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Cannabis Salt & Sweeteners Will Revolutionize Infused Products

kelly ogilvie deep cell industries

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Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review though CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a wellness chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatibles.

Valerie writes my ten year old Husky/Shepherd/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding them to him. Before CBD Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking them he could leap around again. Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatable chews are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatibles can do for your pet visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet and get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Once again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet Now here’s your program.

Matthew: An entrepreneur has come on the cannabis scene in recent months that developed a technology that will solve a problem cannabis infused product makers have been struggling with for some time. Here to tell us about it is Kelly Ogilvie from DeepCell Industries. Kelly welcome to CannaInsider.

Kelly: Thank you Matt. I’m glad to be here.

Matthew: Kelly give us a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

Kelly: We are in sunny Seattle, Washington.

Matthew: Good. It’s rare to hear of the preface sunny in front of that but I’m glad you’re getting some rare sunshine.

Kelly: Indeed.

Matthew: And I am in Chicago today. Now Kelly give us a little background about yourself. What were you doing before launching DeepCell?

Kelly: Directly prior to DeepCell I served here in Washington state as Governor Jay Hensley’s Senior Policy Advisor for economic development and business interests and what that means is cannabis economic development, technology, life sciences, etc. Those were all in my what we call our policy portfolio and so I saw firsthand the emergence and the growth of this nascent cannabis industry here in Washington.

Matthew: Yeah what’s it like behind the curtain on the other side. I feel like when I look at government it’s like looking at a fish bowl like what is going on here. I hear things coming out of it but I can’t see. What’s it like being on the other side of that curtain and doing economic development for the governor?

Kelly: You bet that’s a good question. It’s an interesting question to answer. Prior to the governor’s office I’m an entrepreneur by nature. DeepCell is the fifth business I’ve founded. I’ve founded a biotech companies, software companies, strategy firms, etc. So going into public life in the governor’s office was a bit of a change for me. Behind the curtain I got to tell you I think the regulators are doing the best they can to balance two interests. On one hand you have this emergent industry where there’s a lot of opportunity but also a lot of risk. On the other hand they’re trying to do the best then can to protect the public interests in an area where there’s a lot of gray areas in terms of what is and is not allowed. Of course the federal prohibition alongside with the state allowances via state laws it’s a very interesting time to be in this industry.

Matthew: And what’s DeepCell?

Kelly: So DeepCell it’s a technology development company. We’re a product development company and licensing firm. So what we do is we develop technologies that we license into the cannabis industry and the reason we’ve done this is because of some of the issues that both cannabis touching and non cannabis touching operators face. So as your listeners will know very well if you handle cannabis you’ll deal with lots of regulatory issues. You deal with baking issues. You deal with the inability to deduct certain types of taxes that normal businesses can and so we constructed DeepCell with a very specific idea in mind and that idea was how do we work with cannabis touching operators, how do we deliver value to our investors and shareholders, how do add value to the industry and do it in a way that is accretive to both cannabis touching companies and non cannabis touching companies like ourselves and so what we do is we develop technologies like our crystal fusion technology which allows us to fuse cannabinoids with crystals such as sugar and salt. We license out that technology and our brands to manufacturers and distributors in Washington State.

Matthew: So why focus on crystallized seasonings or ingredients?

Kelly: Yeah that’s a great question. So in Washington State we’ve seen explosive growth in the cannabis industry. It went from zero and now we just crossed a billion dollars in gross sales maybe two weeks ago here in Washington State. That’s massive growth.

Matthew: That is, that is massive growth.

Kelly: I mean no pun intended right.

Matthew: Yeah.

Kelly: It’s incredible when you think about there was virtually and literally no infrastructure to really base any expectations on and so I remember sitting in meetings with the governor and the finance folks forecasting taxes and they literally said we’re not going to forecast any taxes and I looked at them and said you guys are crazy. This is going to be huge and they said well can you give us any market comps and the answer is no there was nothing that existed really in terms of a legal market to really forecast taxes in this industry. But getting back to the concept of crystallized ingredients we did it because in this industry in Washington State this explosive cannabis growth is being fueled by three primary segments the flower, concentrates and extracts, and primarily edibles.

And we’re seeing probably the most growth currently in the edible market and in the edible market it’s primarily dominated by edibles such as brownies and cookies. Things that you can make with butter or you can make with oils and we found that there is a huge opportunity in this ingredient space to build platform ingredients and that’s why we focused on sugar and salt because sugar and salt are the two most used ingredients in the world. They are incredibly flexible in terms of the types of recipes and things they can make both sweet and savory and also they perform differently than oils. So for instance oil and water don’t mix so creating beverages require; if you add oil you need something that will emulsify or have that oil blend with the water like soy lecithin.

Sugar and salt don’t have that issue. They dissolve in water. They’re easily dosable. They perform well under heat. They just have very different performance characteristics that we think can help unleash a lot of innovation in the space.

Matthew: That’s really interesting because I over the years have talked to a lot of infused products companies and you do always hear about hey I need to use a fat here like an oil or a butter or an emulsifier to make kind of a homogenous liquid. This kind of removes that constraint if you will. Does it taste? Does the sugar or salt crystal have a cannabis taste to it?

Kelly: It has a very, very light taste and smell. I’d love to say it doesn’t have any taste or smell which some people don’t notice it. I notice it because I’m very sensitive and I’m very critical of the products that we manufacture or license out for manufacture and develop in our labs here. It is a very low flavor profile relative to what’s on the market today if that makes sense. If I were to give you a regular bowl of sugar and then a bowl of the Ruby cannabis infused sugar you’d say oh it tastes like something almost like a nutty something or other. It does not taste like your traditional cannabis plant and that’s because or a cannabis edible excuse me and that’s because we go to great lengths to remove the terpenes and chlorophylls that give cannabis it’s very distinctive flavor and smell.

And so for us we’re trying to create a platform ingredient that allows food to taste like food because once you do that you don’t have to have some of the artificial flavorings or ingredients that are used to mask certain flavors with the bitterness associated with certain cannabis edibles.

Matthew: So you’re licensing this technology. What kind of partners are interested in this type of technology that want to license it from you?

Kelly: We have a licensee here in Washington State called Green Labs. They manufacture a gourmet line of edibles called the Swiss Brand. They make truffles, they make seven layer bars, they make macaroons, they make honey sticks, they make CBD mints. They’ve won some awards for different edible products. So we’re finding that there’s interest from edible manufacturers and licensed processors and I think what they see is an opportunity to manufacture not just products such as brownies or cookies or what have you but they see an opportunity to manufacture an ingredient that they can sell to other manufacturers as well.

Matthew: This is interesting Kelly because in other industries I’m thinking of precious metals we have royalty companies and in oil and energy business we have master limited partnerships and it’s kind of developing this intellectual property or royalty streams and this is kind of a new development for the cannabis industry. You’ve seen it with some edibles companies licensing across state lines but I can’t recall something like what you’re trying to do here in the cannabis industry so it’s pretty interesting. Have you borrowed any ideas from other industries like the pharma industries or anybody else to kind of create this idea or business structure?

Kelly: You bring up really interesting model and that’s the streaming and royalty sort of structure of the precious metals industry. It’s very interesting you mention that because part of the construct of this company originally in conversations with my business partner who originally founded DeepCell in I think March of last year. It was really sort of thinking about what models have been unique and innovative in different industries which solve problems and applying it to this industry because really there is no best practices in cannabis right now and so there is a real opportunity I think to borrow models that have been successful in different places and bring them into this industry to see if they fit and the precious metal streaming concept is something that I have found very interesting for several years. I personally am an investor in several precious metal streaming companies and I love the idea of having leverage and exposure to an industry without some of the same manufacturing risks.

Matthew: Yeah, yeah.

Kelly: And their lie sort of the seeds of what would become the DeepCell model of developing IP and then licensing that IP out to manufacturers who have already invested in the property, plant, and equipment and have the means of production to manufacture these things. So that was sort of the genesis and the idea behind the company and it’s funny you bring that up because that’s exactly how we thought about this.

Matthew: Now do you see this being kind of only manufacturing partners using your crystal and salts and sweeteners like Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald or do you see end users like someone at a dispensary saying hey can I have some infused cannabis sugar to take home? I mean who’s kind of the target market here?

Kelly: Yeah so we’re currently licensing out the Ruby and Sapphire brands and products to our licensee green labs and they manufacture and distribute to dispensaries around or retail shops, adult use recreational shops around Washington State. The product began in medical here in Washington. It’s now transitioned into the adult use recreational space and so packets of sugar are being sold to consumers today and therein lies I think an opportunity as both consumer facing products where you can build brand equity and consumers can recognize the brand but also the plan is to sell and license the sugar to enterprise processors to put the sugar into their edible products. So it’s really an exposure to both consumer facing and business facing enterprises.

Matthew: This has so many interesting applications. I think about how when I talk to baby boomers about cannabis and there’s still a stigma around the smoking. Once it’s lit there’s a stigma around it and I can understand why kind of some general rational biases and things but when I think about like a salt or a bath salt and as the boomers age and they have arthritis and other problems if they can just use a salt that’s already cannabis infused and slip into a bath and feel so much better it’s going to change a lot of perceptions. So as more of these innovative applications come out that are not smoking like we’re talking about here this is going to further accelerate the perception shift.

Kelly: No I totally agree with you. What’s interesting is we’ve had patients in the medical space tell us that they love the sugar but they put it in their coffee and when we asked them what about the edible they like they actually say well it’s because it’s an edible it’s easy to use and we don’t want to smoke because it hurts our lungs.

Matthew: Yeah.

Kelly: And I never really thought about that until the patient said that but when folks are dealing with medical ailments lung capacity issues depending on their ailment or preserving their lung capacity when they’re getting sort of older in age is very important to them and so it began to sort of shift my thinking around what edibles really are for and I think you’re seeing this interesting blend of medicine and recreational happening here in Washington State. People will use cannabis because they have a headache or their back hurts or they want to have a good time. So that line between is it medicine or is it not medicine is getting blurred as a result of sort of the multifaceted uses and sort of cultural uses around cannabis.

Matthew: So with Ruby and Sapphire your sweeteners and salts from DeepCell are we going to see something like a NutraSweet type like sweetened by DeepCell or sweetened by Ruby or Sapphire on some products in the future you think?

Kelly: Absolutely. That is the business model that we’re going after. We really want to be the intel inside for edibles. I think NutraSweet probably is a really appropriate example in the food space of a brand that is both consumer facing but also is a label ingredient and that for us is really important is having the marks either Ruby or a Sapphire being a marked quality and so for us we don’t have any artificial ingredients or binders to make our product water soluble. It’s literally just certified organic sugar and high grade distillate cannabis extract and I guess one feature I want to mention is we are a technology development house and one thing we’re working on right now is a field called microfluidics and for your listeners who may not be familiar with what microfluidics are if they’ve ever seen the movie “Bug Life” or if you’ve seen the movie “A Bugs Life” there’s a scene in that Pixar movie where a bug goes up to the bar and he says hey give me a drink and the bug tender he doesn’t hand the character a cup he hands him a ball of water.

Matthew: Yeah.

Kelly: And the character sticks the straw in the water or the ball and sucks the ball with a straw and he hands the straw back and what’s happening there is microfluidics deals with the nature of fluids at very small scales and the physics changes and here’s what’s exciting about Ruby and Sapphire and microfluidics. Because sugar and salt are water soluble they dissolve into a water medium and that allows us now to use droplet by droplet dosing for the future for us. So we’re building platforms for future devices where you can use your mobile phone or you can use some other device to dose specifically for your particular ailment. So if you know what your ratio is in terms of THC to CBD or if you know what type of terpene profile gives you the relief or the experience you want you can now dial that specifically for your wants and that’s a really exciting innovation for us to be working on here at DeepCell.

Matthew: Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private investment alert service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the investor alert service you will get access to curated opportunities the public will simply never see. Again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Now back to your program.

Matthew: And so when do you think your licensed technology will go around the country. I mean you’re in the Washington area now. Are you planning on staying just in Washington for a while letting it mature a little bit before going elsewhere?

Kelly: No. So we’re out looking for licensee’s in both Colorado and New York. So we’re been in some discussions with some firms in New York. We have some traction with firms in Colorado. We certainly are eyeing Oregon and then California of course is the big enchilada. That’s the ballot measure coming up in November. They’ll probably go through a rule making process and have a legal market by 2018 and so that for us is a huge deal is focusing on that market.

Matthew: Now just thinking about baking and things I mean are sweeteners used much more than salts because salts are used a lot but it’s probably in smaller dosages.

Kelly: That’s correct.

Matthew: Okay.

Kelly: Yeah that’s correct. Yes in terms of volume of actual product for us our Sapphire salt a half a gram is a full 10mg dose. It’s very potent and the reason you want to do that is because salt you don’t want a whole lot of salt in your diet. As a micronutrient you don’t want a teaspoon of salt in your food it would be too salty because it’s very strong. Sugar on the other hand it’s much less of a potent sweetener and a lot of folks don’t know sugar; a teaspoon of sugar isn’t that high calorie, its fifteen calories versus say another edible that might be 300 or 400 calories.

Matthew: Okay. What’s the reaction been from investors?

Kelly: Investors in DeepCell?

Matthew: Yeah.

