From Research to Data Solutions: How New Frontier Data Helps the Cannabis Industry Grow with CEO Gary Allen

As the cannabis industry evolves, having access to current market trends and consumer data is critical for success.

Founded in 2014, New Frontier Data provides unparalleled access to actionable industry intelligence and insight. Through Equio, New Frontier Data’s cannabis business intelligence platform, and NXTeck, the company’s AdTech division, New Frontier Data delivers solutions that inform strategic decisions for growth in a fast-paced and dynamic industry. 

In this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with CEO Gary Allen, we dive into how New Frontier Data is growing and evolving to meet the needs of all cannabis industry stakeholders globally.

Leafwire:  How did you end up joining New Frontier Data? What is your background? 

Gary Allen:  I came in as the COO of New Frontier Data five years ago. I hadn’t considered a career in cannabis, but New Frontier Data was bringing professional, vetted research, technology, and data to bear on one of the world’s fastest growing industries. I found this challenge very appealing and quickly got excited about all the company had already accomplished and the many untapped opportunities it could capitalize on with the right business strategies in place. We are leading an effort to create a culture of cooperation throughout the cannabis industry, partnering with other companies to bring powerful solutions to the market quickly. 

My background is primarily in digital marketing and technology. After developing an early mobile banking and trading application in the nineties, I helped develop a leading retail-to-consumer affiliate marketing platform called ConnectCommerce at Performics, which was wildly successful. After expanding the platform to incorporate bid management and paid search, Performics was acquired by DoubleClick before Google acquired it, kept the affiliate marketing piece, and sold the rest to Publicis Groupe. Since then, I’ve led other technology companies and agencies to exceed growth projections or later be acquired by the likes of Kantar Media and Bain Consulting. 

LW:  What is New Frontier Data’s mission?

GA: New Frontier Data was founded to fill a market need for vetted, trustworthy cannabis market research. Any mature market in the world has a company like us following it and analyzing what it is that enables and empowers the market to grow from nascent seed operations full maturity. It must be powered by vetted data, good contextualization, and some trusted advisors. 

Our charge is to bring that vetted data and professional contextualization to the market so operators, researchers, governments, and investors to understand the market opportunities, the risks, and the potential. I used to say we track everything from power to pesticides. But over the last three years, we’ focused on helping operators understand the consumer, and how they can effectively interact with them. 

In 2020, the legal cannabis market was worth about $23 billion with more than 40.1 million consumers. In 2021, that market value reached $30 billion with about 70 million consumers. To get a complete understanding of these consumers, we profile them through consumer surveys, POS data, and shopping cart analysis. Then we track footfalls and visits for every single dispensary in the US. We then use that data to model 167 million potential consumers, which is difference of about 90 million which shows the as-of-yet-untapped potential growth in the market. Operators want to understand how to onboard those potential consumers. How do they safely onboard 90 million consumers? New Frontier Data can help. We contextualize every piece of the market in a way that can make the consumer experience safe and can make the operator’s experience fruitful and profitable. Hopefully, along the way, we help guide the industry from nascency into mature operations.

LW:  The Equio and NXTeck platforms are powered by your data. How do they work?

GA:  At the end of the day, all of the market research and data ingestion we did over the last eight years, we put into powering these two platforms. One is called Equio. That is our platform designed for the participants in the industry: researchers, investors, and very specifically operators. It contextualizes the market in a way that each of those constituencies can use. For example, we have a series of dashboards, like the hemp dashboard, or a global dashboard that provides data from 217 countries to demonstrate what’s happening in cannabis markets around the globe.

The retail dashboard, however, is designed with an operator in mind. We track foot traffic into every dispensary in the United States, contextualizing who the consumer is, how often they visit dispensaries, which dispensaries they visit, what they buy, how much they spend and how often they purchase. 

The NXTeck platform is designed to take that information and enable someone to take action. So, for example, in the Equio platform, if I am at Rachelle’s Dispensary in Maryland, and I see I’ve had 1500 visitors over the last two weeks, I can match them to certain kind of profile based on demographics, product preferences, and visit frequency, I can find more of those consumer profiles in NXTeck to reach out and engage them with meaningful content that resonates. 

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes happening in the cannabis space over the next year?

GA: We expect to continue to see consolidation in and around the MSOs as smaller dispensary and dispensary chains open in key new markets as well as established mature markets. We also expect to see a continued push for social equity programs in cannabis that help level the playing field a little bit.  Different communities who have been greatly impacted by cannabis criminalization compete as independent operators against MSOs that are flush with cash (though not necessarily flush with profitability). Those social equity programs can greatly help stabilize the market. 

California has always been a trailblazer in the industry. In some way, shape, or form, California that will continue as it presses for interstate commerce. They have a proposed law under consideration to legalize it which would open the door for imports and exports across state lines. One of our common refrains is “normalization has to come before legalization,” and California’s efforts may be the latest example of that. It’s possible the state could tell the federal government, “You can chase us down, but we’re starting import and export.”

LW:  What else should the Leafwire readers know about New Frontier Data?

GA:  New Frontier Data has spent a number of years operating by looking into the cannabis industry, but shifted our focus focused more recently on operating within the cannabis industry. 

The data that we have, and the services that we provide, are there to help the industry grow. If it’s one operator at a time, that’s fine with us.  We want to give technology and data to people who need it; we want to buy data and technology from people who need to sell it. We’re here to help the industry grow. 

Making Cannabis Compliance Easy with RFID – Michael Pavlak CEO of StashStock

In the legal cannabis space, compliance is one of the most important things to consider for plant-touching operators. This often includes deploying track-and-trace tools to maintain records of plants from seed to sale. 19 states and counting utilize METRC for their legal marijuana industries and while the platform is indeed useful, it often falls short of providing the most efficient tools for cannabis professionals.

