Gregg Weiss is EVP Software Development at Getleaf.co and Founder of CannaHoldings.com
Listen in as Gregg gives a boots-on-the-ground update of the legalization movement in Florida.
[1:28] – Gregg’s background
[2:21] – What is Leaf
[5:01] – What is CannaHoldings
[8:04] – Cannabis life in Florida before and after
[14:36] – Fixing Florida’s cannabis laws
[16:03] – Gregg talks about John Morgan investing
[18:21] – Gregg talks about his decision to leave Florida
[20:24] – Wrong perceptions of creating an app
[22:37] – Gregg talks about the most successful in terms of monetization
[25:00] – Gregg discusses most common questions from doctors
[27:28] – Gregg answers some personal development questions
[38:22] – Gregg’s contact details
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While the West Coast of the United States and Canada seem to be stealing the headlines with sweeping stories of the Green Rush into cannabis, Florida, America’s third most populous state with 20 million people is moving forward with its legalization plan. The question that remains to be answered is will Florida have a functional market or is it mired in governmental incompetence and bureaucracy. Here to help us sort us sort through Florida’s red tape is Gregg Weiss, EVP of Software Development at Leaf, and Founder of Canna Holdings. Gregg, welcome to CannaInsider.
Gregg: Good to be here. Thanks Matt.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Gregg: I am in South Florida, Palm Beach County in the town of Willington.
Matthew: Are you in Del Boca Visa Phase 2?
Gregg: Del Boca Vista.
Matthew: That’s a Seinfeld reference for anybody listening.
Gregg: Definitely a Seinfeld fan, but it’s been a while. No, I’m not.
Matthew: I guess I could probably stop using 20 year old references. That might help a little bit. What’s your background? How did you get into the cannabis world?
Gregg: My background is in technology. I started an app development company about eight years ago or so when the app store first started. Actually, previously was a web development company. I sold that company about a year and a half ago with in interest in getting into this cannabis industry, as it was starting to develop in 2014-15 here in Florida. Like a lot of the entrepreneurs who got into this huge market and decided that this is where I wanted to be. Also I’m an advocate for specifically medical marijuana and all the uses and the conditions that it can help.
Matthew: Okay. We’ve had Yoni Ofir, Founder of Leaf on the show before, but give us a reminder of what Leaf, and what role you play there?
Gregg: Leaf is a plug and plant cannabis grow system, also grows vegetables. We just completed a $2.5 million Series A raise on Seed Invest, which we’re really excited about. It’s the only one of its kind with a climate controlled system, LED lights, hydroponic grow system and yields anywhere between three to four ounces per grow.
Matthew: That’s amazing. It really is. There’s few products in the cannabis space, I can probably only think about two or three others that kind of create a craving for it when you see it. The only thing I can say it’s similar to is maybe an Apple product or even some cars where you’re just like you look at it and it’s like, “I want that.” I don’t know where it comes from, but I do really want to get one of those. It looks so cool. There’s so much excitement around it. I know since you’re involved with the app, it’s going to be very clean and work well. I’m really excited about that. That’s a massive raise on Seed Invest too. How much bigger is that than the average seed invest raise, because I’ve seen other Seed Invest raises and they don’t seem nearly as big. Is that one much bigger, or am I crazy?
Gregg: No it is. I don’t know officially, compared to what the rest of the companies on Seed Invest have done. I know there’s one or two that have raised north of $2 million. I think very few. Seed Invest is a relatively new platform for equity crowd funding. It’s only been legally around with the FCC, being able to do that in the last year, year and a half. Yeah, we’ve had a lot of great success with it. We had over 600 people who have invested, with the majority of them being non-accredited investors. That’s really the big opportunity. If you want to invest in a company, a non-accredited investors previously didn’t have a chance to get in to a startup. They can invest anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000. The majority have been $1,000, $2,000, smaller investors, which has been great because then you have brand ambassadors for your product. It’s been a really good experience. We weren’t really sure how it was going to work out, but we’re very happy that we got involved.
Matthew: What is CannaHoldings?