Kelly: I would say the reaction how would I characterize their reaction? Very eager, excited they love the concept but I think all of our investors have been told by me and our management team that startups are already risky. One in ten make it in general. We’re in an industry where that risk is magnified by the uncertainty around the politics and the regulatory framework. So I think they all know that they’re in a high risk venture and along with that risk comes high reward I think is what they expect.

Matthew: I would say your risk profile seems less to me because you’re licensing technology that others are actually taking on the risk back to the kind of royalty model. So I like the risk exposure here compared to some other things. I think there’s a lot riskier things out there so; but I guess if you have nothing to compare it to it sounds riskier in the cannabis field and you’re not; people aren’t used to the cannabis field just yet.

Kelly: Right and I guess one sort of friendly amendment to this conversation would be technology we do not generate a royalty from our license agreements. It’s technically a per unit or packet fee.

Matthew: Okay.

Kelly: And then it’s very specific because the regulators in Washington and other states I think have deemed it that if you become what you call a part of interest then you derive benefit from the direct business practices of your business partners or a business entity that’s licensed. So for us we had to stay away from a direct percentage license fee and move towards a packet fee that bakes in no pun intended; bakes in a lot of the different types of costs and upside that the product could have in the marketplace. So it isn’t as if we’re selling them a package and the package is two cents. The package comes fully loaded with the expected profit, the expected expenses, all of the above. So it’s more complicated than it sounds.

Matthew: Are you still looking for new investors?

Kelly: We are not looking for new investors currently however we will be launching our next round at some point at the end of 2016 into 2017.

Matthew: Okay. How do you feel about Seattle as kind of a hub for cannabis innovation?

Kelly: I think I mean I’m very bias I live here in Seattle. I really like Seattle because of the type of I think intellectual curiosity, the environmentalism here and I think that environmentalism plays out in these really interesting ways. In one way there isn’t a lot of materialism in Seattle and so you don’t see a lot of people who are doing things just purely for the buck. You see a lot of companies here who are trying to do right by the consumer, who are trying to do right by the environment, and I think that culturally has had an impact on the types of companies that are emerging here. They have an ethos about them. They’re not just profiteering although those people are out there. I think in general having a tech sort of community and emergent industry it’s been influenced by the environmental culture of the Northwest.

Matthew: And this is back to kind of your role working with the governor. Do you feel that the fact that Washington has no state income tax attracts more business?

Kelly: I think it does and I think you’ve seen that play out with large companies being domicile here such as Microsoft and Starbucks and Boeing, Nordstrom, and Costco. I mean there are a lot of; Amazon, big companies are all domiciled here and I think; I know they certainly use it as part of their recruitment tools for bringing talent here. The lack of an income tax certainly has been beneficial but I think being on the other side having worked in government it also can have drawbacks in terms of its a very regressive tax structure and I say that because what ends up happening is without an income tax you have very high sales tax and the people who can least afford to pay that sales tax are poor people and they’re the ones who shoulder most of the burden on a relative basis of income to tax burden.

Matthew: Yeah that’s true although there could be a model where on your state income tax returns if you make under a certain threshold it could be credited. That could be possible. I’m a big fan of the no state income tax especially in the state I’m in right now in Illinois where I’m originally a native of and I see; I look at Texas, I look at Washington, Nevada, Florida and I just see it seems like businesses really want to go to these places because they’re treated better and I’m just hoping that message starts to cascade through the country and through the world that business goes where’s it’s treated best so that would be amazing. I’ll just get off my soapbox there but I just wanted an opportunity to say that. Let’s transition to some personal development questions Kelly.

Kelly: Sure.

Matthew: As you look back over the arc or your life is there a book that you think has had a big impact on you and your thinking that you’d like to share with listeners?

Kelly: You know I love the sciences and so my friends think I’m a huge nerd because I read in my personal life at night I’ll go through things like the financials of some company. That stuff kind of gets me going so I’d say in my formative years I read a book by a gentleman named Bertrand Russell and the book was called “The Mind of God” and he’s a mathematician/philosopher and that was really interesting for me to read is thinking about the universe around us. Really taking a scientific approach and sort of waxing poetic around boy were people a science we don’t necessarily believe in mysticism but if we don’t believe in mysticism how the heck did we get here and so that kind of thinking, intellectual curiosity I think took me on a journey of really beginning to explore and love the sciences and I went from that to “Black Holes and Baby Universes” by Stephen Hawking and that took me on a journey of love for science.

Matthew: Gosh those are great recommendations. I saw Mr. Hawking speak once at the University of Chicago and it was mind blowing. He really has; he was talking about a fourth dimension and so forth and it was crazy.

Kelly: Yeah, yep.

Matthew: I don’t know if you saw Elon Musk recently he was on some panel and he was talking about how he thinks perhaps we are living in a virtual reality created by an alien race. Did you see that?

Kelly: I saw just some of the clips and the headlines. I think that’s just silly in my opinion.

Matthew: You know what it’s so funny to me because when you hear him talk about it he obviously has been thinking about this in detail and talking about it with other people so it’s interesting to hear about it and then he thinks that as we discover deeper math principles and physics principles these are the source codes of this reality. So it’s one of those things you really go down a worm hole if you start to think about too much.

Kelly: Yeah. It certainly is possible. A lot of things are possible in this universe. I guess in the multi-verse anything is possible right.

Matthew: One more personal development question. Is there a tool web-based or otherwise that you consider indispensable to your day to day life or productivity?

Kelly: I would say we use two platforms that have been very helpful in terms of organizing our business. One is Trello and the other is Slack. But both are productivity tools for individuals or businesses. We use Trello to communicate with our graphic design firms and some of our packaging developers. It’s a fantastic tool to organize content and Slack has been a fantastic tool to communicate within our teams.

Matthew: Yeah so Trello is that kind of like each idea or task you’re trying to communicate it looks like an open card and you have cards on the table? Is that right?

Kelly: Yeah that’s right.

Matthew: Okay and Slack is more of a Messenger would you say or your communication channels on themes.

Kelly: Yep that’s right. That’s absolutely right.

Matthew: Okay great. Well Kelly thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. Before we close do you want to let listeners know how they can find out more about DeepCell?

Kelly: Yes. They can visit our website at or they can visit to learn about the Ruby product.

Matthew: Yes and you did hear him correctly here. Instead of .com, .org there’s all these new domain extensions so it’s deepcell and instead of .com it’s .industries so that’s cool. We’re getting more minimalist here in the domain names. Kelly thanks so much for being on CannaInsider today we really appreciate it.

Kelly: Thanks Matt.

If you enjoyed the show today please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider(dot)com. We’d love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention this little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Kelly Ogilvie the CEO and CO-Founder of Deep Cell Industries joins Matthew Kind to talk about how his products will revolutionize the cannabis industry. Until this point cannabis infused products companies needed a fat soluble way (oil, butter, etc) to get THC into infused products. With Deep Cell’s pre-infused sweeteners and salt that is no longer a requirement. This will open the door to a myriad of new products.

Key Takeaways:
[2:11] – Kelly talks about his background
[3:42] – What is DeepCell
[7:34] – What does the sugar or salt crystal taste like
[8:43] – Kelly talks about their licensing partners
[11:40] – DeepCell’s target market
[14:28] – Future DeepCell products
[17:29] – Kelly talks about expanding to other states
[18:55] – Reaction in DeepCell from investors
[21:10] – Seattle as a hub for cannabis innovation
[24:09] – Kelly’s book and internet app recommendations
[27:29] – DeepCell’s contact information

Learn more at:

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at:

Top Trending Stories in Cannabis with MJ Biz Daily Editor Chris Walsh

chris walsh marijuana business daily

Read Full Transcript

Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on this show many times. Just to review, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a wellness CBD chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience.

Valerie writes, “My ten year old Husky/Sheppard/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatibles. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect, but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding that to him. Before CBD Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking them he could leap around again.” Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatable Chews are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatibles can do for your pet, visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet and get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Once again that url is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet now here’s your program.

Matthew: The cadence of important news stories is heating up as we approach the November elections. Here to help us look at the most impactful news stories affecting the cannabis industry is Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily. In addition to their informative daily news stories, Marijuana Business Daily also hosts the most popular industry conference that I attend regularly. Chris, welcome to CannaInsider.

Chris: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Matthew: Chris give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Chris: I’m based in Denver. I was actually born and raised here and have witnessed the evolution of the epicenter of the marijuana industry right now which is in Colorado.

Matthew: Yes, wow, you’re a rare native. You’re like Snuffleupagus or some mystical creature like a unicorn.

Chris: Exactly. It’s changing quickly as more people move here in part for jobs in the marijuana industry but yeah not a lot of natives.

Matthew: Chris I want to dive into everything that Marijuana Business Daily is doing, but before we do can you give us a little more background on yourself and your career before getting involved with Marijuana Business Daily?

Chris: Sure yeah I’m a longtime business journalist. I’ve worked at metropolitan mainstream newspapers and even was in South Korea for two years as a business editor for a newspaper out there. So I’m a business journalist. I have an MBA so a lot of people are surprised at my background and some of the other executives because I guess the perception outside the industry of course as we’ve all experience is that it’s a bunch of people in tie-dye and sandals walking around. So no that’s my background. I actually moved to South Korea in 2009 and there were no dispensaries open in Colorado when I left, and when I came back two years later there were more dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks so that’s how quickly the industry grew here.

Matthew: And for listeners that may not be familiar with Marijuana Business Daily, what are all the information and services and conferences you off just to get a broad perspective?

Chris: Yeah we actually started in 2011 which is an eternity in this industry. Five years is a very long time ago. We basically provide news and analysis on our website and then we have Trade Publication, Marijuana Business Magazine that’s print publication. And then we do market research reports, our Marijuana Business Fact Book where we make estimates about the industry and cover things like profitability and revenue metrics for businesses in this industry. Then we’re just as well known for our business to business conferences, the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo. We have our big Vegas show coming up in November where we’re going to have 7,000-8,000 professionals gathered there to learn an network and discuss some of the hottest topics in the industry. So that’s kind of our reach. We provide basically information in various ways to business people.

Matthew: Yeah you know it seems an interesting phenomena is occurring there. There is more and more cannabis conferences popping but people want to kind of net it out I notice, and when I talk to people they’re saying they’re going to yours and maybe an ArcView event or one other, but they’ve kind of said as more grow, they’re limiting to the most important. So that’s great for you, but an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.

Chris: Yeah and we’ve kind of seen this firsthand. We were doing business to business conferences in this industry starting in 2012. So we were the first really to do this. Back then there were medical marijuana conferences, but it would have Cypress Hill has the entertainment and it all the vendors were basically paraphernalia companies, and it was more like a festival or a cultural event and there was very little business focus or education. So again we were the first ones to kind of do the suits and ties type of conferences and since then, as you mentioned, it’s really exploded I think. It went from just us a couple years ago and I think last year there were 40-ish “business to business” conferences out there. So yeah there’s a lot of them, and I think you’ll see some weeding out as people pick and choose what they prefer.

Matthew: As the editor, as you watch news stories kind of come in, create a stir and fade away, are there any topics that seem to be persistently important?

Chris: Well I think basically the biggest one and the most obvious one would be the federal government’s position on marijuana and just last night and into this morning we’ve been scrambling to cover the news of the day which was the DEA basically saying it won’t reschedule cannabis, but it will open the door to research. So there’s always questions about when is the federal government going to take some concrete steps on marijuana, approve the bills that will open the doors to banking and lower the tax burden on the industry which is significant, and of course legalize it or reschedule marijuana nationally. So that’s always the kind of overriding big question that people are talking about.

I would say secondarily it’s kind of the local or state regulations. Everyone, they’re always changing and shifting and everyone in the business is trying to get their head around these changes on the regulatory front because it really affects them on a day to day basis. So that’s the other big topic. Banking of course, everyone wants to know how to get a bank account, which banks are working with the industry. And then as I mentioned, this tax burden where obviously businesses can’t take the same types of deductions that a normal business so it really hurts profit margins and people really want to know how they can work around that. So those are kind of some of the common things that we hear about a lot.

Matthew: Yeah and speaking of Korea, I feel like the United States is starting to look more like North Korea when you compare us to Canada. They seem to be doing everything right in terms of banking and federally legal and we’re kind of moving backwards at times. Well it’s more like pushing over a Coke machine. We go back and forth and we kind of make the right decision, but that’s kind of a big blow, a big punch in the stomach that the DEA says that. It’s frustrating a little bit, but what are we going to do?

Chris: Yeah it is, it is, I like that analogy. It is like a punch to the stomach. It’s like when are you going to finally realize, when are federal officials going to realize that this is a real industry. This has medical uses. I mean talk to the million plus patients in states that have legalized medical marijuana who use this for cancer and HIV and glaucoma and PTSD. So it’s really ridiculous and to your point, yes, the government’s policies are pretty antiquated on medical marijuana specifically. And other countries are moving ahead and kind of pioneering this area when it really should be the US doing it.

Matthew: How have you seen the scope or tone or perspective change over the years since you started covering the industry. I mean now it seems more mainstream. There’s more people coming in from different business industries coming into the cannabis industry. How has your lens changed when you look at the industry now?