StashStock is a third-party integrator for the METRC system that focuses on RFID-based solutions to ensure cultivators maintain compliance with state regulations for growing cannabis. With a full suite of solutions including an RFID scanner, integrated scales, and a reporting and analytics tool, StashStock offers an extra layer of convenience and efficiency for grows of all sizes.

Discover the benefits of the StashStock platform, learn what sets the StashStock apart, and what’s ahead in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Co-founder and CEO Michael Pavlak.

Leafwire:  How did StashStock come to be?

Michael Pavlak:  I have been a software engineer for about 15 years. I also grew (cannabis) for ten years under Michigan’s Caregiver Act. I worked with several patients during that time and met other cannabis professionals in the industry. I began to learn of compliance frustrations; similar to what I had been facing myself. In turn, I decided that instead of growing cannabis for patients, I would work on software to solve compliance pain-points for cultivators big and small. Mind you, this was even before METRC went into effect here in Michigan.

In addition to learning about cultivators’ struggles, I was also home invaded about 6 years ago and the culprits were after my grow. This prompted me to get involved on the cannabis software side, instead of growing, due to safety concerns. The timing to move into another area of Cannabis just seemed right for me.  We actually looked at Weedmaps and Leafly first, as our platform was similar in that it featured where you can find cannabis in your local area, see who’s carrying what, view menus, offer the ability to bring in patients, etc. 

Then, METRC came to Michigan in 2016. When we noticed that METRC requires RFID tags on all their plants, we looked around the industry and said, “Well, no one’s providing a solution to use these RFID tags — why not let us do that?” We decided to pivot away from retail solutions and into cultivation solutions, specifically leveraging those RFID tags that are on all the metric plants.

LW:  Why should operators deploy your solutions?

MP:  The METRC system itself is a relatively simple tracking system. But there are a lot of nuances involved. If you’re managing 10,000 plants, you have to report on each of those, whether they’re vegging, flowering, or being harvested.

That’s a lot of overhead for cultivators. When I moved 500 plants, telling the system which 500 plants moved into a new room or a new phase can be extremely, extremely time-consuming. Using our tools, an operator can do an audit of, say, a 500 plant room in less than five minutes. We can tell you exactly what’s in there and if there is anything unexpected. A manual audit, with either a barcode scanner or physical tag checking with a list, could take all day. We took an event that took all day and brought it down to five minutes. That’s really where the power is because you are required to have these tags anyways — we’re just unlocking their full potential.

LW:  What has the reception been from the industry?

MP:  We see a few different phases of the industry and the response to our tools. When we started with Michigan, we wanted to make sure that we could deploy and scale so we only were selling to Michigan-based companies.  This allowed us to go on-site to troubleshoot anything that came up. It was also when the industry was starting to ramp up in Michigan. 

Upfront, it was actually a little bit difficult because the market was new, and many people didn’t understand how the tools fit into the picture. As the market evolved and matured, it became much easier to have that conversation. For instance, when we go to Colorado, where they’ve been operating for 10 years now, we show them our tools and hear responses like, “I need this! Where has this been for the last eight years?!” They’ve experienced all the pain and headache of the required tracking, they understand the benefit of our tools. 

Michigan is typical for market response when they’re first starting. People don’t really understand what they need to do or how much effort it’s going to be.  As that market matures and a few people get some experience under their belt, it becomes an eye-opener for them and they understand how useful the tools can be.

LW: Your two main products are the CannaScale and the CannaScanner. Can you describe these tools in a bit more detail and the corresponding app?

MP:  We’ve taken an approach of a very modular toolset, meaning they can be deployed independently. If you were only looking to improve your harvest time and effort, we would deploy the RFID-enabled CannaScale and use the RFID scanner when logging the plants. You can also use a barcode scanner, or manual entry.  There’s always a way to manually enter if needed. Effectively, you put the plant on the scale, it’ll log your plant weight, you scan the tag, and our software will associate the correct plant with the logged weight. 

When you’re harvesting cannabis plants, all the plants within a harvest batch must be the same strain, per METRC. Sometimes a team can be chopping down a room, and they’ll have a staging area where all the chopped and not yet weighed plants are stored. The scale operator is taking a plant, weighing it, logging it in, and then progressing it to the next stage in the process. At that point, the scale is also doing an audit and saying, “Hey, you have completed 50 out of 100 plants so far in this room of this strain,” or “Hey, this plant that you just scanned is not a Cherry Bomb, and you were just harvesting Cherry Bomb. You might want to handle this plant differently.” 

CannaScale is going to do all the safety checks in real time to make sure that at the end of your harvest you understand if you actually harvested all your plants and whether they were all the same strain.  If you need to have multiple strains active at once we can manage that for you in the app as well. 

If you have a really large grow sometimes one scale is just not enough. Those operators can use two, three, or four scales in tandem, and it will create one master harvest for them so they don’t have to worry about “this strain has to go into this scale, all of that strain has to go to that scale” — it doesn’t matter. The StashStock system will bring it all together and give them a report at the end that says “these are all the plants that were harvested, and the strains that those plants fall into”. It’s an extremely useful tool that just about anyone can immediately realize the value and it’s very easy to drop into any process. 

LW:  What about the CannaScanner?

MP:  CannaScanner has more features to learn, but once they’ve mastered it, it’s their best friend. Essentially, the tool does auditing. I can go room to room and say “Okay, I’m in Flower Room One” and the device will know what’s supposed to be in there. As you’re going through and scanning that room, the device will tell you, “I found 190 out of 200 plants that are supposed to be in here. And I see three that aren’t supposed to be in here.” It will also tell you what plants are missing and some key details that may help you find them. 