Gregg: CannaHoldings is a company that I created last year before I actually started with Leaf last summer here in Florida, as things started to progress. Amendment 2 last summer was on the ballot, but it didn’t pass, but it did pass in November, as we know. I started CannaHoldings as a way to start educating our local physicians. Every state is different, but in Florida a physician needs to take an eight hour course in order to become a recommending physician. As we know, physicians in the United States are not taught anything in medical school about the endocannabinoid system, or how cannabis works as medicine. They’re very skeptical.
In order for Florida to become the medical market that everyone is predicting, you need to have a top down approach and the physicians need to be onboard. They need to take this eight hour course, otherwise you’re going to have a very small amount of doctors writing the recommendations, and then it’s going to turn into a sort of “Pot Doc” than a speech type of atmosphere, which no one really wants.
Matthew: That’s exactly what I thought of too. I thought of (6.27 unclear) beach and $40 and you’re like, “Oh, I’m having trouble sleeping?” Yep that’s it. On your way, young man.
Gregg: Yeah, girls on roller skates with pot leaf tank tops handing out little promo cards for $30, exactly. In fact, that’s some of the imagery that the No one 2 Campaign, No one Amendment 2 used heavily with their ads, and they literally said, we don’t want this to turn into California. The top down approach is really just getting physicians onboard and really starting with education. Again, this was before I joined Leaf last summer. I did a first symposium, invited a few physicians, presenters, Al, Dr. Sue Sicily [ph] was one of them, Dr. Greg (7.20 unclear). I did a free event in Palm Beach County. We had over 100 physicians attend. This was in September. Had a couple of sponsors. I thought you know what, if Amendment 2 passes in November, I think there’s going to be even a greater need. It did pass. I did a second one in March in South Florida that was a full, and then this past weekend was the third symposium in Orlando, where we had over 200 physicians attend. It was very well received.
Matthew: Let’s just rewind a little bit because you’re so immersed in this day-to-day. Let’s just go over that one more time. What happened? What was cannabis life in Florida before the November election and then after?
Gregg: In 2014, the Florida legislature passed what’s known as Senate Bill 1030, also known as the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which allowed qualified patients to use the low THC, also known as Charlotte’s Web, mainly for seizures and epilepsy. It was a very limited program. Then in March of 2016, last year, the state legislature then passed House Bill 307, which is known as the Medical Use of Cannabis, which allowed for THC and expanded the use for patients that were terminal. Prior to November, with the Amendment 2, November of 2016, if you qualified, the only qualifying conditions were you’re terminal or you have seizures or epilepsy.
Amendment 2, which 71 percent of Floridians voted yes for, it added around 10 debilitating additions such as, HIV, PTSD, Parkinson’s, MS, ALS, etc., a couple of others. Floridians voted overwhelmingly 71 percent yes for that. Now in 2017, it’s funny because I’ve learned so much about how government works from being in the cannabis industry. Way more than I learned in my history class in high school or college. Now, the session, the legislative session just finished, and unfortunately they did not pass a bill. It got to the last day, and they did not pass the bill to implement the rules for Amendment 2. This is actually pretty timely because this past Friday, Governor Scott here in Florida, called for a special session, which is going to start this week. I believe Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Called everybody back to discuss the budget because there were a couple of things out of the session that did not get passed. The budget was one of them. Medical marijuana was another one.
Unfortunately, medical marijuana is not on the agenda for the special session, which is really confusing and people in this industry here are like, why are they not addressing this. Apparently they’re not going to address it, which means it’s up to the Department of Health to write the rules. The Department of Health to write the rules. The Department of Health is consisted of appointees by Governor Scott. They’re not legislators. They don’t represent the people of Florida. It’s really frustrating and sort of backwards the way that Florida government works with regards to implementing that goal, marijuana.
Matthew: Yeah, it almost sounds like you’re saying these government bureaucrats have not done an optimal job in representing their constituencies Gregg. Is that the allegation at hand?
Gregg: In my opinion, yes, you’re absolutely correct.
Matthew: Shocking, I’m shocked.