Chris: It’s changed significantly. I mean when we first started I would go to meet people in the industry and they would think that I was a narc, an FBI agent and they were really cagey and with good reason at that time because they were basically pioneering a whole new industry that’s product is federally illegal so I don’t blame them for that paranoia, but no one wanted to talk on the record or publically or very few did. They were skeptical of anyone they didn’t know and most of the pioneers of the industry, the people at that time were people who had a strong affinity for cannabis and its uses either medically or recreationally and a lot of them, certainly not all, but a lot of them didn’t have kind of the professional business backgrounds of running companies or starting companies or executive level positions. A lot of people had been growing in their basements for a long time and buying and selling on the black market.

So what we see now is, and there’s kind of a clash, you have the more savvy business people coming in that may or may not really care about marijuana itself. They may not have that passion for the plant but they see it as a business opportunity. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that if it’s kept in check. So now you do have these mainstream people coming in. You have executives and entrepreneurs who have founded many other companies in mainstream industries. You have former DEA officials getting involved. You have former politicians. I mean the list goes on and on and it’s really accelerating as this becomes more mainstream. I will say, however, if you’re in a state that has not legalized medical or recreational marijuana, there is still that kind of heavy stigma I’ve found and people still scratch their heads. Don’t really even consider this a serious industry. Then you find that once a state legalizes everyone seems to get it. So there is still that stigma out there that is hard to overcome.

Matthew: Yeah I’m driving around the country right now and I have Colorado plates on my car and people stop me and actually say hey pot’s legal there now right. Like they kind of whisper that to me. I’m like okay, is that the ice breaker now. Okay.

Chris: Yeah and I mean doing this for five and a half years I’ve heard many similar comments directed at me. I mean most people are fascinated by it or interested in it or support it. I have found very very few people, even in states that haven’t legalized, that are aggressive or anti-marijuana and they want to wag their finger at me or anything. I mean it’s amazing how many people are just like yeah it should be legal at least medically. So that’s the other part of it that’s changed. When I started in 2011, came from a professional background. I covered high tech. I covered airlines for newspapers and at that time when I took this position a lot of people, my former colleagues were kind of scratching their heads and saying what is this guy doing. Is he a closet pot head working for a marijuana publication, but now they’re kind of calling and asking if we’re hiring. So things have changed.

Matthew: Right. So as the November elections approach, which stories do you see as the biggest news?

Chris: It’s going to be a fascinating November for the industry. I mean this could be a big watershed moment that marijuana supporters and business people have been waiting for. You could have almost a dozen states basically voting on whether to legalize medical or recreational marijuana. Just today I think North Dakota approved the signatures there so they will be voting on medical marijuana. You have about a half a dozen other states that will be voting and then you have even more states that have gathered the signatures and submitted them and are waiting to hear back to see if it qualifies. So this could be a huge, huge event for the industry.

There’s a lot of potentially huge markets that could legalize. California will be voting on whether to legalize recreational marijuana. That in itself would be massive for the industry. And according to our projections if California legalizes recreational marijuana, its sales just in that state of marijuana would be higher than the entire industry’s sales right now of medical and recreational. They have a massive population. It’s a big tourist hub and if it’s legal there, it’s really going to push this industry and fuel it forward. And then you have other states. Massachusetts will be voting on recreational and of course Nevada which if they legalize recreational it would be huge as well given its tourism draw. And then on the medical side you have Florida as the big market there. So basically in a nutshell this has the potential to lead to billions of dollars of revenues for the industry and tens of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of business opportunities. I can’t overstate the importance of this.

Matthew: Yeah California is kind of the big bang. They have the technology, the capital, the people and the culture that’s ready to adopt it immediately.

Chris: Absolutely.

Matthew: Which the other states don’t seem to have quite to the same extent.

Chris: Yeah and a lot of people in the industry are saying California is really the linchpin that if it fails there it is going to set the industry back by years and be a real travesty and a blow to the industry. That if it passes though it will have the opposite effect obviously and propel everything forward. I don’t personally necessarily think that failure there would set the industry back a decade. I think it would be very unfortunate. It could slow some of the momentum, but the industry is operating just fine now without California having legalized recreational . Yes it would be a big disappointment and there would be an impact, however, I don’t think it’s as great as some people say.

Matthew: What about California’s framework of regulation. It’s in typical California fashion. They’ve rolled out some huge Quagmire of regulation in different categories of people that can operate within the industry. Does that act as kind of a wet blanket at all or is it just such a huge, powerful industry that nothing can hold it back?

Chris: Well I mean California has been just such a mess in the marijuana arena. It clearly was the capital of medical marijuana for years and was the pioneering state that really helped the industry get to where it is today, but they didn’t regulate the industry from a statewide basis so it kind of fell behind Colorado and Washington because it’s a mess. I mean every city has its own rules. Some don’t have any rules. There’s a ton of businesses operating outside of regulatory frameworks on a local level that have been established and basically it hasn’t really pioneered any of the legit side of the industry anymore because of this chaos. So the regulatory framework being developed for medical marijuana is a huge development that is positive, but it’s going to lead to a lot of turmoil because a lot of businesses that exist now are not going to be able to make the transition to a regulated market.

In the long run this is very good and in the short term it’s going to be chaotic. You got to feel for a lot of the businesspeople there who again pioneered the industry that might not be able to make over to the regulated market, but then if they legalize recreational it’s just a huge question mark of what’s that going to mean for medical and how this is all going to develop.

Matthew: What are the most controversial topics in the cannabis industry right now? I mean when you put out stories on certain topic do you find you get kind of a polarized response on certain topics from people?

Chris: Yeah I mean there’s a couple of areas. There’s issues particularly on the regulatory side with edibles and infused products. What is the appropriate level or regulations that states should be imposing and you find that responses are all over the board. There’s still a lot of people who don’t think there should be many regulations on infused products at all and they get very angry when states and cities try to regulate that. And then you have people who think there should be very strict regulations like you have on anything else you consume, especially on the food side. So that’s a big issues. The testing conundrum is a big issue too.

There’s no federal oversight, there’s no industry-wide standards on testing. So businesses are forced to test marijuana and infused products but they don’t trust the results. Every lab gets back to you with different numbers on potency and all that. So testing is still controversial. Then you have other kind of HR issues like should your employees who are also patients be able to use medical marijuana while working. That’s still a polarizing issue within the industry. I mean the industry is here to help people like that and they obviously employ patients. So you kind of have this industry still working through some issues. And then of course with the election coming up we ran a survey of our readers to find out how they would vote in the presidential election, and that got dozens of comments when we wrote that story where most of the industry favored Hillary Clinton, but there was a quarter that favored Donald Trump. So you have all these people weighing in on who would be better for the industry and who would create a more favorable climate. That’s the big topic right now.

Matthew: Gosh and I think like a Gary Johnson would be the best for the industry but he can’t even seem to get into the polls so people don’t even know who he is.

Chris: Yeah and he was an option in our survey and he polled well. I think it was roughly 15% or so said they would vote for him, but I think there’s a lot of people that on the marijuana issue he’s clearly the favorite, but people are taking into consideration other factors beyond just marijuana even if they support it. So people in the industry, I think the realists say okay it’s going to come down to these two candidates, Trump and Clinton, and so I’m going to cast my vote for one of them rather than “waste” it on Johnson whether you believe that’s a wasted vote or not. He’s probably not going to win.

Matthew: Right. Well let’s pivot to the conference, your twice a year conference. I was there in Orlando in May and now you have another coming up in October in Vegas, but I’m sure a lot of listeners have been to the conference but for listeners that have not, describe what they experience when they walk onto the conference floor and what they learn when they go to the panels and so forth.

Chris: Yeah and actually our next one in Vegas is in November.

Matthew: November, sorry about that.

Chris: Yeah it’s actually a week after the election so there is going to be a massive amount of buzz at the show. Everyone is going to be talking about whatever happened on election day and we’re going to analyze that and talk about how that may impact businesses. So that will be the big focus obviously of some of the conference. I mean in general the reason we even started this in 2012 is because either people that want to get involved or that already are involved in running businesses they need to gather and they need to network with each other and talk about their common problems and try and come up with solutions. So networking is actually a big part.

Then we have a massive expo hall in our Vegas show coming up with 300 exhibiters. So there’s commerce that happens at this too. People are hooking up with partners and services and products to help their businesses grow. And then of course there’s the content side too where we have three days of sessions that explore all the big business issues that entrepreneurs and executives are facing. And then we have people like Penn Jillette is our keynote. He’s a hardcore libertarian who believes in states’ rights so he’s going to talk about how he views marijuana and he’s a fascinating guy with a lot of wisdom and insight. I’ll be talking about the industry fundamentals and some of our projections and giving an update on kind of the state of the industry. Then we have sessions on everything from banking and taxes, as we talked about before, to overarching issues about what coming down the bend, around the bend regulatory-wise. So it’s a great place to network and learn about issues in the industry and hopefully learn things that you can take back to your business to improve it.

Matthew: Penn Jillette, that’s a fascinating character. He has a real ability. I don’t know if it’s because of his magician training or experience, but he has a way of phrasing things that can kind of crack people out of their typical mode of thinking and their perception. It’s pretty interesting.

Chris: Yeah and he won’t hold back on his views, and I’m sure people are going to be thrilled to hear him. He will probably rail against the government’s policies on marijuana and drugs in general. Yeah he’s pretty outspoken and I think it’s going to be entertaining.

Matthew: Looking back at previous panels are there any that kind of jump out at you as being really valuable or you got feedback from attendees that said hey I learned a lot here?

Chris: Yeah I program the conference so I believe that all of them are valuable, but to your point. We’ve had one in the past where we talk about if and when Big Tobacco, Big Agriculture, Big Pharma basically big business is going to come into this industry and those are always very packed sessions. People are afraid. This has been a mom and pop industry and that’s how it started and in large part that’s how it still is today, but it’s moving away from that and it’s moving towards big business and corporatization. So people really want to look forward and say what is this industry going to look like in the future if legalization occurs or if the government kind of relaxes its rules on marijuana. We’ve done that kind of a session twice and it’s always immensely popular.

Matthew: In terms of getting a booth, I know you have a lot of exhibitors that they get the booth every year. They already book it right away. Is there openings still to rent a book and how should people thinking about it if they’re on the fence or considering renting a booth. Is it too late?

Chris: Well on the booth side it’s too late. We have several dozen companies on the waiting list. We sold out months ago. Again we’ll have 300 booths. We sold out our entire space at the Rio in Vegas. Next year we’re moving to the convention center so my advice would be start planning for our event in the Spring in D.C. or Vegas next year because we do sell out. Always we sell out our booths and we’re going to continue to grow as the industry grows, but again we sold out a couple months ago. There are other opportunities to get your name out there.

We have other sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities that aren’t necessarily booths. So contacting our sales department is a good way to see what’s out there, but yeah I would start planning for next year. And I would say to your point earlier there are a ton of conferences out there and do your due diligence before you go. Even before you go to ours, I mean, it’s very well respected and we get industry leaders and have cutting edge content. There’s other ones that are good too but there’s a lot of duds out there. And that’s why we’re seeing some consolidation because people in the industry are going to some of these and realizing how poorly planned and produced they are. So most people are going to just a handful of these, but like I said we’re going to have 7,00 to 8,000 professionals there. If legalization goes really well, we could have 10,000. Who knows.

Matthew: Okay. Now let’s turn to the fact book. Can you tell us what that is and what listeners might find in there?

Chris: Yeah we started doing this a couple years ago because we just realized there was a huge need for information and data in this industry and it really didn’t exist. I mean you have no federal data because it’s illegal and they don’t track anything with the industry and then most states, especially a couple years ago, didn’t really track anything either. So it was really hard to get your arms around the size of the industry and all the fundamentals. As I mentioned earlier, average profits, average revenues, startup costs, all these things that are available for other industries weren’t for this one.

So we started doing this massive research report every year, and we break down state markets and talk about where we think sales are, a number of businesses operating and kind of compile all of that into a national picture too. We do estimates on retail sales nationwide through 2020 and there’s just a ton of data in here, again, that doesn’t exist really anywhere else. So that’s why we started to do it. You are seeing more companies, data companies get involved in this industry which is a good thing and states are now tracking the industry much closer so there’s more data than ever before available. Things like how many companies are there in the industry and how many jobs are there and what are annual sales, that type of data is very hard to get and that’s kind of what we focus on.

Matthew: You’re seeing cannabis stories so there’s probably not too much that surprises you, but when you glance over that book was there anything that jumped out and slapped you like wow this is much more than I originally had thought?

Chris: Well it always happens. When we do it every year there’s always surprises and especially when we dig into, we do big surveys of professionals in the industry to get an idea of their fundamentals for their business and there’s always interesting things that we see there in terms of concentrates and infused products becoming a much much bigger part of the industry and moving in the direction of one day you’re SERP-ing sales of flower, of marijuana flower. So there’s always things like that that give us insight. I’d say the profitability levels of businesses in this industry was one of the things that stood out to us that a lot of businesses are profitable.

Now 2ADE in this tax issue hurts that to some degree and shrinks the profit margins, but in general a lot of businesses have been able to historically reach profitability very quickly. Often in a matter of months. You’re seeing that change a bit now though because of the huge regulatory burdens, the caps on licenses where you have to spend a million to even get involved and there’s only a few licenses awarded. So it is taking a bit long to reach profitability in some markets, but in general it’s much better than they business community at large. So always things like that that we see each year.