There’s a “finder” feature that will act as a metal detector. Let’s say you have an incorrect plant in your room. You can lock onto that plant and as you walk around the room, it’ll tell you how close you are to it, you can zoom into it and deal with that one oddball plant. And again, doing something like that manually or with a barcode scanner could be an all-day event, right? Manually checking tags, especially if they’re under a mesh, or in a multi-tier system just takes an unreasonable amount of time. 

We have other value add tools, like a sales and fulfillment module that lets you track your sales, what needs to be repackaged, what inventory is actually available for sale based on pending orders, all that kind of stuff. That is the extension to METRC — we do things that METRC doesn’t.

LW:  Do you have any exciting things you’re working on releasing?

MP:  We’re looking to extend our sales into a wholesale marketplace similar to LeafLink, The Trade, APEX or any of those kinds of marketplaces where you as a cultivator can list your product for dispensaries to purchase. We also have a lightweight version for processing where you can track sales and fulfillment, recipes, and costing, as well as do audits. METRC doesn’t track edible recipes down to each ingredient. Now you can see “This manufacturer actually has a pesticide in this flavoring, and it’s causing my test to fail, now I know what to recall.” We’re looking at making that a bit more robust. 

Those are the two big things we have on the agenda for this year. As we work on this new feature set, we have hopes to also add a dispensary component. Right now you can use our tool in the dispensary for weekly inventory auditing, but we want to expand our capabilities.

LW:  What advice do you have for new operators getting into the space?

MP: I have a few things. First off, build a good team. I see a lot of places maybe go a little bit cheap on their employees or not really focus on finding motivated, passionate, high-performing people. Secondly, is to learn. Learn from others in the cannabis space – continue adapting as the industry adapts. Oh, and make sure you stay compliant!  Those three things combined, I think, really make or break being profitable or not. 

The last thing I would say is branding. I think a lot of companies don’t focus on building their brand and using that as a differentiator. A lot of companies will make a wholesale product and not try to strategically position themselves in different dispensaries or really make their brand something that people are looking for. 

If you’re doing those four things right, you’re way ahead of the game.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about StashStock?

MP: One of the biggest things we focus on is customer service and we’re one of the oldest players in the game. There are not many companies that have been doing this longer than us — there are not many companies that utilize RFID technology in general. 

When we talk to our customers, we frequently hear feedback like, “you’ve changed my life for the better.” We are fundamentally shifting how they’re managing their grow, and the effort required to do compliance-related tasks. We provide the confidence at the end of the day that everything is right; they KNOW they are compliant. A lot of people who come onboard with us are starting from a shaky platform.  They don’t know if their compliance data is actually accurate. And when we come in and baseline them, it’s a huge relief. “I finally know that I’m compliant. And I have a way to keep it compliant. And if anything happens, I know I can fix it.” This is the feedback we hear on a regular basis and this is the feedback StashStock strives for.

Key and Asset Control for the Cannabis Industry – Interview with Morse Watchmans

In the cannabis industry, security is of the utmost importance. Operators must often go above and beyond to ensure their product is safe at all times. Additionally, compliance regulations often require multiple layers of protection in the interest of both license holders and the community.

Morse Watchmans has been a trusted provider of key control and access management products for generations. Originally founded in 1882, the company has evolved alongside technological revolutions to become the top name in business security for a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to casinos.

Learn more about how Morse Watchmans is helping cannabis operators stay safe, their visions of the future of security compliance, and what industry newcomers should know in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A interview.

Leafwire: How did you come to enter the cannabis space?

Morse Watchmans:  We started to research this industry probably three years ago. We would say that it’s really been over the last year and a half, that we’re really becoming more active in the industry. We are the only ones doing this, we’re the only ones putting our toes in the water within this industry. So, we think that we’re ahead of all of our competitors.

We’ve been dabbling in it for a few years. We look at it like any sector, we think that the opportunity for growth is tremendous. We believe that the cannabis market is going to grow exponentially and that there will be a need for our products with upcoming legislation.

We look at it as the casino world in the early stages. The casinos didn’t have much legislation in the early days. However, gaming commissions came into play and state legislations fell into place. They have specific laws for key control and asset management. We believe the same is going to happen to the cannabis industry. It’s still in its early infancy stages. We believe that source key control is a part of the security package that cultivators, distributors, and retailers should have as part of their security package.

The first thing that comes to mind is that string of burglaries in San Francisco, we We believe there were 27 facilities that were hit in a short period of time. When we we read that story, we we thought that all of that could be prevented if they had that key control and more security over those things. So, we really do think that something will happen when things are legalized federally, when that will happen, we’re not sure, but we really do believe that we will be the standard 100%.

Another point to look at is, aside from legislation, we believe we’re going to see larger organizations start to acquire smaller organizations within the industry. And when that happens, there will be some governance and some rules that will have to be put in place by the new owners to control their assets and control.

LW: How exactly does security play into compliance?

MW: It’s an audit trail, to know who had access to a particular area at any given time. Again, we go back to the casino world where we created a functionality called dual and triple authentication, meaning that to get into certain areas like the cage of the casino, there’s a requirement where you authenticate yourself to get the key out of the system. However, you need another person from another department or a supervisor to authenticate that it was you who put in your access information. We believe that’s going to happen in the cannabis world in terms of creating an audit trail for knowing who has accessed what areas when, and the state’s going to ultimately require that information.

LW: What sets you apart from potential competitors?

MW: If you look at Morse Watchman there’s a large, competitive landscape out there. We remain at the top for a variety of reasons, but one of them is that we listen to our end-user – we listen to the industry – to understand what their true needs are. That’s how we became number one in the casino world. And we keep going back to that because that’s what’s most affiliated with the cannabis world in its current stage. But we listened to the casino operators AND, and the states who needed to control them. We created features and functionality that they needed, whereas others didn’t. So, we think that one forte of ours is that we listen to our clients, and we will build a system based on their needs.

