Running a Cannabis Business in the Spotlight: Q&A With ‘High Profits’ Star Brian Rogers

High Profits Brian Rogers

By Tony C. Dreibus

When CNN asked Brian Rogers and his business partner to participate in a documentary series on the tribulations of opening and operating a legal recreational marijuana shop, they were thrilled.

“Initially it was very exciting, mostly for what we perceived would be positive exposure for the business,” said Rogers, whose retail cannabis store in Breckenridge, Colorado, takes center stage in “High Profits,” an eight-part series that began airing last month.

It hasn’t exactly played out that way so far, though.

Rogers said production of the show strained relations with some neighbors, city officials and other business associates who have grown tired of having a film crew around. And the store – which was called Breckenridge Cannabis Club during filming but was renamed Backcountry Cannabis Co. after Rogers and his partner added a second location elsewhere in the state – hasn’t seen a spike in business just yet.

Still, he remains hopeful that the exposure will pay off as the busy summer tourist season approaches.

With the legal marijuana industry dominating headlines across the country, news organizations are clamoring to tell the tale of how businesses in a brand new industry. As Rogers discovered, however, operating a business in the spotlight comes with unexpected challenges.

Rogers spoke with Marijuana Business Daily about the benefits and drawbacks of participating in “High Profits,” how filming affected his shop and what other entrepreneurs can learn from his experience.

What was it like to constantly be followed around by crew members wielding cameras, microphones and lights?

We thought it would be easier than it was. About halfway through filming we were so busy we began to wish we had never agreed to do it. Some council people and townspeople started to get weary of the cameras.

What were some of the positives of having a CNN crew with you for six straight months?

To some degree it seemed to legitimize who we are in the industry because people seem to take cameras seriously, so they expected we must know what we’re talking about. The timing was great for CNN and the show because it came out around 4/20, so we’re hoping this plays off itself in the summer.

Right now we’re in the off-season – nobody comes to Breckenridge from mid-April through mid-May. It’s generated a lot of phone calls but it hasn’t been good for business because there’s nobody here to come and shop. People are not flying into Breckenridge to buy weed from our store because we’re on TV, but we’re hoping it plays out in the summer (when tourists return).

Were there negatives to being the subject of the documentary?

People were afraid if they did business with us, whatever production these cameras were working on might not represent them well. Some of the people we did business with said “if the cameras are around, we’re not coming.” There were times when I had to sneak around them to do things off camera because people didn’t want their faces shown or their business names mentioned.

It was bad in that regard, because sometimes people are afraid of the cameras because of the exposure.

They knew it was CNN and they were afraid that the wrong Department of Justice people would see them and clamp down. If it were a T-shirt shop or restaurant owner, they would’ve jumped at the chance.

Did you ever worry that the wrong people would take notice of the publicity?

This one morning we were working in the Breckenridge store, working on surveillance for the store, and three police officers walked in. I thought, “Was this the moment they were there to arrest me or was it an annual checkup?”

It was a checkup, and they were introducing a new officer, but our customers just froze. I said, “These are local cops, and it’s still legal” but they didn’t care, they just stood there and stared because they’re so trained to think this is illegal. Old habits die hard.

What advice would you give to a cannabis business owner who’s approached for this type of documentary/reality show?

Be prepared to keep your cool. There are plenty of times when you’re trying to get work done and the cameras are trying to capture it. Sometimes you want to send an e-mail or talk to an employee and you can’t, but when you sign up like we did, you’re expected to open up everything. Be prepared to live up to your commitment.

Now that the documentary has started to air, what type of feedback are you receiving?

We thought the show would paint (business partner) Caitlin and I and the company in a more positive light. We are all organic, spent five years going further into debt and we offer better pay than our competitors.

So far the show hasn’t touched the organic nature of our production, has made us look like money-grubbing (owners) and thus far hasn’t repaired local relations either – so expectations not yet met.

Tony C. Dreibus can be reached at [email protected]

Photo credit: CNN

10 comments on “Running a Cannabis Business in the Spotlight: Q&A With ‘High Profits’ Star Brian Rogers
  1. Seb on

    Well so far the show has spurred me into researching my own green rush in my state, which might see recreational mj in 2016.

    Cheers, thanks for the show

    Reply
  2. Demitri Downing on

    I sure hope they are paying their taxes because you can bet the IRS is going to be looking closely at this, one draw back that might not have even been considered yet.

    Reply
  3. Jeff c on

    Was surprised that no mention was made of the impact of IRS code section 280e. That will make people think twice before entering this market..

    Reply
  4. Seth Tyrssen on

    Hey Brian, don’t let the negativity getcha down. This may sound like dumb hippie stuff, but it’s true: be happy for no reason. A positive attitude generates positive vibes, and positive things will then just naturally be attracted. Thanks for having the courage to do the show in the first place.