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Matthew: Circling back to the conference for a second, is there any strategy you would advise for someone attending for the first time in terms of getting the most out of it, attending the right panels, meeting people, strategy on the floor because sometimes, Vegas is a big place, you have a huge conference. How do you prioritize to ensure you have an optimal experience?

Chris: Yeah that’s a good question. I mean we always look at that and reassess it and figure out how can we meet everyone’s needs. We do have our crash course which is kind of a one day, one-on-one level overview of the industry, everything you need to know if you want to get involved in the business and need kind of the bigger picture of the challenges you’re going to face and the opportunities. That’s separately ticketed from the main show but that always sells out. We’ve gotten 900-1,000 people in that in the past. So that’s truly for newbies who just want to know about the industry and how it works. So that kind of hits that segment.

Then the rest of our conference is aimed at people already in the industry. The newbies benefit immensely by being there and learning at that level, but we really want to target the business operators that are in it now and want to talk about and learn about the issues they face and how to improve their businesses. So you know we offer a variety of different formats and that’s another thing where we’re unique. We have the big keynote with Penn Jillette speaking from a broad perspective, an outsider’s views on legalization of marijuana, but then we have workshops on extraction and we’re going to have one on finding a bank account. Then you have the bigger panels and discussions that are also drilling into key areas of the different niches in the business, in the industry and what they face. So we try to offer something for everyone. So I guess the strategy would be to really examine the agenda and the separate events and see where you’re at in the industry and where you think you would benefit most, but I would have to say the networking aspect is huge and a lot of people go just for that. Whether it’s on the exhibit hall floor or in our networking events or the dozens of after parties that are going to be held in association with out event kind of on the side by other groups. So a lot of people come back and say just the pure networking was the biggest benefit.

Matthew: One panel I really enjoyed, it was a panel, one speaker I really enjoyed in Orlando was the gentleman that spoke about demographics and looking at demographics for your marketing the different generations, GenX, Baby Boomers and Millennials because there really is a huge difference in how we perceive things and we all like to think we’re unique snowflakes but a lot of it has to do with the generation we come up in and there’s so much similarity there and I was shocked to see just how much there is and just how you can craft your marketing or brand to different generations to get a desired outcome. So I thought that was pretty cool.

Chris: Right, and that’s another thing we try to do at these is bring in outside experts in the business community in general that can apply their knowledge and expertise to this industry specifically that a lot of business owners overlook. So the average infused products company or retail store/dispensary is probably not thinking when they’re marking along the lines of generations, but you can see how that would be so useful. You have the older patients, you have the younger ones, the Baby Boomers and things resonate differently with each of them so you can craft your marketing message to them differently. So that’s another thing. We’ve had a former executive from Starbucks talking about how you create kind of chain stores and a brand and a consistent experience. So that’s the other thing we try and do at these shows is bring in people like Chuck Underwood, the gentleman you were just referring to.

Matthew: Yes, yes. Let’s pivot to a couple of personal development questions Chris. I like to give listeners a sense of who you are and maybe some things that have been important to you in your past. Looking back over the course of your life, is there a book that stands out that has had a big impact on you and your way of thinking that you would like to share?

Chris: I don’t think there’s been a specific book. I mean I’m a heavy reader, but I don’t think I’ve read kind of a life changing book that shaped my views on the world. It’s more just getting out there and experiencing things. I’ve read a lot of business books that I found were beneficial, but beyond that I’m basically a big Earnest Hemingway fan and he kind of got me into reading in general. Yeah I guess in general a lot of the books I’ve read kind of have taught me empathy in general and I try to apply that in my personal and professional life.

Matthew: Great points. I’ve read so many books in my life but I still have a good memory of The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls and the Old Man and the Sea, those books are just so incredible. Even now you just pick them up, they’re just amazing.

Chris: They’re still good yeah. They still resonate. Yeah so he really got me into reading in general. I owe that to him because it opened up a lot of doors in my life and in my mind.

Matthew: Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise that you consider indispensible to your productivity that you would recommend?

Chris: I think no I’m actually pretty simple. I mean it’s Outlook and my smartphone and all that kind of stuff. I mean we have internal tools that we use like SalesForce that have been immensely helpful on the editorial side for keeping track of our massive source list, but other than that it’s just a lot of the basic everyday things that people use.

Matthew: Okay as an editor give us one grammar mistake you see over and over again that we could fix, everybody could fix to be a little bit better writer.

Chris: I think when writers refer to companies in the plural, like a company in the plural. If it say their, referring to it as a group. That works if you’re talking about executives of the company but a business or a company is an it. So I see that all the time in writing and in other media as well and sometimes among our own reporters. But I think that kind of has been adopted because of casual conversations when you’re saying they, when you’re referring to one company. So I see that a lot in professional writing and that’s one of my pet peeves.

Matthew: Good one, good one. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that one.

Chris: A lot of people are. And I would say the other one is kind of the which vs. that issue. A lot of people use which when they should use that and that when they should use which.

Matthew: Good, good ones. Well Chris in closing let us know how listeners can find Marijuana Business Daily and get daily alerts on all the best news stories, how they can find the fact book and how they can learn more about the conference.

Chris: Yeah is kind of the portal into everything we do and that’s our daily news and analysis site, and then from there there’s links to our conferences, our fact book, contact information and kind of everything we do. So we do have a daily newsletter that goes out Monday to Friday with our kind of exclusively on our site stories that our reporters research and write. We have professional reporters who have been trained in journalism, have been working at newspapers and magazines and for online outlets, their careers. We’re professionals bringing professional news and analysis and that’s kind of what makes us different. A lot of people are kind of aggregating content or just having people in the industry write guest columns. We have people putting together fresh, unique stories every day that affect business owners and really taking that business slant. So we have this newsletter you can sign up for. It’s free. It goes out every day. If you’re a professional in the industry, you can get out magazine, Marijuana Business Magazine, you can get a free subscription to that. We don’t charge for that for people in the industry.

Matthew: Great. Well Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show today. I look forward to seeing you in Vegas.

Chris: Terrific, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider(dot)com. We would love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your license physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening, and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care, bye-bye.

Chris Walsh is the Editor of Marijuana Business Daily. Chris discusses the top trending stories in the cannabis business ecosystem and how they will affect events in the near future. Listen to this podcast on your Smartphone for free.

Key Takeaways:
[2:37] – Chris’s background
[3:37] – What is Marijuana Business Daily
[6:10] – Marijuana topics in the news industry that are persistently important
[9:08] – Chris’s perspective on the change in the industry over the years
[12:03] – The biggest news as the November election approaches
[15:47] – The strength of California’s marijuana industry
[17:18] – Most controversial topics in the cannabis world
[20:21] – Chris talks about the Marijuana Business Conference experienc
[23:13] – Chris talks about previous panels that have gotten great feedback
[25:54] – What is in the Fact Book
[29:55] – How to get the most out of the Marijuana Business Conference
[33:59] – Chris’s personal development
[36:57] – Contact details

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John Morgan Explains Why He is Giving Millions to Legalize Cannabis in FL

john morgan united for care marijuana

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Hi. I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I will take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review thought, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatibles have put together a one list chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatibles.

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Matthew: Recently Florida has overtaken New York to become the third most populous state in the U.S. with 20 million people. With this kind of population in sway Florida’s decision to legalize cannabis can greatly help or hinder a broader legalization movement. Here to help us understand the opportunities and challenges in Florida is John Morgan. John has been a vanguard leading the legalization effort both in terms of activism and his generous financial donations. John, welcome to CannaInsider.

John: It’s good to be here.

Matthew: John give us a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

John: Today I’m in Ponce Inlet, Florida. It’s a beautiful beach. I’m in my beach house. It’s blue skies and breaking waves and a cigar and a glass of ice tea.

Matthew: Nice, nice. John what’s your background? How did you get involved in this effort in such a big way?

John: I got involved because a fellow political guy came to me a few years ago and asked me what I thought about the legalization of medical marijuana. I told him that my brother who was quadriplegic couldn’t function without it. He uses it illegally in Florida. He’s a C-6, C-7 quad. If he took the medicines that they want him to take for his pain and spasms, he would be… He was up to seven Xanax a day, and I took a half a Xanax once and it was like, you know, I was knocked out for 12 hours. And so I said it’s important. I mean there’s people like my brother. My father had cancer and he used it when he had his cancer treatments and I said it’s nothing short of miraculous. So he kind of started walking me through it, showing some polling and he said would you be interested in helping us. And I said yeah I would because in Florida 400,000 who have things like epilepsy and post traumatic stress disorder and cancer, quadriplegic, just keep going through the whole list of illnesses and injury. I said 400,000 really sick people would benefit, and I’m also a trial lawyer and I spend a lot of my time and my efforts fighting the pharmaceutical industry. I know the evil that comes from that industry.

I know the deaths that come from opioids. I know the people that are killed a year, 13,000, hundreds of thousands hooks, millions of family members affected. And then you look at marijuana and you say this is a plant that was put into nature for us by God or nature, depending on how you look at it, and it works. And so there it began.

Matthew: And then what’s United for Care?

John: United for Care is the organization that we formed to get our constitutional admend led. The Florida legislature is very conservative in the hid pocket of the pharmaceutical industry and there was no hope there. So United for Care was set up as our organization to get the language approved by the Florida Supreme Court to then collect signatures. We needed tens of thousands of signatures and then to go on the ballot and we needed, the first time around, we needed to have 60% of the voters which as you know is a landslide. And so United for Care, if anybody wants to learn more about it, they can go to if you want to help or learn, and that is our vehicle for our constitutional amendment.

Matthew: Okay. And you’ve put a lot of financial resources into United for Care. Do you mind disclosing how much you’ve put in to give a sense of scope for us?

John: I think about $8 million now. I mean the first time around I made every mistake known to man. I mean I’m out there. I’m not a constitutional lawyer. I’m not a political operative and so if there was a mistake made the first go around, I made it, and I spent a lot of money that I didn’t have to spend the second time around. We lost the first time by like a point, 58.5%, but what kind of drove me is the more I was out there the more people were calling me, thanking me and begging me, and telling me their stories and coming up to me in the street and grocery stores and everywhere and it was like my God this movement is gigantic. There’s an underbelly of people who are desperate for this.

So because of that I felt like I do try to give a lot of my money away that I make because for a lot of reasons I think we should. And to me this is an important philanthropy as a food bank. I mean I financed a big food bank called the Morgan/Morgan Hunger Relief Center and Second Harvest Food Bank and to me this was kind of on par with that kind of philanthropy because so many people were going to benefit day one and then day two and three and four it just becomes geometric.

Matthew: How big of a part do you think Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnet, laid into feeding the legalization effort in 2014?

John: I think a lot because we weren’t, again back to my mistakes, I don’t think I do a good job of responding to it. We kind of rag tagged there at the end. He brought some money and his ads were totally misleading. We hadn’t really thought out the strategy for that. I mean they had all these different, you know, there’s these drug dealers taking care of sick people and the drug dealers want to get the drugs. I mean ridiculous stuff. Drug dealers don’t buy medical marijuana and pack it together and sell it. They go out with a cigarette boat and get it by the bails out here off my beach, but it was effective. They were scaring people. Our children are going to get marijuana, our children. I mean it’s like what, to me it’s like you got more shit inside your medicine cabinet Sheldon that could kill everybody. Marijuana is not going to kill anybody, but those fear tactics were very effective, especially to people when you get to 60 years and older.

Every year up the ladder is where the votes really fall off for us because older people, and unfortunately I hate to report that I’m now 60 so I’m one of them, the older you get we found the more scared and uninformed they were and we started losing that vote. I mean you go to 60 to 65 to 70 to 75 and it was an off year election and those people vote. I mean that’s an even, that’s something to do. Haircut tomorrow and vote today.

Matthew: So is that a big part of the strategy this time around? Just kind of mitigate the fear of the senior citizens?

John: I think yeah to educate them, to say listen guys you all make up 13% of the population but you make up 40% of healthcare and the pharmaceutical needs. You, me, I’m with you. We’re the ones that are going to be stricken with these illnesses and to try to educate them that look this is a lot safer than oxy. This is a lot safer than Percocet. I mean all you got to do is look at a picture of Prince in his elevator shaft. I mean that’s what did him in. And so to kind of tell that story, and then I think the other strategy is look last time was an off year election. We had two people, unpopular running for governor, nobody cared. Important to know is those candidates who were running they got very low numbers, medical marijuana got higher vote totals than any single person on the statewide ballot.

This time around it’s a presidential election. Turnout was my enemy last time. This time turnout will be my friend I believe. The last time the Supreme Court approved our language 4 to 3, it was very close. This year I tweaked the language to kind of answer some of the critics, tweaked the language last time 4 to 3, Supreme Court. This time the Supreme Court said by 7-0 opinion we approve your language. Last time the Attorney General Pam Bondy opposed us with Amicus Brief, this time she didn’t. Last time, everybody was saying let’s do this legislatively. Last time we said okay well let’s try to do it. Two years have gone by, nothing has happened in the legislature. And finally this time in this presidential election we’ve got three people that are going to be running for president of any substance. We got Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and I think his name is Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party. All three of the presidential candidates running for office are 100% in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana. The important thing to remember is injury and disease does not pick political parties. Just because you’re a Democrat doesn’t mean you’re going to get multiple sclerosis. Just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you’re not going to be injured in an accident. As we all know disease and injuries they are neutral.