We’re also made in the USA. Nobody else can say that. But we’re 100% made here in Oxford, Connecticut. Our service department and tech support are by far, the best globally.

LW: Do you foresee any major changes happening in the cannabis industry this year?

MW: This year, we foresee all of these massive MSOs continuing to take over. We do see a kind of monopoly happening. However, we’ve also seen an increase in a lot of family-run cultivation ops or dispensaries. And so we think that as these MSOs continue to try to close in, we think that these smaller places are going to rise and we actually think people will be more compelled to buy from somewhere that’s local and family owned, so they can know where everything is coming from. 

we don’t think that we will see federal legalization this year, unfortunately. And we also do think that the gray market will continue. For example, here in Connecticut, we have legalized recreational cannabis, but no one is selling it yet. The licenses are beginning to be awarded. We also have medical, and that’s a strong program that’s been going for a few years. But something interesting is this gray market area that’s popping up where you don’t pay for the product, it’s a donation. And we think that’s something that is going to continue to rise as we have this disconnect between the state laws and the federal laws. And until they meet in the middle, we do think these gray area markets will continue to be popular and expand.

LW: You were recently acquired, speaking of M&A. How has that benefited your suite of services?

MW: Back in December, we were acquired by a large organization. And this is an incredibly positive thing. We now have available to us 30 manufacturing facilities around the globe. We have a sister company now based in the UK and based here in the States that makes smart locker systems. We’re working with them every day to develop systems for Morse Watchman.

LW: What advice do you have for newcomers to the industry?

MW: we say this to anybody in any industry, operational efficiency is key. In starting a business and getting into something relatively new in terms of the industry, understanding and knowing how to run a business comes first, but fully understanding the market they’re getting into is also crucial. When we say operational efficiency, we’m speaking in terms of the technology that’s available to do everything that needs to be done in a business and of course, asset management is one of those. 

LW: What else should the Leafwire readers know about Morse Watchman?

MW: we think that knowing that we have the experience –  we are the leader in what we do. We know how to control keys and assets. That’s all we do. They should know every system we build is custom made for the client. And they should know we will listen to what the industry has to say, to help us develop what the industry needs for them.

Paving the Way for Federally Legal Cannabis Products – Sheri Orlowitz Founder of The Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation

Cannabis legalization continues to spread across the country, and federal reform seems to be right around the corner. With this comes a crucial need for lawmakers, government agencies, and leaders from all industries, not just cannabis, to join forces to ensure a solid foundation is set to set the space up for long-term success.

The Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation (CFCR) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit seeking to unite these groups with the overall goals of de-stigmatization, normalization, and legitimization of cannabis. The CFCR offers scientific expertise on cannabinoids while at the same time advocating for small business, social justice and further research on these compounds as well as being the bridge to legitimization.

Learn more about the organization’s mission, the important work it’s doing, and how to get involved in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with CFCR Founder and Chair of the Board Sheri Orlowitz.

Leafwire:  You’ve been referred to as a pioneer. What is your background?

Sheri Orlowitz:  I guess it would be fair to say that I’ve done a lot of pioneering things. I am attracted to the huge opportunity of unchartered paths, and I have had the multi-faceted career to bring an informed and unique perspective to cannabis. I started my career as an actor, then did some commodities trading, then became a Justice Department lawyer, then a federal prosecutor and a real estate developer. In the early 90’s I was one of the first women to undertake leveraged buyouts of companies.  That was really a pioneering journey. I not only structured and raised the capital for the LBO’s of 8 companies, I also operated them as the CEO. The companies were acquired from Fortune 500 corporations and my expertise, turn arounds, restructuring, finance, and manufacturing was unique for a woman at the time, probably still is.  After my last exit I continued to invest in start-ups and began consulting for companies that needed a solid business strategy, finance, differentiation, connections, and money.

LW:  How did you break into cannabis?

SO:  I was hesitant about the cannabis industry. A couple of people had asked me to invest in it. I said no. And then a woman engaged me at Starbucks and asked if I could help her daughter raise $5 million. That’s such a sweet spot for me, helping women access capital and I said yes immediately. Turns out what she wanted was someone to help her write her application for a license in Maryland in 2015. 

To make a long story short, they won one of 15 licenses awarded in the state and today, they are called Grow West, Merida was the key investor, and I would guess they’re stake is well over several hundred million dollars. That’s how I got started in the industry, making someone else rich. 

I continued looking at the industry and did some work for Privateer and Brendan Kennedy who was considering where to build a facility in Southern Europe. I had an influential Greek woman friend who took me on a 3-week blitz of meetings with cabinet officials and the current Prime Minister Mistotakis. We were able to convince the Greek government that Privateer would bring jobs and investment and it agreed to allow Privateer to build an export only facility for the EU in Greece. This is before Greece legalized medical. But, Privateer decided to build its EU facility in Portugal. 

I undertook a couple of similar type projects that, from my lawyer’s perspective was “arguably” legal. And, then, several years later, 2018, I agreed to sit on the board of the Marijuana Policy Project and I invested and helped Jessica Billingsley, fill out MJ Freeway’s C-round right before its IPO when it was renamed Akerna.  As far as I know this was the first reverse takeover (RTO) in the industry. And that was the end of my being able to stay “arguably” legal. The law is changing and is being ignored by banks, the Nasdaq and SEC, lenders, private equity funds and doctors who “recommend” cannabis. So, it’s been a really an interesting journey for me from someone who used to enforce anti-money laundering (AML) and asset forfeiture laws to the Founder and Chairman of Council.

Leafwire:  How did you come to found the Council For Federal Cannabis Regulation?

SO:  As I shared with you, I was a Justice Department lawyer. Aside from prosecuting AML I represented many of the federal agencies, from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). I have also held positions or worked with State, SBA, Commerce, and our current president, Joe Biden. I understand how federal agencies develop a regulatory framework and how they begin the process. Absent this regulatory framework there will be no federal legalization. The 50+ federal agencies that will be affected by legalization need guidance and education to begin the process of implementing legalization and creating regulations. You only have half the job done once legalization bills pass.  