Gregg: There’s just so much lobbying happening. You have seven existing license holders. Florida is a vertically integrated market, which in other states that have come before Florida have tried vertical integration, have proven that it really doesn’t work and they’ve gone horizontal. I want to say in Florida, it’s really expensive to get your medicine, and it’s almost half the price in other states , like Colorado, to get the same oil. When you have very few outlets to get this it drives up the price, and that doesn’t help patients who are paying cash and really can’t afford it in the first place. We know that their health insurance doesn’t cover it.
Matthew: This is why I really hope we don’t have universal healthcare coverage at the national level. If we’re going to have it, have it at the state level. Then if all these laboratories kind of trying out things, some work, and the ones that work make the other ones just look ridiculous because you could just point to Colorado and say look they’re doing it and then look this state over here is doing it, and even conservative states are doing it ten times better. This argument that it’s complex and the peons don’t understand all the esoteric knowledge and debates going on at the legislature. That kind of is a point. I kind of went off on a tangent there, but I think eventually Florida is going to have to come around because the citizens see functional markets all around them. They’re saying, can you just do what they’re doing in this state over here? Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Gregg: Yeah, I mean, people that really need it is just going to move out of Florida.
Matthew: Although it seems like the trend is the exact opposite. It seems like there’s a flood of people from the Northeast moving to Florida right now. It’s amazing. It’s like the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti Plains. There’s this flood, and huge dust storms of people pouring out of high tax, cold states, down to Florida.
Gregg: Yeah, it is a great quality of life. It’s a great place to live. There is no state tax so that’s a plus as well.
Matthew: Florida is making a lot of mistakes. The jury is still out when they’re going to fix them, but it sounds like this regulatory body is going to start making decisions in the absence of clear laws from the state legislature.
Gregg: That’s right. The amendment that did pass, Amendment 2, it states that if the state legislator can’t get it done, which they can’t, they didn’t, that it’s up to the Department of Health to promulgate the rules of how this program is going to roll out. I believe by July 3rd, if I’m getting this correctly. Then issue cards by October. I think they’ve already started issuing cards. There are some key dates that they have to have this implemented by. I think July 3rd is the next one. They basically have about a month, and there’s only a handful of people in the Office of Compassionate Use to get this done. They haven’t allocated a budget for it. The state has not given them the money that they actually need to roll this out. Hopefully, a special session this week, they are going to discuss and hopefully pass the budget, and hopefully they will allocate some dollars to the Office of Compassionate Use to roll this out.
Matthew: We’ve had John Morgan on the show, a lawyer that’s really prominent in Florida, that’s been a big advocate for responsible adult use cannabis, particularly for medical use. I think I’ve read a couple of things that he’s made some investments or he’s going to deploy capital. Have you heard anything about that?
Gregg: Yes, which is contrary to his whole agenda prior to Amendment 2, saying I don’t have any interest in the industry. I don’t own a grow. I’m really just doing this for my brother and it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve invested millions of dollars. You were there in Orlando at MJ Biz when he gave the keynote. I think he hasn’t even spoke after that. That was the first time I saw him speak. I was blown away. I was like, wow, he’s really doing the right thing. I believe him. Then the state legislature didn’t get it done, and Ben (16.45 unclear) who is his campaign manager. He publically shamed and blamed it on him, which is unfortunate. I can’t say that it’s his fault.
Then I read that he is going to invest some money. I also heard that he has 100 acres somewhere in Florida that he wants to build a grow. It’s just contrary to everything that he’s “ran on” even though he wasn’t running, over the last year and a half to kind of get this done. So, it kind of makes you wonder.
Matthew: It does make you wonder. At the same time, I’ll play the devil’s advocate and just say, he possibly changed his mind. That could happen too.
Gregg: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, he’s an entrepreneur as well. He’s a businessperson. He not only has his big, national firm, personal injury law firm, but he owns restaurants. He owns entertainment things. With my entrepreneurial hat I would say, why wouldn’t you invest in the industry. If you spent all this money trying to get Amendment 2 passed and medical marijuana passed, and now it’s passed, why wouldn’t you invest and capitalize on this billion dollar industry in Florida. It would almost be stupid for him not to.
Matthew: Yeah, you could definitely make that argument. You’re leaving Florida. Why is that?