Matthew: Do you talk with anybody in the legal profession; judges, lawyers that support cannabis legalization but are fearful to step forward and announce their support publically?

John: Yeah and sheriffs and police chiefs. I mean kind of a lot. The last time the Sherriff’s Association came out really against us and they said look we’re for it. We just don’t want it to be done with an amendment. We want it to be done legislatively so there can be more control. This time the sheriffs, while they’re not going to come out for me, they’re not going to be out there fighting me like they did last time. Look there’s a whole world, a whole industrial business of housing and jailing drug offenders. And these policemen and sheriffs and police chiefs they don’t want to be wasting their time chasing down people who are using medical marijuana, and they are compassionate people. My main opponent was Sheriff Grady Judd from Lakeland. He said look I want this to happen. I just want it to be done legislatively. If you ask him now he says the legislature failed us.

The people who really come up to me and who support me are doctors, nurses, people who work in hospice centers, people who work in rehab centers, oncologists. The cancer doctors are the ones that come to me and go for God sake please make this happen. There is a drug that you can take for nausea, but it doesn’t work. I mean they’ve never been able to figure out how to make it work. When you have taken chemo and you take marijuana in any form it almost immediately gives you your appetite and quells your nausea. It just works. So a lot of people are coming forward and I think as these dominos are falling around the country, people are more embolden and have more courage to say hey we’ll step forward and be out there.

Matthew: As cannabis gains a bigger foothold in Florida and if legalization passes, do you see yourself getting involved in the commercial side of the business at all?

John: No, I have no interest. I have no land, I have no dispensaries, I have no plan. Every law firm and lobbyist in the State of Florida now has a marijuana group, but I’m an entrepreneur. I have a bunch a hotels and shopping centers and part of a private (14.29 unclear) that I have attractions and my law firm is Morgan & Morgan. I’ve got them all over the country. So I got all I can handle and I think it’s better for me not to be because I don’t want this to be about me and some kind of financial gain for me. So that’s been my pledge that I don’t and I won’t.

Matthew: Our friends at Bluebird Botanicals are offering CannaInsider listeners a 25% off coupon code on all CBD tinctures, vaping liquids and salves. Simply visit and use coupon code INSIDER25. Again, that coupon code is INSIDER25. Now back to your program.
Matthew: How big of a factor is an increase in tax revenue in helping the legalization effort in Florida?

John: Well look when you really think, when you get into the business side of it it is every day technology and innovation gets rid of a lot of jobs here in America. This is a job creator. This is a tax creator. This is an economy builder. I mean all you have to do is look at it in Colorado and see what’s happened out there. I mean the governor was kind of 50/50 on it and how he’s 100% on it. Real estate values have gone up. There’s more real estate spaces taken. There’s jobs, there’s revenue, there’s taxes. From a business side this is an absolute no brainer. It just means money to the state and jobs for the people.

Matthew: John can you explain what Civil Asset Forfeiture is for our listeners that don’t know?

John: Well if you were caught, I’m not a criminal defense lawyer. I’m a trial lawyer but I did go to law school. It’s basically where if you’re involved in a criminal enterprise that you can forfeit your assets that were involved in that. If you have a car or something your car could be impounded and sold. By the way that’s a big business for a lot of sheriff’s departments. That is a revenue bill and some of these… that’s kind of a dirty little secret. I mean that’s a revenue builder for them.

Matthew: Right. They have part of their budget built in is civil asset forfeiture and that being said do you think it really colors how we should look at their opposition to cannabis?

John: I think it might. I mean look you got people who want to lock people up for drugs because there is private jails. I mean you think it colors those people’s view, yeah they want to lock them up because they make money. In fact if I owned a hotel, which I do, but I want tourists to come to my hotel, yeah. That’s how I make money. The only way people make money that own jails is to lock people up. And so what we decided to do in this country is to have this so called War on Drugs where we lock people up who have a drug addiction. We don’t lock people up for having diabetes, but we lock them up in America. We love to put people in jail in America. We have 18 times more people in jail per capita than any country in the world and the closest to us is China and I’ve been to China and I was scared to chew bubble gum and look at a police. I just stayed in my hotel room looking out the window, but we will lock people up a lot faster here because it’s profitable. We like to act like we’re very tolerant people, but America may be the most intolerant. The caning that goes on in Singapore pales in comparison to all the people in jails in America.

Matthew: Yeah I think there’s just a feeling of powerlessness like our legislators have kind of been taken over, infiltrated by certain powers that just dictate what to do and one of those powers is the prison lobby or companies that benefit from the War on Drugs and we just don’t know what to do. It’s frustrating.

John: Well look I mean the pharmaceutical industry is billions and billions and billions of dollars and they don’t want this. The two groups that don’t want this to pass are pharmaceutical industry and El Chapo. Those are the two people who are really groups that don’t want it. I do a lot of tobacco litigation, sue the tobacco companies for deaths of people. The tobacco industry is probably the most evil, diabolical industry. I mean they are in the business of premeditated murder. You know what they call the young smokers? They call them replacement smokers. Forty-four thousand people die every year, excuse me, 440,000 die every year from tobacco. When you smoke a filtered cigarette and you see that brown stuff at the end of the tip. You think oh that’s the tar and nicotine. No it’s not. They lace the cotton with a chemical to make it turn brown so you think that all of that is being blocked. They are in the business of premeditated murder and our government allows it. Why? Because they got the bribe money. It’s outrageous. And by the way, marijuana has never resulted in one single death ever in the world from marijuana use.

Matthew: Great points. Now what you think will happen if Chris Christie becomes Attorney General in the Trump administration, if that happens?

John: Well it would be like the bully from your fifth grade class is now in charge. The teacher has gone out to take a smoke and now the bully is in charge of the classroom. I mean it’s unimaginable to me. I’m a liberal democrat okay but I’m a very fiscal conservative. I’m a businessperson, I’m a capitalist. I love what Bernie Sanders said but I just couldn’t go that far because I mean there’s just not enough money to give everybody shit for free. But when I look at the people, Chris Christie and what’s going on in America I’m like, I mean, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I know that people called Trump Hitler and Mussolini. I don’t want to go that far but I will say this, I can see how Hitler happened. Because I’m sure that Hitler was not out saying I’m going to exterminate all the Jews the first day in office, but he was saying some awful shit.

What I hear and what I see makes me understand how good people hoping to protect themselves let real bad people get in charge. So Chris Christie, what he would probably do is he would probably undo all the… he would probably start prosecuting everybody federally because there’s a conflict between the states and the federal government which could shut down everything marijuana in America. You can’t bank because of it now. Banking with marijuana is real difficult because the federal preemption.

Matthew: Any desires to run for political office in Florida or otherwise?

John: Who me, no. Listen I got a great life. I go to Hawaii in the winter time. I come to my beach house in the spring and in the late fall. I go to my house in Orlando. I travel the world. I’ve got all my children work with me in my law firm. I’ve got grandchildren. I sit out here on the back porch at night and drink Makers Mark and grill steaks. Why the heck would I want to do something like that?

Matthew: Now if Amendment 2 doesn’t pass for some reason will you continue your activism?

John: I’ll continue my activism. I can’t imagine doing it a third time. I mean I would have to say you know I’ve carried the baton for two legs. Let’s see what we can do. I’m now 60 years old. What I plan to do if it passes, I plan to then go out and do another constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage in Florida to $15 an hour because none of this stuff is ever going to happen in the legislature because the Chamber of Commerce and these people that bribe our politicians. They don’t want to pay people a living wage. I mean in all my businesses I pay living wages, and guess what? I think I make more money because of it because people stay. But I don’t know how people live on 7-8-9 dollars an hour. I mean the food bank, the Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center at Second Harvest Food Bank, 250,000 people, this is in Orlando, come every month or every week, excuse me. Most of them are the working poor. I mean they go to the grocery store, they check people out and they get in their car and they go get free food because they don’t have enough money to feed their families. I mean Bernie Sanders is right on on that.

Matthew: You know sometimes even the best laid plans have unintended consequences as we saw when Wendy’s says they plan to automate all their fast food restaurants with automated ordering. So sometimes there’s a benefit in higher wages for some folks but at the same time that kind of creates an incentive for businesses to use automation or software or other things that replace people entirely because they don’t want to pay the increased wages. Do you think that’s a tradeoff worth making?

John: Yeah because I don’t believe it. I believe that Wendy’s can try to automate all they want. I mean I’ve driven through there. I haven’t ever seen anything automated in Wendy’s.

Matthew: Well they just announced it recently.

John: Well they can announce they’re going to go to Pluto too, but who is going to cook the hamburgers? Who is going to take the change? I mean when you come through the drive thru window. I mean everybody has got aspirations. Listen if you want to worry about something, worry about the driverless car. The driverless puts car dealerships will sell fewer cars. I mean how many hours a day are you in a car. You don’t need a car. If you’ve got Uber and a driverless car, you don’t need a car anymore. I mean last night we went to a restaurant, we had some drinks here. Uber came to my house at the beach, we got in the Uber. We drove down the street, we had dinner. We came back. I mean but if it was a driverless car, I think what that does is there’s no more insurance agencies, there’s no more insurance companies, there’s no more body shops. I mean innovation of technology is coming which also kind of makes my point for the marijuana industry. It is a job and tax creator.

So you know technology and innovation is going to come. I don’t think this, business is never going to pay people more just so they can do it. If they can do it more efficiently, they’re not going to just keep the robots out just because they’re good people and benevolent people. I don’t believe it.

Matthew: John you recently were a participant and speaker at the Marijuana Business Daily Conference. What did you think of that when you went around? It was your first time there. What did you think of the cannabis business community?

John: Shocked. I mean I thought I was at an Amway convention. I mean there was thousands of people there. See I’m not part of this group. I had never been to anything like that before. I’ve been on the medical marijuana side in Florida and you know very smart people, business people, doctors and I just thought we are at a tipping point that one day in the near future that avalanche is going to happen and people will go my God what happened. It was just a snowflake, well no with all that built up snow it finally just fell and it was well organized. The people were smart. The vendors were good. I was amazed. It was in my hometown so I didn’t have to go that far to do it, but it was I think 3,000 or 4,000 people there. I was like good lord.

Matthew: Right. John I like to ask a personal development question. As you look over the arc of your life, is there a book that had an outsize impact on your that you would like to share with listeners?

John: A book? There’s been a lot of books. I mean the book that’s impacting me right now is a book called Halftime, and everybody always gives the phony answer the Bible so I’m never going to do that. But there’s a book called Halftime and what Halftime talks about is going from success to significance. That you go through life making money and trying to get ahead and then you get to a point in your life where you’re at Halftime or for me probably the third quarter. It’s a fantastic book. So the premise of the book is why are we here and what’s it all about and what comes next. And when you stop focusing on success and you start to focus on significance you will find a much greater peace inside of yourself. I find a great peace for doing this.

I found a great peace when I did the food bank. We just put a bunch of money to build a domestic shelter for abused woman called the Morgan & Morgan Harbor House, and I have found when you look at people that have peace and you’ve seen them in your life, what is it behind it? Why does that person feel, why is that person so chill? Why is that person such at peace? I’m trying to look at it and here’s what it is. There’s a prayer by Mother Theresa and it goes like this, the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace. When you go from success to significance you take what’s called her simple path and when you get to that service part, and that’s where I’m at right now with legalizing medical marijuana, when you get to that service part that’s what gives you peace and that’s what gives you, I think in my own mind, everlasting peace.

Matthew: Great. That’s a great place to close John and as we do close I want to thank you for your activism and generous donations to cannabis legalization. Can you tell us one more time how listeners can find United For Care online?

John: Go to We will accept your money. We need your money. We don’t know what they’re going to come at us with in the fall, but we got just so close last time. We just need that one more snowflake for our tipping point to give us this avalanche. So it’s

Matthew: John thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider. We really appreciate it.

John: Alright, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedback(at) We would love to hear from you.

Please do not any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guest on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the company’s or entrepreneur’s profile on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care, bye-bye.

John Morgan is a famous attorney turned activist and philanthropist. Find out why he is putting so much of his time and money into the fight to legalize cannabis in Florida.

** CannaInsider is a podcast where the host Matthew Kind interviews the leaders of the cannabis industry.
Get the podcast for free on your iPhone or Android device. **

Key Takeaways:
[2:30] – John’s background
[4:28] – John talks about United for Care
[7:17] – Why FL missed out on legalization in 2014
[9:02] – What are the strategies this time around
[11:56] – Why Floridans are not more public about their support of cannabis
[15:31] – How big a part tax playes in legalization in FL
[16:32] – John explains Civil Asset Forfeiture
[20:58] – John talks about if Chris Christie becomes Attorney General
[23:27] – John talks about if Amendment 2 doesn’t pass
[27:00] – John talk about his experience at the MJ Biz Daily Conference
[28:09] – John’s book recommendation
[30:41] – Contact details for United for Care

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at:

Using Data to Help Cannabis Investors with Emily Fata

Emily Fata Green Pioneer

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)canainsider(dot)com. Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private investment alert service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the investor alert service you will get access to curated opportunities that the public will simply never see. Again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Now here’s your program.