An example – the hemp industry. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp. Moving into the fourth year of legalization and cannabinoids cannot be put into product and the industry is stalled.  Another example that may hit home, if we legalize cannabis with high levels of THC (HighTHC Cannabis) tomorrow, smoking flower will likely remain illegal at the federal level unless and until the FDA agrees that smoking flower is safe. And that’s part of what we, the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation (CFCR), do. The work with the federal agencies to educate, including on new technologies, protocols, and approaches to simplify and frankly discredit old ways of looking at things and to educate regulators to the potential of this plant. 

Cannabis has been outlawed for over eight decades and the stigma remains. As the federal government embraces the cannabis industry through engaging with and regulating it, the stigma begins to dissipate.  Again, legalization is only half the battle, “regulation is the implementation of legislation” and there is no federally legal industry without regulation. Regulation gives shape, structure, and dollars to the promise of DEI policies, federal money for R&D, the groundwork for interstate commerce, and so much more.  

Finally, CFCR, is the only non-profit, built with a team that can work with regulators.  It’s elite experts across industries and professions, many of them former government leaders, engender trust, not only with regulators, but also with corporate America who we term “hesitant stakeholders.” Hesitant stakeholders are from various industries that are currently dabbling in cannabis, such as Perrigo, Pfizer, Nestle, and so on, and the industry, frankly the country, needs them to begin to invest in the regulatory process.

LW:  How did you manage to begin to engage with these so-called “hesitant stakeholders?”

SO:  Again, our people, they are known to and have worked with these large corporates like Unilever, Pfizer, Perrigo, Amazon and others that are quietly participating in the industry.  We are starting to engage with the corporates on specific initiatives as they recognize they need the expertise provided by CFCR.

LW:  What are some of the initiatives CFCR is working on right now?

SO:  At a 50,000 foot view our goal is to mainstream cannabinoids, to create a federally legal marketplace and remove unsafe products from the stream of commerce.

At this time that means engaging with FDA to remove legal and safety roadblocks, guide industry to develop the science needed by FDA to deem cannabinoids safe, provide for funding of FDA’s efforts and fight preclusion of cannabinoid isolates because at high dosing levels it is a pharmaceutical, Epidiolex is an example.

Our first initiative was to develop a relationship with the FDA and engender trust.  We wrote a letter to the HHS (Department of Health and Human Services which oversees FDA) discussing the legal and regulatory roadblocks and we were invited to meet with the FDA within 3 weeks. I encourage your readers to read the letter sent to HHS here

A mission critical initiative we are working on, is to help secure funding to create an Office of Cannabis Products within the next year. We submitted a request through Representative David Joyce (R-OH) to fund the Office of Cannabis Products (OCP) and prepared and submitted Congressional Testimony for FY 2023 Budget, to support an appropriation of $10 million to fund the OCP. Another initiative your readers may find interesting is on June 14th our Science Chair, Dr. Vicki Seyfert-Margolis (former Senior Advisor to the FDA Commissioner) will testify to the FDA Scientific Advisory Board about new technologies and protocols available to help bring cannabinoids safely to market in a cost and time effective fashion. A recording of the hearing will be available on our website at  And we produce top draw webinars with current FDA and other government leaders, corporate exechosted by our Executive Director and co-hosted by Jack Jacobson from Thompson Coburn. Often these webinars create a platform for the industry and the federal government to speak to each other.  We are expanding this communication to a thirty-minute podcast hosted by Benzinga and much more.

Our most important initiative is underway, to develop the trust of the federal regulators, currently the FDA, that, our interests align, we are objective and trustworthy, and we have the expertise to weigh in and help balance the safety of the consumer and maximize the value and accessibility of this plant. The FDA has been receptive and it part it helps that our organization has an exceptional group of FDA and HHS leaders

LW:  What advice do you have for newcomers entering the cannabis space?

Don’t be in such a hurry. Don’t think that this industry is passing you by if you don’t hurry up and get involved. Yes, there was a lot of easy money in the early days, and those early days are long gone. People love to handicap what inning we’re in. And frankly, I think we’re in the first inning. So, there’s plenty of time to get involved in the industry.

The second thing I would say is: bring your skills to the industry. Don’t try to learn how to be a website designer, because you think that’s what the industry needs. If you are a content writer, or if you’re a lawyer — these are skills that you’ve developed over the course of time. If you’re interested in the industry, bring those skills. This industry needs skills, leadership, and talent from everywhere.

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes ahead for the cannabis industry?

SO:   I don’t think that any of the bills that portend to legalize cannabis will be passed. However, the socialization process is critical; bills make our Congress think about and discuss the issues heretofore, illegal. That’s a heck of a mind shift.  And I see a different growth trajectory than many in the industry. While growth will continue in adult use, the legal cannabinoids is where I see interest, significant investment and a trillion-dollar market developing over time. The federal government will invest hundreds of millions over the next decade to support research and the development of “medical marijuana.”

What I understand from this President and what he supports, is robust R&D and the creation of a medical pathway. That’s what I see happening in the next three years. And that medical pathway is not only THC but CBN, CBG, etc. Many of these cannabinoids seem to offer a lot of promise but have not had the opportunity to be researched in any significant way in the United States. 

Think about this, CBD is the active ingredient and the first cannabinoid drug approved by FDA, Epidiolex, and it sold over $500M in 2020. 

LW:  How can people support CFCR? How can they get involved?

