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One aspect of legal marijuana that is not often acknowledged is the difficulty of making money in the industry. Despite seemingly bottomless demand for cannabis, companies face problems that stem from its unique semi-legal status. Many pot companies, for example, have to deal with 280e, a few lines of the tax code left over from the early Reagan years. It’s the measure that prohibits companies that deal in federally illegal substances from deducting business expenses on their taxes. It’s a crushing burden, especially for small businesses.

Within the market itself, companies struggle to differentiate themselves leading to brutal competition. Every weed grower, vape designer and edibles maker can explain at excruciating length why their product is incomparably superior. But only the most fanatic connoisseurs appreciate the difference, or care.

Companies can try to get their brand out, but advertising opportunities are limited. And despite the baroque claims companies make – “faster acting,” “predictable,” “specific sensations” — product innovation isn’t a driving force in cannabis right now.

One place the business can seem especially zero-sum is at dispensaries, which have the thankless task of luring customers away from the indistinguishable dispensary on the next block. Aside from attracting people who live or work nearby, what can a shop do to keep customers coming back?

The Denver-based company Baker, which is beginning to arrive in southern California, is one way a dispensary can develop repeat customers. The start-up offers three main services for dispensary patrons: it allows customers to order online; it helps dispensaries to set up customer loyalty programs; and enables stores to target customers with deals. [Read more at LA Weekly]