    Reply
  5. Norma jean on

    Hi Brian…Watched your ups & downs on the show & I say keep your head up!!!! Your doing great..Trying to be legit is the hardest when everyone is just wanting to go easy route. This is America & everyone has the right to have & build on their dreams. Soon all your blood , sweat & tears will pay off. You have a record. Your not the first. Hope you get a Pardon. It’s good upstanding tax paying pillars of the community such as yourself that are the perfect example of what great things you can accomplish & overcome. Best wishes….

    Reply
  6. Luke on

    Hi Brian, I’m not even a pot smoker, but I was rooting for you and Caitlin through the whole show. On the other hand, I had little sympathy for Katherine Grimm, whose wore her insincerity like a badge of honor. You were right not to trust her. She did seem to have a point, however, about wholesaling. CNN should do a short feature update on your respective new grow facilities and how they’re doing.

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  7. Niki Raapana on

    I learned so much from this show, I’m sorry it wasn’t more helpful to Brian and Caitlin’s business. This politicizing of the issue reaches deeper than just the cannabis industry. Already in Alaska, small town councils dominated by hard right Republican activist preachers and their misinformed paranoid flock have re criminalized retail sales and growing ops, and they are attempting to criminalize it in all areas of the Mat Su without an incorporated town government. (The Mat Su Borough is 25,260 mi², for some perspective on how large an area that is, that’s two and a half times the size of Massachusetts.) Many areas of the state do not have an incorporated local government body, and the regs for those areas are Draconian. Rural cannabis business owners have to get permission slips from all their neighbors within a five mile radius.

    I see the fundamental flaw in all the legalization legislation is it’s leaving the crux of the application of the law in the hands of local municipal quasi governments, the most notoriously unconstitutional bodies of government in the USA. Why did the founders of this nation place subpoena power in the hands of courts above municipal courts? Because local officials can always be bought. Times are changing though. There have been many US Supreme Court decisions handing average citizen’s protection from unconstitutional land use and zoning regulations over to local governments over the past couple decades. The trend does seem to be toward placing absolute power in the hands of locals who claim the moral high ground with a beer in one hand and a Bible in the other.

    Brian should know that him and Caitlin did not look bad at all, they looked and reacted like decent people, as did many of the other people in the show. I felt bad for everyone who had to face the truth about the corruption that comes when a nation digresses into elitist mob rule.

    A nation ruled by law follows the law. I’m still confused. What law did the BCC break? Looked to me like they followed more “laws” than Carter has pills. Looked to me like they made payroll, paid their payroll and city taxes; unless it was staged we saw them taking cash payments to the city. There were no public disturbances, not one fistfight or gunfight that I could see anyway, nobody puking from smoking too much weed out back, and the owners and staff handled themselves with amazing restraint during council meetings that were just so disrespectful.

    States pushing for cannabis legalization would be smart to establish state regulations that apply everywhere in the state, regulations that local governing bodies have to adhere to US constitutional guarantees, before somebody starts asking the federal government to do it. When the feds legalize it, the less power the state governments already hold, the more the feds can claim. There will be no branch of government protecting the rights and liberties of the average citizen entrepreneurs who threaten the status quo. We need stronger state laws protecting and maintaining individual rights, I see that now, now that I’ve looked at what happens when regulation is left to the local, organized, well funded more moral “majority”.

    Majority rule or rule of law? What kind of system are we building here? Is Cannabis Legalization a way to strengthen the concept of Community Government, the system that balances the rights of individuals against the rights of the established business “community?” In the EU this is called the Supremacy of Communitarian Law clause. The WTO uses it too.

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  8. Laura on

    Brian and Caitlin, you are both amazing people and I commend you for your dedication and hard work. I am a retired Registered Nurse. In my 30 years as a nurse, I’ve seen many changes in the world of pharmacological interventions, yet nothing can compare to both the physical and mental healing that is possible with Marijuana; Not to mention the relief from both acute and chronic pain, arthritis, insomnia and stomach ailments, just to name a few. I’m sorry some of people from Breckinridge saw your cute shop as a threat. I hope you will be blessed with better neighbors when wherever you set up shop, next. When I’m in CO, I will look for your shop. May God richly bless you and keep you safe.

    Reply
  9. Sam on

    I just binge watched the entire season and I have nothing but respect for both of you. I think you’ll find, because of the way the series was presented that legalization of marijuana and the business side of things is so complex and so simple all at the same time. I get crazy mad when I think about how alcohol and cigarettes are legal and weed isn’t (but that’s whole ‘nother conversation) and I have a new respect for dispensaries. I feel like making a special trip just to come and support your business…I work for an airline so I just might! In the meantime I couldn’t stop myself from going to the Breckinridge city website and sending an email that included that I hope by now they’ve gotten their heads out of their asses and they won’t be getting any business from me…a 46 year old childless woman with a good job, who has money to spend and likes to travel …the hypocrisy with the alcohol-field festival owners and business owners who opposed the Main St location purchasing their own from you because it was convenient just makes my blood boil. You have fans out there who appreciate the hard work you do.

    Reply

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