SO:   Join us at the CFCR Cannabis Café, the first Friday of every month at 1 PM,  check out the website and please join CFCR’s ED Sarah Chase and Jack Jacobson on the 4th Thursday of every month as they host webinars to educate and build bridges between industry and regulators.  CFCR is diverse and dynamic and has strong values around a safe, credible, and healthy industry. If you share our values, you will meet people of similar ilk and similar values that are looking to create an industry that is a little different than what we’ve had in the past. At CFCR, because we share a value system, you will find friends and colleagues for life.

So go to the website, fill out the basic information form, and tell us what you’re interested in. We’ll call and talk to you about you and your company and interest.  We want to know what you, as an integral part of this community, think and we will share all about CFCR, the interactive programs, initiatives, networking, and opportunities designed for our members interaction. CFCR needs members that share our values and will help shape our vision of creating a safe and accessible cannabis industry.  So please contact us and learn about us and how you can become involved and how you can help educate and advocate.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about the Council for Federal Cannabis Regulation?

SO:  I think what people should know and try to understand is: why regulation matters? I mean, for goodness sakes, we don’t even have a legal industry so why does regulation matter? 

Well, we do have a legal cannabinoid industry – most of the plant is federally legal and yet we have no products, the industry is stalled at the FDA. What’s going on with the with hemp cannabinoids and how they develop is going to influence how the adult use industry develops.  

Legalization without regulation is where we’re sitting today with legal cannabinoids sitting on the shelf. 

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Canna Business Resources is proud to offer a wide range of products and services that we believe any cannabis business would need for their financing goals. To get a better understanding of what we can provide, here is a list of a few of our services. 

When it comes to starting or expanding your current business, you can be sure that Canna Business Resources will be there every step of the way to help you make the right financial solution.

Being a Trusted Source for Cannabis Research and Scientific Developments – Rich Whitworth of The Cannabis Scientist

The cannabis space continues to evolve. As research reveals more about the plant and its many chemical compounds, industry professionals and consumers alike need a trusted source to reveal the latest developments that matter.

The Cannabis Scientist is an online magazine and media outlet that provides up-to-date and unbiased articles by some of the leading minds in the space. Covering a wide range of topics – including cannabinoid analysis, medicinal cannabis, business news, and even psychedelics – The Cannabis Scientist has been a respected authority since its inception in 2016.

Find out the origins of the magazine, what sets the publication apart, and the industry trends that lie ahead in this exclusive Leafwire interview with Rich Whitworth, Content Director at Texere Publishing, the company behind The Cannabis Scientist.

Leafwire:  What is your cannabis journey? How did The Cannabis Scientist come to be?

Rich Whitworth: I’ll give you the short version. I gained a degree in medical biochemistry many years ago but somehow ended up working in Tokyo for a publishing company. Eventually, I came back to the UK and combined my academic and publishing background to work for a pharmaceutical magazine. In 2013, I joined Texere Publishing when it was a young startup with staff you could count on one hand. I was the launch editor of a magazine called The Analytical Scientist, which is still going strong. And that is where I first encountered the cannabis industry. Specifically, we published an article calledUnraveling the Cannabiome by Scott Kuzdzal and William Lipps in 2015. I was hooked.

In 2016, I was at an analytical conference called Pittcon and had a number of fascinating conversations around cannabis and the increasing need for improved analytical methods. I figured I was in a good position to connect the worlds of analytical science and cannabis to help everyone move forward – and The Cannabis Scientist was born. Initially, it was simply an exciting supplement to The Analytical Scientist. But, as we began to talk with different people in the field, we realized that cannabis science was, of course, much wider than testing. We started to seek contributions from people doing everything from plant genetics to randomized control trials – and The Cannabis Scientist fledged the nest! 

LW:  What can visitors to The Cannabis Scientist expect in terms of content?

RW:  First and foremost, they’ll find many articles that shed light on all aspects of cannabis science and research. They’ll also meet plenty of characters – predominantly scientists – that work in this field and have very interesting things to say. The words science and research should not be seen as off-putting to readers who don’t consider themselves scientists as such. Clearly, we cover the science and research, but we’re not a journal and we don’t tend to drill down into super technical details – our focus is on making all corners of the field accessible to all. We provide a high-level view of what the science or research is telling us – what it actually means for the field – and what needs to happen next. To gain those insights, the focus is very much on the people doing the science rather than the science itself. In fact, that’s the case for all of Texere’s publications. And that’s also why it’s called The Cannabis Scientist and not Cannabis Science. We’re interested in what people are thinking, where they want to see change, what motivates them, and what frustrates them. These are all very emotive angles.

You’ll also find some interesting articles that aren’t afraid to delve into the darker corners of the cannabis industry – for example, Chris Hudalla talking about the field’s unicorn, aka delta-8.

What you won’t find is a lot of flag waving for cannabis as a panacea. Content and contributors are selected on the basis of credibility. It’s great to have all-or-nothing advocates in the industry, but it needs to be balanced by what the science actually tells us.

LW:  What, if anything, has surprised you since launching The Cannabis Scientist? What have you learned?

RW:  My first surprise was my lack of knowledge in the subject area. When I learned about all the many different chemicals that exist in this plant, and the potential that they have, I was fascinated and wanted to find out more. I was also surprised when I learned more about the endocannabinoid system — and the fact that cannabinoids act upon this system that is far more complex than we first thought.

The level of stigma and regulatory issues have prevented more scientists from delving into this, frankly, fascinating world. We have a complex plant that directly acts upon a very complex signaling system in our bodies, and we’re only just scratching the surface. That’s amazing. But it’s also sad; what would we know now if we’d have been researching this in more detail with a greater amount of resources for the last 50 years or so?

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes ahead for the cannabis industry this year?