Gregg: It’s looking like I’m going to be relocating to Boulder and really head up the Leaf office there, in the next probably 60 days, now that we’ve closed on this round of funding through Seed Invest. That is really the primary reason. If I were to stay in Florida, there’s a lot of testing that needs to happen with these Leaf units. We have two engineers in Colorado that have a lab and have about a dozen Leaf units that are currently growing. We have units in Israel that are growing. I was brought on last year to really head up the software side of Leaf, and I hired two guys to work on the app in the backend, and that’s my experience from running Blue L Apps, the company that I sold a year and a half ago. Building software teams and building apps.
Being able to test with the app and a Leaf unit legally in Colorado is another big deal. Otherwise I would just be here in Florida growing tomatoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this unit is really optimized to grow cannabis. That’s what we’re trying to do. So, that’s a big part of it.
Matthew: I don’t often talk with people that have the depth of skill you do in developing apps. What do you think the public’s idea is of developing an app, and then what the reality is, for someone that knows. We kind of look into the fish bowl and say oh, they just write some code and it’s done. I know it’s more difficult than that, but what does the public perceive about creating an app that’s wrong.
Gregg: There are many things. Number one, that it’s cheap and it’s easy and you could go offshore and hire someone from India for example and get it done really quick. You can even get an estimate offshore, and it will be cheap, but the quality of the product and what you’re going to get is not going to be good. It is a process. Every app, just like I always use the housing analogy. Someone wants to build a house and say build me a house. Okay well, how many stories is it? Is there a pool? Do you have granite in the kitchen? There’s all these details of it that you really need to figure out before you can give someone an estimate on what it’s going to cost to build a house.
An app is sort of a generic name. There’s social media apps. There’s simple calculator apps. It’s a very wide range of complexity in what you’re building. The app store is now, I want to say, almost 10 years old. I think the iPhone just had its 10 year anniversary this, and then the app store came a couple years later. It’s very difficult to not only build an app, but then get it in the hands of people who are actually going to use it. Marketing and promotion of your app. The days of build it and the user will come, but I don’t have a business model or my business model is I’m going to make money on advertising once I have millions of people and hope that I can sustain that business model is very difficult. You really have to have a business model with an app, if you’re an entrepreneur. You have that sort of app idea.
Matthew: Right. What have you seen be the most successful in terms of monetization? Is it something that’s an upgrade, like a freemium model? Is that the best way to go because ad support sounds hard?
Gregg: The freemium model is definitely good because that removes the barrier of the 99 cents or whatever you’re going to charge, and it gets people to try it and use it and have your app become sticky in a sense. Then you have some premium, paid for, whether it’s contented or features in it. That has worked very well. Advertising works well, if you have more of a utility type of app that people are using. Maybe it’s a weather app or that sort of thing. Again it’s very difficult to monetize an app. What a lot of people are doing now is apps for businesses.
These are the apps that you and I don’t see as consumers. When I ran my app development company we did build a lot of these internal company process driven apps, whether it’s an iPad for a guy who is out in the field, and he needs to take some notes and send it back to the back office. Previously he was doing that on a piece of paper and then going back to the office at 5 o’clock and then reentering everything in a desktop tool. Well now he can go out in the field, enter everything in, do what he needs to do and it’s done, and it really provides for a lot of corporate efficiencies. I think a lot of business and companies are really moving to mobile apps to help them run their businesses, and that’s really where a lot of this value is taking place.
Matthew: That’s a great point. You don’t hear about that as much because usually we’re all focused on consumer apps, but that is amazing efficiency you can gain from that. I would love to have you back on when Leaf’s up and running and we can talk more about the app later. That’s a future conversation. Circling back to some of the education events you’ve done with doctors and so forth in Florida. Is there a question they have that you see comes up or a concern? What’s their pushback or general thoughts about, I know you said they weren’t familiar with the endocannabinoid system. What are their other thoughts in general or obstacles or resistance would you say?
Gregg: I’d say the number one is that they don’t find that there’s enough research and the triple blinded studies that they’re used to that are done with millions of dollars in the pharmaceutical companies and the package insert that says dose this or take this three times a day for seven days. We know that medical cannabis is not like that. It’s unique to every person’s condition and every person’s different situation. It’s a different paradigm. It’s an herb. It’s not a synthetic pharmaceutical that has gone through all these controlled trials, at least not yet in this country. In several other countries they are doing those studies.