This is Matthew Kind with just a quick announcement. You may have noticed that my voice at times is not loud enough during a few interviews and I just want to let everybody know that that issue is going to be resolved very shortly so I appreciate your patience. Now to your interview.

Cannabis companies raise money, create products, and make decisions based on data. To help us understand how cannabis companies are using data to make informed decisions is Emily Fata. Emily welcome to CannaInsider.

Emily: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?

Emily: I’m in Denver, Colorado.

Matthew: Great and before we dig into the data in the cannabis business tell us about your background and how you got started in this crazy world of cannabis?

Emily: Yeah absolutely. So my background is actually in finance and I moved to Colorado in the summer of 2013. So this was about six months before the adult use markets opened up here and I had previously worked as an analyst for a private equity firm. So I moved out here to start my own business and I put an ad on Craig’s List to say hey I can do financial models, write business plans for companies looking to raise capital, and the first person who actually emailed me was a grower. Someone who had owned a grow house since 2009 and they were looking to raise capital so they could build out the rest of their facility and buy enough equipment so that they would be able to start selling it to the adult use market as well in January.

Matthew: Great and so what is your day to day job look like now?

Emily: Yeah so my business has really evolved since then. So after I worked with that first client they introduced me to a few of their friends who were also looking to raise capital and I think that those first few experiences were really pivotal for me because first of all I got really curious just kind of what’s going on in this industry? Where is it going and secondly I realized how nuanced and how complex it actually is to cultivate and manufacture cannabis. So I really saw an opportunity to kind of build a business around its niche, around financial modeling specifically for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities. So that’s really what I do day to day now.

I’m mostly an analyst so I specialize in financial models and data analysis but I also really do a lot of storytelling. So working with entrepreneurs and working with business owners who are looking to raise capital I help them create financial models and create projections but then also find ways to embed these numbers into compelling investment narratives. So kind of creating a story around the projections and come up with a thesis that’s going to be really interesting to potential investors.

Matthew: So your primary clients are cultivators and infused products companies would you say?

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: Okay.

Emily: Yeah absolutely. So I work with; I do work with entrepreneurs and business owners. Mostly ones who are looking to raise capital or apply for state and city licenses in new medical marijuana markets but I also work with investors. So I also work with a lot of people who maybe have real estate or technology investing backgrounds but don’t really know a lot about cultivating cannabis. So I’ll work with those kinds of investors to kind of educate them on the nuances and on kind of everything that goes into operating an indoor agricultural facility.

Matthew: So what type of data is most important to communicate to investors so their ears perk up and they’re getting the info they need?

Emily: Hmm. So from the perspective of the business owner or an entrepreneur really the most important thing is doing the research to back up your projections. So anyone can put together a spreadsheet that says hey by year three we’re going to be making 100,000 dollars a month but the question really becomes what research and what data do you have to back up that statement? So it’s very important to just kind of understand. Understand your market, understand your target demographic, understand potentially the ramp up of how many sales you can expect to make in the first month and how that will ramp up over time. Yeah so it’s really important to kind of have that initial research before going into the modeling process or before actually building your projections because you really want to be able to back up the numbers and the projections that you’re presenting to an investor.

Matthew: Yeah and what’s the best way to back that up? Is it by using hey I’ve worked with cultivators in the past and this is what you can expect in terms of yield per square foot or something to that effect?

Emily: Yeah absolutely so and that’s kind of where I come in because I’ve been working in this industry for about three years now so I have collected a lot of data on kind of the true costs of cultivation and what kind of yields you can really expect based on the type of flowering lights or equipment that you’re using. What’s a realistic amount to spend on nutrients and on soil and on electricity per month? So I do think it’s very helpful if you are a grower or if you don’t necessarily have the operational history or have operating statements to back up your financial model to really seek out that data. To seek out quality accurate data that’s going to put together a realistic proforma.

Matthew: Right and just for people that aren’t familiar with the term proforma can you just elaborate on what that means specifically?

Emily: Yeah. So essentially sometimes you’ll hear a financial model or a proforma used interchangeably but essentially it means looking forward. So really the goal is to kind of create projections for the first few years of the businesses operating history or sorry of a business’s operations in the future. So it’s really kind of predicting the sales that you’ll get annually. The cost of goods sold, the cost of productions, and then as well as the operating costs, payroll, everything else that goes into operating a business. You’re kind of looking forward and you’re saying hey this is how much it’s going to cost to start this business and this is how much money we’re going to make every month, this is how much money we’re going to spend every month.

Matthew: So put together a proforma or help business owners put together a proforma and then they raise money and then when there’s a gap between because proforma is an estimate or a guess in some regards. A well educated guess or estimate with ([07:46] unclear) putting in as much good criteria and variables as you can but you can’t project perfectly. When the gaps do arise between the proforma or sometimes you exceed expectations too that could happen.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: But when you do exceed expectations or fall short of expectations; when the business owner does why is that typically? Where do they fall short?

Emily: That’s a really interesting point and I always like to say that the point of the model is not to be right but it’s to be useful. So the goal when you set out creating these financial models or these proformas the goal is not to kind of have this perfect, accurate statement of what’s going to happen in the future but the idea is really to get a strong idea of how much. When you’re realistically going to start bringing revenue and kind of be in the black and how much money you need to get yourself through that period or through that burn rate. So I would say that’s the most dangerous thing. If you underestimate how much time you need to get your business up and running and really be profitable and be generating revenue then that can be problematic because you need to infuse capital into the business to keep it up and running but if you told your investors hey we’ll be in the black by month three and you’re not actually generating revenue until month six then that’s kind of where it gets problematic if your model is not accurate.

So that’s kind of, that’s the one case where you really do want to either overestimate how long it’s going to take to get your business up and running and especially within cannabis because this is agriculture. These facilities are filled with living, breathing plants that don’t always act in predictable ways. So I always really recommend that entrepreneurs and business owners that they overestimate how much capital they think they’re going to need until they can get their business kind of past that mark.

Matthew: Are there any expectations that you find investors have of business owners or the market segment of cannabis in general that’s not realistic perhaps returns or anything else where they’re just not being realistic or they don’t understand the particulars of the cannabis market?

Emily: Yeah absolutely. So I’ve worked with a lot of investors who come from a real estate or technology background. So they understand money in valuation really well but they don’t always have a good understanding of agriculture. So as I just mentioned when you have a facility that’s filled with plants a lot of things can go wrong. There are a lot of moving pieces, a lot of variables, and then on top of that you have these shifting legal regulations that can change very quickly and have major implications on revenue and operating costs. So I think that can be something that investors from these more traditional backgrounds don’t always understand right away. So that’s something that they definitely learn with time but and then another thing is when I was working in private equity we had these standard metrics for IRR or multiples for every type of deal. So we knew what kind of multiple range we could expect for a luxury hotel versus an infrastructural project.

So it became very easy to pass on a deal if it didn’t meet X metrics. If it wasn’t like it’s spects multiple or whatever it was so and I think these metrics this is something that I’d like to work on developing but right now because the regulations differ from state to state so much and the data is still relatively sparse. It’s tricky to say; to come up with this across the board metric and to say hey this multiple is really good for a cultivation facility just because every state and every market is so different.

Matthew: Right. That makes sense.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: It’s just to fractured of a market and segmented and it’s too, these that are broken up into fiefdoms so you can’t create like an IRR for California that’s also going to apply to Illinois is what you’re saying.

Emily: Exactly, exactly.

Matthew: Okay that makes sense. Now if an entrepreneur is pitching to investors, what do you think kind of the minimum math or projections they should have ready for perspective investors should be?

Emily: So I really recommend doing a three to five year proforma. So basic projections that lay out your potential revenue and your potential operating expenses for the next few years but as I mentioned before even more important than this is to really do a lot of research on your market and to understand kind of who your competitors are, what they’ve done to understand your target demographic, your potential customers or clients. So I think that element especially if you’re an early stage business. That part of the research is almost more important than these projections because projections it’s a guess. It’s a very educated guess and it’s really hopefully built around a lot of analysis and a lot of research but I think the most important thing as an entrepreneur to do is to really understand your market better than anyone.

Matthew: Yeah. Great point. Now is there any terms growers in particular or cultivators or maybe even infused products companies they just don’t understand? They don’t come from a private equity background they don’t understand IRR is Internal Rate of Return or some other acronyms that they should perhaps know or at least look up. Is there any that you feel like is important for them to know out of the gate they should be thinking about?

Emily: Hmm. That’s a really interesting question and I think yes absolutely EBT which is your earnings before taxes and depreciation. That’s a great one but I do think and when I work with entrepreneurs and business owners I always try to educate them on these just so they don’t get caught off guard in an investor meeting where someone is dropping all these terms and they don’t understand them but more importantly I think the gap in communication between investors and entrepreneurs isn’t really about terminology but it’s just about approaching a deal from a completely different mindset. So I think for entrepreneurs and business owners especially within the cannabis business they really understand kind of intuitively. They understand their costs very intuitively.

They understand how much it’s going to cost to expand a business very intuitively but they can have a difficult time communicating this vision to an investor just because it’s based on years potentially; like a decade of experience kind of running this kind of business. So that’s really where I come in. It’s really kind of capturing and harnessing this vision and creating a compelling narrative that’s going to resonate with an investor. That’s going to make them interested and have a lot of faith in this entrepreneur’s ability to start up this business.

Matthew: You really get granular with expenses. I mean apart from revenue projections that we’ve talked about a little bit here let’s kind of drill into operating costs. What are some of the costs that business owners should be focused on controlling or mitigating?

Emily: So I would say definitely energy costs and this is critical and I think this is a huge part of my business and the cannabis industry is very unique in the way that it evolved underground. So a lot of growers; so over the past decade or so there was very little technological innovation and a lot of growers were using equipment that was never really designed to flower plants or to cultivate cannabis and some growers are still kind of stuck in the old way of doing things. So a lot of growers still use high pressure sodium light bulbs to flower plants which really were never meant for actual agricultural uses. They have visual applications. They’re meant to be the light bulbs on a street corner.

Matthew: Yeah.

Emily: So I think kind of this and unfortunately it’s not uncommon for a grow house at least in Colorado to be spending 15,000, 20,000 dollars a month on electricity and to think that that’s normal.

Matthew: Yeah.

Emily: Because with these light bulbs not only are you using a lot of energy but you’re also creating a lot of heat. So you have to blast the air conditioning to kind of mitigate the heat effects of these light bulbs.

Matthew: Yes.

Emily: So even though the technology has evolved a lot in the past few years some growers and processes are just hesitant to change their methods. So I think that’s something. I think that’s something that within the next few years we’ll really see a lot of growers focus on is reducing their energy costs and moving towards more energy efficient manners of cultivation.

Matthew: Is there anything you can tell us about what you think about LED’s versus traditional lighting and in terms of yield or metrics outputs from those two different types of lighting standards?

Emily: Yeah. So I’m a big proponent of LED’s. I think in terms of yield there are so many different variables that go into that. A lot of it is not just about the light but it’s about your growing style. So that can vary and it’s not only effected by the type of light you’re using but in terms of energy costs I think if you were to switch a grow house that was outfitted with high pressure sodium lights to LED lights I think you could reasonably expect to cut your energy costs in half if not more and a lot of that doesn’t just come from the energy that you’re using for the lights but also you can reduce the air conditioning and make other subtle changes that will reduce your electricity and energy costs.

Matthew: If you were to give the same information to two business owners about a grow they might arrive at different conclusions about what needs to be done, what the problems and opportunities are. Do you ever see business owners use data to arrive at the wrong conclusions?

Emily: Fortunately no at least in my business. I really think data can give you a lot of power in terms of making the next moves in what’s best for your business and that can come from paying attention to your operating statements, paying attention to your point of sale data, paying attention to kind of the people who come into your dispensary. So I think paying attention to data is always a good thing. Potentially you might have a really good sales month and think that one particular product sells very well in the course of one month and produce that more. I could see that going on but typically I think using data is always a powerful thing.

Matthew: How about after lighting or electricity what are some other expenses that are important to find ways to mitigate their effect on a business? Any that stand out?

Emily: Hmm. I think there are definitely different types of growing methodologies that I’ve seen. Just be more efficient with the cost of goods so maybe soil and nutrients. I’ve seen a lot of people have success with Sea of Green that type of growing style but in general it really just depends; it really just depends on the grower and what he or she feels comfortable doing and what he or she has had success with. So I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for one type of growing methodology to reduce costs but yeah I think just definitely being aware and understanding what’s possible with the new technology and the new types of machinery that exists now.

Matthew: Now we had talked once before and you had mentioned that smoking cannabis is a result of prohibition and will likely go back to how we consumed cannabis pre prohibition.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: Can you tell us what you mean by that?

Emily: Yeah absolutely. So that’s actually not my theory. I took it from Ed Rosenthal. He has a book that came out maybe a year ago called “Beyond Buds.”

Matthew: Okay.