RW:  I don’t know about this year, but I see some important ongoing trends, which I covered in a 2019 editorial that is still relevant – probably because the pandemic stole a couple of years. One is Big Pharma’s march into the cannabis space. We’ve already seen examples of pharma companies purifying certain compounds and taking cannabis down a very different path. I also foresee clashes when it comes to overly broad patents, if and when cannabis is made federally legal. There is likely to be an almighty amount of confusion over what people own in terms of IP or what they can claim to be their own version of cannabis. It’s hard to predict when the fallout will occur, but it seems inevitable.

The other trend that I see is growing acceptance of cannabis and its constituent compounds. Acronyms like CBD are now household names even though most people wouldn’t have had a clue five or so years ago. Even my own elderly and quite conservative parents know about this stuff now.

LW:  What else should the Leafwire community know about The Cannabis Scientist?

RW:  The Cannabis Scientist has a growing readership of people from across the cannabis industry, as well as the cannabis curious – and everyone is welcome. 

Reaching the “cannabis industry” is not easy given its disparate nature, and we can help. If you’ve got a story to tell, if you’re working on an interesting project, or if you’ve seen (or conducted) some great research – please get in touch. Equally, if there’s an important topic that we’ve not uncovered, let us know. We’re an open platform and we want to be accessible to everyone. 

In short, my message would be: tell us your stories, and we’ll share them with our readers!

How to Acquire a Loan for Your Cannabis Venture – Judy Rinkus Founder and CEO of Seed to Sale Funding

It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing cannabis operators is the lack of lending options. With banks unwilling or unable to get these entrepreneurs what they need to succeed, businesses are often left scratching their heads. 

Enter Seed to Sale Funding. The group of finance experts works with an expansive network to help canna-businesses secure the capital they need to start or grow their operations. With tens of millions of dollars in deal flow acquired since its launch three years ago, Seed to Sale Funding has quickly become a go-to resource for the booming cannabis industry.

Discover more about Seed to Sale Funding, the myriad ways they support clients, and what new entrepreneurs should know before entering the space in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A interview with Founder & CEO Judy Rinkus.

Leafwire:  What is your background? How did you get into the cannabis industry?

Judy Rinkus:  For most of my career, I was in commercial banking, employed by large, regulated banks. During my banking career, I primarily worked with privately-owned companies, reviewing and structuring their loan requests. I left that industry in 2016, and shortly thereafter, the voters here in Michigan approved recreational cannabis. I started being contacted by my former banking clients who wanted to get into this cannabis but were not able to get financing through banks. Through my financial industry contacts, I found 25+ private lenders located throughout the country who were interested in doing cannabis loans. I then pivoted from banking into starting my own consulting company, working with cannabis operators in placing these loans to these private lenders.

LW:  How has the reception from the industry been since founding Seed to Sale Funding?

JR:  We’ve been very successful, having placed around $70 million in transactions since launching in 2019. Most of the projects have been in Michigan because that’s where I’m located. But as I mentioned earlier, we can go into any state in the country. I currently have a pipeline of $80 million in transactions in 15 states that will probably close this year.

One of the things that I really enjoy about is working with both the entrepreneurs and the lenders, and the latter are very happy to have me involved as well. I speak “lender” – I know how the lenders view transactions. So when I send them opportunities, they’re already partially vetted, and the lender can make a fast decision.

LW:  What sets you apart from other cannabis financiers?

JR: There are a couple of reasons to do business with us. First, we have very high integrity. We are very transparent in terms of what can be done realistically for the clients we work with. I typically don’t bring on a client unless I’m certain that I can get something done for them.

Second is my expertise and my three team members. Between all of us, we have over 100 years of commercial lending experience. We’re able to bring all those years of experience to this really underserved industry. We are one of the very few consulting firms out there that can provide this level of service, professionalism, and expertise.

Third, and I believe this is the key differentiator:  We save the clients so much time, so much energy, and importantly, we double or triple their chance of getting an actual loan closed. For example, if a borrower were able to find a private lender directly, it is true that they might save our consulting fees. However, it’s not unusual to have the lender change its mind at the last minute, or maybe modify terms and conditions in a way that beyond that prevents the borrower from moving forward. In that case, they’ve wasted weeks and weeks of their time. At this point, they’re back to square one, and must find another lender. And these aren’t lenders that are household names – they’re called private lenders for a reason, they’re difficult to find. 

Contrast this to our process. With us, clients essentially apply once, and we can keep all their information in a secure data room. Then, if there’s a problem with the first lender we approach, we can just pivot to another one. Sometimes we restructure the request to make it fit into a lender’s box. This is an example of how our expertise is a huge benefit to our clients. So as you can see, the client has much better chance of getting a deal closed, at terms and conditions that work for them, as well as being able to close much faster.

LW:  Tell us about a memorable client success story?

JR:  There are a couple I love to share. The first story is about one of the first loans we closed in very early 2020. It was a $9.3 million transaction to build a sizable greenhouse cultivation facility in Michigan. Over the past 2 years, we’ve kept it touch with this client, and were thrilled when they started reporting some great financial results. Based on those results, we recently closed on a refinance of this deal at a much lower interest rate. We also able provided some additional funds for working capital. The lesson here is, it’s not a one and done with us, we build a relationship with our clients. As the lending options change out there in the market, we keep our clients informed, always trying to get them the best cost of capital that we can.

This next one is my all-time favorite story. The client came to us after it had already received a commitment from a construction lender (the client found this lender on their own). The lender reneged on the deal two days before closing, leaving the client in a huge predicament since they’d already made commitments for the use of the proceeds. Luckily, they contacted us immediately. We were able to restructure the entire package using two different loan products that basically got the whole deal done for them, providing all the funding they needed. We were able to close 10 days after they called us. 

This is a cautionary tale for people who are trying to work directly with a lender. Because that’s exactly what happened here. They ended up working with somebody who was probably not the best player out there. The original lender couldn’t close, leaving the entrepreneur hanging out to dry. Luckily, we came in and saved the day!

LW:  What advice do you have for entrepreneurs entering this space?