The last symposium we had last weekend we had Dr. Sue Sicily and she was talking about her study that she just started for PTSD on whole plant with the veterans. Her study is the first triple blinded control study for whole plant marijuana for PTSD for veterans. That’s going to be going on for another year and a half. It was great for her to present some of these findings and what she’s doing to this audience of somewhat skeptical physicians. We had an audience of 200, and for them to go, oh there is actually a study here. It took her seven years to get to a point where she could actually study that.
Matthew: I’ve had her on the show, and I know she’s been very persistent and come up with some corporate interest that do not want to see her succeed in what she’s doing. So I give her all the credit in the world. She’s also a very nice person. I wish her the best. Gregg, I know you have to get going so I want to ask you a couple more questions before we close. I like to ask some personal development related questions. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?
Gregg: I mean just with regards to agile software development and apps and hardware/software. I think the Lean Startup. I’m sure everybody would probably mention that in this field, by Eric Rice. That’s a really great one which hammers home the idea of proving your assumptions. Every startup, every entrepreneur has a great idea and then they have assumptions that are, everyone’s going to like this or pay for this because of XY and Z. You have to find a way to prove those without spending a lot of money or raising a lot of money, only to find out that maybe you were wrong. Gone I think are the days of let’s raise a ton of money. Let’s build this thing and then test it and see if people want it, and we’ll pay for it. If they don’t, we just lost a lot of money.
That has had a profound impact I think not just for myself, but a lot of people. Pivoting, based on your customer feedback. There’s been a lot of great examples of companies who have pivoted. Then also just the Law of Attraction books, just that whole thing. I was first introduced to that about 10 years ago. I saw the film, someone introduced me. That kind of changed my life in terms of business and personal and just the way you think and your mindset and all that. I think that’s important.
Matthew: I’m glad you mentioned that because you’ve got two very different examples there. One’s kind of a very—We got the yin and yang, The yang being the technical, objective things with the Lean Startup and more yin energy there with the Secret. I think we don’t talk about those type of intangibles that much because we can’t measure it. We can’t measure it, we can’t touch it. So it must not be important, but it is.
Gregg: It’s so important. I can’t tell you, we don’t have time now, but I can tell you how by employing the mindset of the Secret and the Law of Attraction and all of that, and some people, Ah I’ve heard of that. It’s this or that. They have their own opinion of it. I can’t tell you how many examples that for me I’ve worked both personally and career-wise that I can attribute to learning from that, and having a really big impact on my personal life and my career life. There’s just so many. I’m a big fan of that.
Matthew: There’s a related topic to that called, Lorenzo’s Butterfly, which if you do a Google Image search, you can see a diagram of what this looks like. Essentially it puts in math how whatever you’re putting out there, whatever you’re putting into the universe, it comes back to you in greater mass. So if you’re putting out positive energy, you’ll get this back. If you’re having thought about a startup you want to create, all these new thoughts will come and surround that. There you have a very intangible theoretical idea backed with something objective for the two type of listeners that are out there that are some saying, I want proof, and some saying, I like the softer side. Really glad you mentioned both of those things. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your day to day life, I’ll say besides Leaf.
Gregg: It funny, one may think coming from the app world, that I’m the most techy guy and I use all these different apps. I really don’t. I use, and this is something I thought of, I was like man, I got to have some great answer for Matt that I use all these crazy apps. I use iCal the most. I use my calendar as many people do. They kind of plan their day. If it’s 11 o’clock at night and there’s something that I think about that I need to do, I’ll just add it in my calendar, little notes, because I live by my calendar. I think that’s really important. On personal development I learned TM, Transcendental Meditation a couple of years ago. When you do that in the morning, you’re supposed to do it for 20 minutes twice a day. Admittedly I very rarely get to do it at the end of the day. I try to do it in the morning when I first wake when everything is quiet, and it really sets the tone for your day. And just learning that has been a really great, personal benefit, and I would definitely recommend it.
Matthew: Don’t they give you your own mantra when you go through that process?
Gregg: They do yeah.
Matthew: What is your mantra? Do you mind sharing that?
