you can provide a copy of a Marijuana Enforcement Division Occupational License (known as a “badge” in Colorado) you’re in. The rules are simple, too. Be professional, stay on topic and never include a dollar figure in your post. The latter rule is to avoid unwanted attention from Facebook — looking for any reason to shut down a cannabis account.

The group’s activity is fairly robust. With about 40 posts a day, the team is forced to give it daily, if not hourly, attention. There are comments to delete. Direct messages to respond to. Situations to defuse. Duplicate posts to remove (to which they usually throw a hint that there’s a search function) — and their least favorite responsibility, people to ban. In March, three moderators were added to share the workload.

Nobody is paid to do this, by the way. The three co-founders all have jobs in the industry.

Witherell is the Sales and Marketing Director at AgriScience Labs; Webb is the manager at Northern Lights Cannabis; and Maccarone is a Sales Representative for Lucky Turtle.

CBN manages to run smoothly and professionally. And the admins believe that as long as badges are required, it will remain a group of self-aware and courteous industry professionals. That doesn’t make everyone happy, though, as some have refused to join it because of “privacy concerns.” CBN’s response?

“As most badgeholders know, the State of Colorado keeps a database of every occupational license holder, searchable by both name and badge number,” says Witherell. “We only verify publicly accessible information to grant access to the network.”

And it’s quickly becoming the go-to for workers who quickly vouch for it.

“CBN can be great of assistance, from the individual looking to find a great deal on the tastiest sauce, to a helping a multi-million dollar company purchase 100 lbs of trim, and everyone in between,” says Tyler Prock, an accountant for Mary’s Medicinals.

“I seek out first class cannabis products and services, and the CBN has been an incredibly resourceful tool for it's exclusive access to cannabis industry professionals and daily product/event news,” says Nick Bareto, of the Cannabis Connoisseurs’ Coalition Committee.

And Hannah Balkin, Sales Representative for Bronnor Corp, says she believes “CBN is a great source of perspectives on the products I market as well as the products I compete against.”

For all its usefulness, CBN is still just a Facebook group and will likely always exist as one. Why not? Arguably, CBN wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook, which shows the power social media has, still, over legal cannabis industries. If CBN were to be shut down tomorrow, there isn’t anywhere else for these near 6,000 people to go to restart the networking process easily.

That doesn’t mean CBN won’t outgrow it’s digital shoes. In some ways, it already has. The admins see social gatherings as the obvious next step in its evolution. Beyond that?

“Anything is possible,” Webb muses. “We want to start with one or maybe a series of social events to get people off the keyboard and interacting face to face. After that the sky's the limit.”