Emily: Which is about marijuana extracts and his theory is that before prohibition people were drawn towards tinctures and teas and concentrates and these products that had concentrated amounts of cannabis so and I think the data is kind of supporting this theory. In Colorado we’re seeing demand for infused products go up each year. We’re seeing more and more consumers kind of shift their demand from just raw flower to concentrates to shatters, waxes, edibles. So I think that this is a growing market segment and I think it’s a really important thing to pay attention especially for growers who are considering expanding to not only look at the market where it is right now but to look at it where it could be in five years, in ten years.

Matthew: Yeah I think particularly for the baby boomers there is a stigma associated with the smoking of cannabis and when they see it in a drink or a tincture or a salve that stigma is not as nearly as strong or doesn’t exist at all. So I think those are good points.

Emily: Exactly and I also think kind of for people that are newer to consuming cannabis even younger people inhaling burning vegetation isn’t always a comfortable sensation. A lot of people are not attracted to that. So I think when you can create ways to make the consumption process easier and also just more natural and more comfortable for people who haven’t tried it before I think you expand your market by quite a bit.

Matthew: Yeah and what about if I am considering opening a dispensary in a market is there any rules of thumb in terms of like hey I need a certain population within a certain distance of this location to get this many patients or customers in the door? I mean is there anything you could tell us there because I mean obviously placement of the dispensary is crucial. So how can we think about geography for the dispensary?

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Are you talking about in a new or medical market or an established?

Matthew: Yeah just any place I’m looking to open a dispensary. If it’s medical obviously there’s going to be probably a less perspective customers because they have to get a card or so forth but even rec too. It’s like how do I make a proforma and project demand for a certain geography? How do I get a handle on how many people might walk through the door? Is there any way to do that?

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah I think it’s very important to understand the demographics of the locations where you’re considering setting up a shop. So are the people young, are the people old, are the people wealthy, is it kind of a poor region and it’s very important to understand kind of who you would potentially be serving in that region and also what kind of dispensary are you looking to start and what kind of demographic are you looking to serve and I think certainly; yeah I think it’s certainly that’s a big part of the market analysis that goes into kind of creating a proforma or creating a financial model and specifically within medical markets. I think the first and the most important thing to do is to really look at the conditions permitted under the legislation.

So if it’s a limited market Florida for instance where you only have CBD and there are only like five or six conditions it’s possible to kind of do a study and understand okay how many patients with HIV are living in this region? How many patients with Glaucoma or with Cancer or like all of that data exists. All of that data is public and is online. So I think it is very important to understand kind of the conditions and the diseases and the incidences in the region where you’re going to start your business but then also in some of the newer markets it’s becoming tougher to do that because a lot of the newer legislations they include chronic pain which I think encompasses a lot of conditions that are hard to predict and there isn’t necessarily data for that.

Matthew: Yes that’s true. It’s very subjective what chronic pain is.

Emily: Exactly.

Matthew: Have you seen cultivators pivot to concentrates and what are the results when they try to do that; try to expand what they’re manufacturing from going straight from flower to concentrates and is there any words of wisdom about making that transition so to offer concentrates that the market wants?

Emily: Yeah. I think it’s important to do it slowly and exactly how you phrased it through the transition. It’s not something that should be done all at once. So actually and even to go back to your question about using data to come to the wrong decision I think it is a lot of people are kind of coming onboard with this idea that the concentrate market is really the future but there still is a lot of demand for flower currently. So it doesn’t make sense to just use all of your flower to create infused products and then offer nothing in your dispensary. So I think doing it slowly and transitioning with the market and understanding kind of how things are going to change three years from now but still responding to what the market is demanding right now. So it’s a dance in that regard. If you’re looking to expand your facility and raise capital and start a construction process to meet demand a couple years out then you really want to be looking towards that future market but I think it is important to kind of serve and to give people what they want now and what they want today when they walk into your dispensary.

Matthew: Yeah and certainly from a P and L point of view these concentrates seem to be probably the most profitable thing you can sell.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: Because that’s what consumers want.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative) exactly.

Matthew: Okay and Emily switching to some more personal development questions here is there a book that you have read that stands out over the course of your life that’s had a big impact either on you professionally or personally that you would recommend to CannaInsider listeners?

Emily: Yeah absolutely. So one of my favorite books, I read it in college. It’s called “Small is Beautiful” and it’s by a British economist, E.F. Schumacher and it was published in the 70’s but I think it’s still very, very relevant today and essentially he talks about Buddhist economics and essentially creating business with a soul and approaching business and approaching economics and approaching development as if people really matter and as if the planet really matters so and I think it’s very relevant to the cannabis industry just because there’s so much responsibility when you’re building a new industry to do it in the right way and I talk about energy efficiency and I think cannabis legalization represents so much social progress but if the industry doesn’t evolve in a way that’s sustainable and in a way that is really kind of taking into account kind of the future of this country and the future of the planet then I think that just kind of becomes shadowed the progress that it represents. So yeah I definitely really recommend this book because it’s not all about making money. It really is about kind of considering the future and considering kind of how our actions today will affect kind of future generations.

Matthew: Yeah. There does seem to be something with businesses as they get bigger. They kind of lose some of their soul. It seems hard to maintain the character sometimes it gets deluded and sometimes ethics kind of go by the wayside and it’s a little bit inevitable. I mean I think about how Google has evolved from their motto of don’t be evil to something maybe a little bit from the good benevolence to over to something else.

Emily: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: Or there’s a lot of other examples besides Google or it comes out that Facebook is suppressing conservative news. You hear these things and you’re just like gosh it’s hard to do that stuff when you’re small but as you grow there is this change that happens and a lot of times you’re customers don’t benefit from growth. They say well that doesn’t help us that you’re growing necessarily. It may help you or your shareholders but you can have a beautiful, profitable business and not have to have a world domination plan so I’m glad you mentioned that.

Emily: Yeah and I really believe in kind of mindful capital raising and mindful expansion and thinking about; for a business to think about their values before expanding. Sometimes there’s all this pressure to just be big. If the opportunity exists to be bigger and to make more money unfortunately kind of society and culture just conditions us to go for that but sometimes that’s not the best decision and I think yeah and I think as you mentioned there could be a lot of pressure from outside investors and outside shareholders. So when I’m working with business owners and entrepreneurs I really like to understand their values and understand what they’re looking for from an investor so they can have a partnership with aligned values and so they’re looking for the same things and that way the business will evolve in a way that kind of resonates with their original goals and their original values.

Matthew: Emily as we close how can listeners connect with you and learn more about the services you offer?

Emily: So you can go to my website which is and I have a contact form on their so you can just contact me through that.

Matthew: Great. Well Emily thanks so much for joining us on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Emily: Great. Thank you so much for having me.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today please consider leaving us a review on ITunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback(at) We’d love to hear from you.
Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention this little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

– How much should you invest in your cannabis grow?
– How much profit could you capture if you add concentrates to your business?
– What is a reasonable rate of return for for cannabis investors?

Emily Fata of Green Pioneer walks us through how cannabis investors and business owners can answer these questions and make intelligent decisions with hard data.

Key Takeaways:
[1:41] – Emily talks about how she got started in the cannabis industry
[3:56] – Emily’s primary clients
[4:43] – Most important data for investors
[5:51] – Emily discusses how she backs up the data for investors
[8:08] – Where business owners fall short in expectations
[10:13] – Unrealistic expectations investors have
[12:11] – What Information Investors Want
[15:13] – Emily discusses which costs business owners should watch closely
[17:05] – LEDs vs. traditional lighting
[20:08] – Emily talks about cannabis pre-prohibition
[22:28] – Geography considerations when opening a dispensary
[25:09] – Advice for manufacturers moving from cultivation to concentrates
[26:50] – Emily’s book recommendation
[30:11] – Contact info for Green Pioneer Ventures

Learn more at:

 Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?Find out with your free guide at:

Expert Designers Give Tips to Make your Cannabis Brand Stand Out

croc and plover cannabis brand

Read Full Transcript

Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. We’ve talked about CBD or cannabidiol on the show many times. Just to review though CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound from the cannabis or hemp plant that has many benefits. Now our friends at Treatables have put together a wellness chew that can help your dog or cat become more calm and balanced. Valerie wrote in to tell us about her experience with Treatables.

Valerie writes my ten year old Husky/Shepherd/Lab mix Chuck is my faithful companion. Chuck got significantly quantifiably better from using Treatables. It took about three days of feeding Chuck two to three doses a day to see the full effect but he did get noticeably more comfortable on the first day of feeding them to him. Before CBD Chuck limped and couldn’t enjoy longer walks though he clearly had the desire for them. Once he started taking them he could leap around again. Thanks for writing in Valerie. Treatable chews are legal and available in all 50 states right now. If you want to learn about what Treatables can do for your pet visit www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/pet and get a coupon code for 10% off your order. Once again that URL is www(dot)canainsider(dot)com/pet. Now here’s your program.

Many people listening right now already have a cannabis related business and others are looking to start a cannabis related business. Either way one of the most important decisions you’re going to need to make at some point is how to create a brand that resonates with your target market. To help me intelligently think about branding for your cannabis business I’ve invited husband and wife design team Jamie and Pika Stearns from the firm Croc and Plover to the show today. Jamie, Pika welcome to CannaInsider.

Jamie: Hi Matt. Thank you.

Pika: Yeah thanks for having us.

Matthew: Sure. Jamie and Pika can you each in turn tell us a little bit about your background, your design experience, and how you pivoted to the cannabis space?

Jamie: Yeah I’ll kick things off. So I’ve been working in branding for over 14 years. Most of that time has been spent in Minneapolis and New York City. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of the bigger brands like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Target. I’ve worked with a variety of different types of agencies like the innovation company IDL to product design consultancy Smart Design and then in the past five years we’ve been spending most of our time working on our own startups. We’ve also been doing a lot of branding for entrepreneurs developing products and bringing them to market.

Matthew: Cool.

Pika: My background is mostly in package design and illustration. Before we moved out here to Boulder I worked in New York freelancing at some really great packaging studios and I also worked as an illustrator with innovation consultancies. I got to work with a lot of big brands and my favorite ones were Carlsberg, Bath & Body Works, and Disney and while we were in New York Jamie and I started to work on projects together outside of freelancing and we found that we actually work really well together and wanted to start trying our own thing and so started our own studio called Croc and Plover with our own clients and projects that we could just have more control and influence. Neither of us are really city people so we moved to Boulder on a gut instinct that it would work out for both business and lifestyle reasons and that was two and a half years ago and now we’re living by the mountains and we have two dogs and a baby and things are going really great for us.

Matthew: Well that’s great. I should be a Boulder tourism show. We give so much press to Boulder. It is such a little zanadoo though that it’s hard not to brag on it.

Jamie: It is.

Pika: Yeah.

Jamie: It’s a pretty great place to live in. It had everything that we were looking for and then when we came here we mostly did work with food and beverage companies but then once cannabis was legalized we saw a really great opportunity to help influence this industry from a branding and product development perspective. So I started going to the conferences that were around here and to the meet ups and because it’s such a small world I started meeting a lot of the people that are now the innovators in the space. Then we got involved with mentoring at Canopy Boulder. We’re really excited about a lot of the companies that we see going through that program and what we do is we help companies with brand strategy, we help them with naming companies or naming products, writing around story, helping to come up with marketing tag lines, and then designing logos, designing custom structures for packaging, designing all the graphics that go on to the packaging that go into marketing materials, websites, and now helping companies that are going off to investment with their pitch decks.

Matthew: Wow.

Jamie: And in some cases even if a client doesn’t have a budget to hire a photographer for a photo shoot we’ll even do that in our studio. So we’ve kind of become a one stop shop to get brands off the ground or if a brand has been in the market and they’re getting a lot of traction we really need to take their brand to the next level we can help companies with that as well.

Matthew: So for a new company that’s just starting that doesn’t have a logo, branding, or anything yet what advice would you offer so they can put their best foot forward? I mean it’s really a pivotal time because I notice that we’re moving out of the 1.0 of the cannabis world where even my own brand I have a cannabis leaf on there. It’s green but I recognize it’s time to evolve to something else, a second iteration of the cannabis look and feel of what consumers and people want in general. So with that in mind how does someone put their best foot forward in creating their cannabis brand?

Jamie: Well I think the first thing you said there is the first thing people should consider is to try to get them away from doing the stereotypical things that we see around marijuana and avoid using the pot leaf in your logo and get away from using the tie dye gradient as your color palette. I think the main thing to separate yourself is to think of your brand as more of a lifestyle brand then a pot product and then consider how your brand is going to fit in to your user’s lifestyle. I think it’s also a good idea to take a look at the landscape or the category that the brands going to live in and identify that sliver of the market that they think they can own and then just go for it.

I think it’s also a good idea to look outside of your industry for inspiration. If you have a smoking product maybe you look at furniture companies or end carriers or beauty products. Maybe the way you see that a lamp illuminates a room will give you an idea for how to package your product or maybe the way an architecture firm tells their story will inspire how you talk about your brand but by broadening your inspiration pool you’re going to have more of a unique collection of resources to pull from and ultimately it’s going to help you develop more of a unique brand for yourself.

Matthew: Okay and how about an existing cannabis brand? There’s companies out there that have some traction. Maybe they have a logo and some branding and messaging but it’s really not a fit. It’s not honed or really crafted or contoured to the needs of their customers. What would you suggest for people in that boat?