Gregg: I cannot share my mantra, no. You’re not supposed to tell anybody.
Matthew: Oh really. (whispers) Gregg, it’s just me and you. No one is listening.
Gregg: They tell you that when you do the training. The training is four days. The first day is two hours and they have to be consecutive days. The guy that taught me was actually trained by Maharishi in Spain in the seventies. Back then he did this retreat there. I never asked him, but he’s probably in his seventies, but he looks like he’s my age. He looks like he’s in his forties. It’s definitely beneficial. We got our 14 year old son to do it. He does it because he’s 14, but we hope that as he grows up he’ll be able to use this tool like he’s been taught when he feels like he needs it. I wish I was taught it when I was in high school or college and be able to draw from that. I would definitely recommend it anybody.
Matthew: Was there a lot of anticipation when they revealed what your mantra was, because I can just only think okay they’re going to do the grand reveal now. It is, duh-ta-duh, and the whisper in your ear, Gregg, your mantra is Pop Tart. You’re like wait a second, I can’t be thinking about a Pop Tart the whole time when I’m meditating. I’m going to be craving Pop Tarts. It’s nothing like that is it?
Gregg: No, I think they’re all Sanskrit words. The mantra is not supposed to have meaning. It’s not a word. I found myself trying to analyze what it is. If you told me what it was and I was like well how do you spell it. What does it mean? He’s like, I’m not going to tell you how to spell it. I’m just going to say it again. I was like, well should I say it fast. Should I say it, you know, you don’t say it. You internalize it in your head, and have all these questions. There’s no right or wrong. You just repeat it as your mantra.
Matthew: That is hilarious. It seems like the people that are into Transcendental Meditation stick with it much more than other kinds of meditation, and I think it’s because they put this money into it upfront, and they’re like, hey I’ve invested in this. I’m going to make sure I get return on my investment. Do you think that’s why?
Gregg: I don’t think that’s why. I think it’s just very different than mindfulness, all those other types of meditation. There are some people that would be like, you don’t have to spend the money to do it, but there’s a lot of science and research behind TM. When you go to the initial consult there’s all these pamphlets and stuff that they give you. It’s backed by science. It helps with blood pressure. It helps with stress. It helps with a lot of medical conditions. It’s real. I’m not exactly sure why. That is the number one thing of why people don’t do it, because it is expensive to do. If you really want to do it, there are grants that you can get and you can get it paid for if you really want to.
Matthew: I had an amazing experience at a Korean Buddhist Temple, and I went in there for a meditation session and they said, okay you mind, like most people’s is kind of polluted with this river of thought, and there’s really no way to turn it off, but we have some things that can help. We want you to do this 100 times before we start meditating. You have to sit down, then get on your knees and then stand up, then bow. It was something like that and I did it 100 times, and they said, okay by the end of that your mind has gotten rid of most of it. I was like okay, well this seems a little strange. After that they led me through a meditation, and I had this experience where I didn’t fall asleep or feel tired at all, but just time kind of stood still for an hour and without any thoughts. It’s just such a rare thing to be awake and not have thoughts going through your head, that the first time it happens, it’s so restful. You feel like you’re recharged somehow. I can’t explain it any other way than that.
Gregg: You’re absolutely right. That’s what it is. You can experience it for five seconds or a minute or five minutes. The goal is that every time that you meditate you get into that state. Some days you have a lot of thoughts. Some days you don’t. Some days you don’t even get into that state. Yeah we’re really going off on a tangent here.
Matthew: We’re going off on a tangent. People love it. Everybody, let Gregg know that you love it. Gregg, how can they reach out to you and learn more about Leaf and learn more about CannnaHoldings and all the things you’re up to? Is there any way?
Gregg: Sure. The website for Leaf is www.getleaf.co and we’re still taking pre-orders. The website for CannaHoldings is www.cannaholdings.com, which I’m actually going to have a website up in the next couple of months. Right now that just redirects to Event Bright, which is the last symposium that we did.
Matthew: We went all over the place today, but it was a fun conversation. I appreciate you coming on. Good luck with your move to Boulder and everything you’re working on.
Gregg: Thank you Matt. I appreciate it.