Pika: I guess the trick is to really find out why your logo or your branding or your messaging whatever it is that isn’t resonating with your customers try to figure out why it’s not resonating which I know is a lot easier said than done but one thing you could do is to start by asking a few people from your target market what they think about your branding. This could be friends or family or co-workers or anyone but really just make sure it’s your specific audience and not just a general cannabis user. Try to figure out why they would or wouldn’t buy or use your product. What do they feel when they look at your logo like if you’re selling a product at a premium price does it look like it’s worth the extra cost? Do they feel like they’re paying for the quality and are they willing to pay extra for quality?

Matthew: Yeah.

Pika: If you’re selling a medicinal product does it look effective? Does it look like it will do what you’re promising it will do and if the problem is that people don’t believe that your product will do what you’re claiming it will then you have to figure out how to get them to trust you.

Matthew: Good point. Now Pika you have a flare for illustrating ideas during brainstorming sessions. When you were talking with me about this it sounded really interesting. I had never really seen or heard someone that can do this personally. Can you talk a little bit about how you can do that and what happens during that process?

Pika: Yeah. I used to work at an innovation consultancy called What If and I’d sit in during their brainstorming sessions with clients and quickly sketch up ideas that were being discussed in the team. So whether it was trying to come up with new products or services I would just illustrate them on the spot and it was great because it would give everyone something to instantly react to and build on and at the end of the session there would be walls covered in all these visualized ideas and you could literally see everything that the group had come up with that day and so yeah it was just really great because you could figure out is this idea working or is it something that just sounded great in my head but now that I see it now it’s actually probably not something that’s right for whatever problem we’re trying to solve.

Matthew: And are there any helpful exercises an individual or team can do to crystallize what their branding and messaging should be cause that’s back to that kind of product market fit and be getting into the consumer’s head about why they’re buying it and the benefit and so forth?

Jamie: Yeah I think if the company or the people that launch their product have a unique story of how or why they came up with the product or what problem they’re solving that’s a really good place to start to build the brand and kick off the brand story and it’s great because then it’s an authentic story that you have to tell. But I think the other thing that you want to think about is if you’re launching one product you want to try to forecast what all is going to live under that brand. Maybe it’s going to be that that one product is what the brand is but if in a short time you’re going to have three or four more products under that umbrella then making sure that you set up the right umbrella brand to support everything that you’re going to have is a really good idea as well.

Pika: Just to elaborate a little bit on what Jamie was saying as far as exercises that could help I think what helps sometimes is to think of your brand as a person and that way you can start to really build its personality. So you can ask yourself is this brand fun, creative, is it serious, is it quiet and then going further.

Matthew: Does it have Tourette’s or a weird feature that people are complaining about.

Pika: Yeah and I mean when you start to personalize it in that sense or personify it I think everything else can fall into place in a more maybe tangible way. So when you’re thinking about the messaging or the colors or the visuals that you use relating it back to that person does it make sense that that person would say that or do those things or act that way? It’s easier to think about what’s right for your brand so that it doesn’t feel like a brand that’s got multiple personalities and so yeah you can see how does it speak? Is it loud? Is it witty? Does it get right to the point? What does it look like? Is it sophisticated or masculine or young and then if you want you can also take it a step further. Imagine your brand is a kid going to its first day of school and you want to know how does it stand out from all the other kids. What’s going to make it unique or different and if you can’t find a reason or a thing that does make it unique or different it could be a sign that you’re entering a super saturated market and you have a real uphill battle ahead of you.

Matthew: Great points. Now packaging let’s pivot to that. I’ve really started to notice packaging recently over the last couple years and have an appreciation for companies that can take the time to invest in their packaging and also I can tell when something is packaged well that I subconsciously maybe I’m willing to pay more for it when packaging itself is not necessarily really expensive. There’s a big ROI there so can you talk a little bit about the importance of packaging and how companies and brands should be thinking about their own packaging?

Jamie: Yeah when we approach packaging we always try to find a design or find a structure that’s interesting to the product and houses the product properly but if your long term goal is to have a custom structure but you’re just getting your product into the market you might end up going to a stock structure that’s cheaper just to get your product to market and then once you see that there’s a need for it and you’re generating some revenue then you can go to that custom structure that you’re looking at. Another thing like you talked about if it feels nice in your hands that’s going to draw people to it as well. So you might look at different finishes that are in line with your brand and in line with your price point. Do you use gold or silver foils or do you use screen print metallic ink or do you use spot varnishes?

These are all options that can really help elevate what your packaging is but when you package your product I think it’s also a good idea to think about how your customer is going to see your product and how they’re going to interact with it so you might look at where it’s going to be displayed and where it’s going to be sold. For example if it’s going to be in a dispensary you might talk to the dispensaries or talk to the bud tenders and find out if it’s going to be in a glass case, if it’s going to be hung on the wall behind them, or maybe you have the opportunity to do a little display that’s going to sit on top of the countertop and then if you sell your product online you’re going to have to rely on your photography to capture the unique features of what your product has and then your opportunity is when you package it for them to receive in the mail you make sure that it’s a memorable experience.

What kind of materials are you using? Do you have any clever little messages that are revealed as they open the product? I think everybody always uses Apple as a good example for packaging and I think it does apply in this case. When you get your Iphone or your computer it really is an experience and the products reveal to you as you open it. It’s not just thrown in a box. So the best thing is to do what you can to show your product well and make it feel like something that your customer is going to be really excited to open and they might even want to keep the packaging because it’s so nice.

Matthew: Great points and also a lack of packaging sometimes. In Apple’s case I think the first Iphone came with no instructions. I mean that’s pretty telling in its own way that you don’t even need instructions to operate it.

Jamie: Yeah absolutely and then in some cases it is a matter of you have to educate them. So then we always look at what is the Apple way of doing that? What’s the 1, 2, 3 that tells them perfectly clear of how to use this product.

Matthew: Let’s talk a little bit about mistakes and what people run into when they’re creating branding and packaging and all these things. Is there one or two things that stand out in terms of mistakes you see clients make or have made by the time they get to you that maybe people can think about sidestepping when they create their brand?

Pika: Yeah. This is I guess the most common mistake is one that we find isn’t really intentional and a lot of people might not even be aware of it but it’s when owners of companies or products get too personal with their brand and by this I mean with their branding and specifically their logo. For example if they first launched their company maybe they were bootstrapping their branding and made their logo themselves or they had a cousin or an aunt who could help them out for free and so they have this really emotional connection with their logo. It was their first and it was the face of their company for a long time so they don’t think there is anything wrong with it and are reluctant to make any changes or too many changes.

And so really the thing that we try to tell people is when you create a brand try to separate yourself from your brand. The brand isn’t you. It’s not art. It’s not an extension of yourself or an expression of your feelings. It’s a product or a service that is hopefully filling a need in another person’s life. So when you make decisions make sure you’re asking yourself what’s right for the brand not necessarily what do I like personally. So don’t rule out the color yellow for instance just because you or your partner hates it but to that same point you’re the one that has to live with your brand so at the end of the day make sure that whatever you create is something you’re happy and proud to live with and then the second point would also be to find good partners to help build your brand in an effective way. Don’t think you can or should do everything yourself. You’ll still be the captain. You’ll steer the ship but find good product designers or web designers or marketing people or whoever the expert is in the field that you need help with so that you can really focus on what you do best for your company.

Matthew: Great points. I want to really zero in on differentiating and give listeners some public examples of brands that have done a good job of differentiating themselves. Is there a company or two you might be able to highlight that has done a good job branding their cannabis company?

Pika: Yeah. I think this might be an obvious designer choice but Leafs By Snoop is really great and this will go against what we said earlier about not having to use the obvious cues but even though they use the leaf on it and it’s like their main symbol I think it’s done in a really elegant and classy way. The branding and packaging overall just look like a range of beauty products and not your obvious cannabis product. They have interesting structures to house their products. They have different finishes to add that premium touch to the brand and they also have it’s like a more subtle detail but the copywriting is really cool. One of their products is called Dog Treats and it’s playful and descriptive and it’s not trying too hard and then also carries in a little bit into the types of flavors that they’re offering for their edibles. So it’s not just a dark chocolate but there’s strawberries and cream with waffle bits and peanut butter gems and I don’t know that I would try all these things but they were really different and it’s cool just to see that out there.

Matthew: That is cool. He has some talented people that help him for sure. He’s got so much stuff going on.

Pika: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamie: Yeah and then another brand that I think they’re doing really good stuff is IVXX. It’s a very minimal design that’s executed very well. It’s really nothing more than a well crafted logo with a unique name. A very subtle pattern and some gorgeous colors on simple elegant packaging and then they also take it a step farther and their website is done really well. It’s a real branded experience where every little element is considered from the black and white photography and videos that you see on the homepage to the rollover effects and then the pop out windows. I really think they did a great job and I also think companies like IVXX and Leafs By Snoop is really elevating the way people in cannabis are seeing branding and packaging. So it’s really great to see stuff like that out there.

Matthew: Yeah. So IVXX is an infused products company?

Jamie: Yeah.

Matthew: Okay pretty cool. I’m at their website now. I just pulled it up. You’re right. It’s Very sleek minimalist and very interesting overall. So I encourage people to check those two out Leafs By Snoop and IVXX. So how do you text your color and narrative get woven together to give a cannabis focused business its unique brand identity?

Jamie: Yeah so a brand is made up of all the components that are going to live out in the world together. Once you identify what your brand is going to stand for and then what sliver of the market you’re going to own then you’re going to develop a look and feel through a logo, through color palettes, icons, supporting patterns, unique packaging, website, product design but all these things are going to have a consistent esthetic to them to make them feel like they’re part of the family and then the other important part is the tone of your brand. How does it sound? Are you giving it a point of view and a certain attitude that’s going to help to distinguish it from the other brands? The idea is that every time somebody interacts with your brand they get a consistent quality experience that’s in line with what you set out to create for the brand.

Matthew: So let’s go to personal development questions here. I’ll start with you Pika. Is there any book that when you look over the arc of your life has had a big impact on your that you’d like to share with the CannaInsider listeners?

Pika: Yeah. I wouldn’t say that it was one book that has a massive impact on my life but one that definitely influenced how I think and work was its called “Sticky Wisdom How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work.” It’s just a great guide on how to be creative. How to think about being creative, how to problem solve creatively no matter what the task at hand is, and it’s a super quick and easy read. It’s something you can always refer back to if you need a creativity refresher. So I definitely recommend that to anyone that might feel like they aren’t creative or they might say oh I don’t know how to think like that. It’s something that can apply to anyone no matter what your background is.

Matthew: That’s great. I want to check that out. One book that I’m going to throw in there is called “Cradle to Cradle” by William McDonough.

Pika: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew: That book is probably one of the top five best books I’ve ever read and the book itself is actually not even made from paper. He made the book of some other compound that’s recyclable and when put in water can be molded into other things as an expression of how to think about design differently right down to the very book he wrote it on and he challenges the reader all the time when there’s problems in your life you run into. It’s a design problem. It’s nothing more and has you reorient your thinking. I just found it extremely helpful and I still go back to that book all the time. So I’ll throw out that plug for “Cradle to Cradle.” Jamie how about a tool web based or otherwise that you use daily or weekly that you consider an absolute must have that you would recommend to listeners?

Jamie: Well I think when we approach design problems we always approach it from gathering all the information that we have to solve for and then we sit down at the table. We grab a paper and pencil and we start sketching out ideas that solve the problem. So a lot of people will go right to tools to execute ideas where I think it’s solving the problem, coming up with a lot of solutions, and then deciding what you’re going to move forward with; what’s worth moving forward with. So I recommend paper and pencils.

Matthew: I like it. You’re going Amish on us and we probably need to do another one once in awhile and get away from the technology. So I like your recommendation.

Jamie: Oh and then we do use the computer but after we have the ideas done we go to it and we use Adobe Illustrator to render our ideas in a finished, polished way.

Matthew: Okay.

Jamie: Yeah.

Pika: I think just to add to that the reason pencil and paper are so great is that you don’t become too precious with what you’re drawing or sketching up. It doesn’t feel like it has to be perfectly in place or finalized by sketching it. You can be loser and rougher and just get that idea out of your head and on to paper to see if it’s working or not.

Matthew: Great points. Pika and Jamie as we close how can listeners find out more about your firm and the services you offer?

Pika: You can check out our website and I’ll just spell that in case anybody has trouble finding us. It’s

Matthew: Great. Jamie and Pika thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Pika: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Jamie: Thanks Matt.

If you enjoyed the show today please consider leaving us a review on ITunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback(at) We’d love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention this little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.

Husband and wife design team Jamie and Pika Stearns have helped many famous brands hone their branding, packaging and design, including; Disney, Best Buy and Coca Cola. Jamie and Pika have now turned their focus to helping cannabis-focused companies improve their branding and customer experience.

Key Takeaways:
[2:18] – Jamie and Pika’s background as artists and designers
[6:37] – Jamie talks about creating your cannabis brand
[8:19] – How to improve your cannabis branding
[9:56] – Pika talks about brainstorming idea
[14:26] – Jamie talks about the importance of packaging
[17:45] – Pika discusses common branding mistakes
[20:12] – Examples of companies with great branding
[24:16] – Pika, Jamie and Matthew’s book recommendations
[27:38] – Croc and Plover contact info

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Important Update:
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