JR:  First of all, you should have experience in the cannabis industry. My lenders typically don’t like somebody who’s coming in with no knowledge of the industry and is trying to put together a team of employees who have expertise in the industry. So, the actual entrepreneurs themselves should have some cannabis experience. 

The entrepreneur should also have financial experience, and a broad range of other business experience. The other thing that you must keep in mind is that when we’re talking about debt capital, I almost never can provide 100% of the need to, say, build a large grow facility or other large capital project. There is going to have to be equity capital that comes in behind me. This usually means that there must be some financial resources on the part of the entrepreneur personally to meet that need. 

LW:  Do you foresee any major changes happening in the industry any time soon?

JR:  There are a lot of people thinking that maybe the SAFE Act may pass before the end of the year. Here’s the thing: that just means banks are allowed to make commercial loans to the cannabis industry. It doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.

There are a lot of other reasons why a bank may choose not to make commercial loans. And even if they do, they probably are going to pick a relatively small set of the array of different loans and lending products that already I have. So the SAFE Act will be a good thing for the cannabis industry in general but it may not change the lending and funding aspect of the industry as much as some people might think.

LW:  What else should Leafwire readers know about Seed to Sale Funding?

JR:  My team and I are passionate. We’re “deal people”. We like doing deals, and we like to get things closed. It’s a whole different attitude than somebody in a bureaucratic position. We operate very quickly, we respond to the market very quickly, and we have excellent customer service. On our website we publish a list of featured transactions, using the name of the client. We have clients who are willing to back up what we say. We can show that we close business with actual deals. 

The only other thing is our results really do speak for themselves. We have closed over $70 million in transactions in just about three years, which is a pretty big number! I really look forward to talking to any entrepreneurs out there, because I’d like to add them to our list of successful clients.

Using Data and Technology to Grow Healthier Plants – Michael Prows of Cubed Labs

In the world of cannabis cultivation, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. Having the ability to fully grasp the health of the plants throughout their lifecycles helps guarantee higher yields and better quality while simultaneously reducing the risk of crop loss.

Cubed Labs provides farmers peace of mind with rapid in-field nutrient and pathogen testing, data capture, and interpretation. The company currently offers easy to use tests and are currently developing even more advanced detection tools, including tests for powdery mildew. Their CRD Scout app captures and tracks any issues in the grow with photo detection technology that’s simple yet powerful.

Discover more about Cubed Labs and how they’re helping cultivators thrive in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Vice President of Business Development Michael Prows.

Leafwire: How did the relationship with Cubed Labs evolve?

MP: We were working on a testing technology for the food safety industry and they asked me about testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and other targets. At the time I was really looking for potency tests for producers, nutrient testing, and then the big pathogen tests: bud rot, botrytis tests, powdery mildew, pythium, some of the pathogenic tests. 

I asked them if we could use that technology, especially pathogen testing, on the farm. I thought if we could get ahead of those big issues, it would be of interest to the industry. So, we pivoted.

LW: What was your go-to market product? 

MP: The first test we have out now is for botrytis. It’s a lateral flow device that takes 10 minutes, it’s very similar technology to the at-home COVID test. If you’re concerned about something, you can just run a test to get early detection results right away. It’s very easy, anybody can do it. I say it’s like one more step than testing your pH; where you scoop up the water, put the drops in, shake it up and then compare to the color chart. The only extra steps to run our test is to stick a test strip in and compare the results to a graph. 

LW: What is your brand promise?

MP: When I met Cubed Labs, they asked: What does the market want? My interpretation is live data.

We wanted to be able to focus on plant health, as a preventative measure versus “just spray it.” We’re addressing it a little bit differently where you’re just testing the plant health measures, including nutrients, where you can avoid most of those problems, whether it’s pathogenic or pests, and give the plants a chance to fight them off themselves.

LW: What is the CRD Scout platform?

MP: CRD stands for Cubed Rapid Diagnostics. The Scout platform is our first software app. It all starts with image capture which is done directly through the app. Then you mark the location after the photo and report what you see. You can map out your garden, whether it’s an indoor greenhouse or a large acreage plot. You can go down to the individual plant or if you’re a large acreage hemp farmer, you can do it by the acre, whatever you choose. 

If you have a nutrient issue, if you see some burning tips, some pest in the growth space or you suspect a pathogen, whatever it is, you mark it down, write some notes, and post it to a live feed for everybody involved in the organization to see what’s happening with the plants directly. It’s a new take on IPM protocols. 

We’re currently integrating our pathogen tests, so you can photograph test results and track the results in the app. It will even be able to quantify the levels of the pathogen. For example, you can run a botrytis test, upload a photo and then Scout gives you a specific pathogen level. After that, we’ll be integrating our N-Sight device that is used for the nutrient, plant health scan and potency testing. 

LW: Could this technology become mandatory through regulation? 

MP: We don’t intend for our tests to become mandatory. But I think we can really help people. We have spoken to some regulators in the state of Colorado, and we’re working with some people in California as well. Our potency test is accurate enough to detect down to 0.2 percent of THC. You could use our test to tell if the crop is hot or not. 

In our next test coming out, we’ll be able to catch Aspergillus, Penicillium, fusarium, and botrytis, all of the main microbial agents that prevent people from selling their products. I don’t think that we will replace lab results but as far as the farmers are concerned we’ll allow them to know exactly what’s going on with enough time to remediate.

The other thing that we’re seeing is that several groups are using our tests as a kind of service record. So when you go to the market, sell wholesale or to a dispensary, you can show the history of the crop with photo capture and test results all the way through. Transparency and clarity are key, so you can get a report on the crop health but don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty of what the farmers are doing. But I think confirming that you didn’t need to spray because you were testing regularly will become something that can set farmers apart in the industry.

LW: What advice do you have for people looking to enter this space?

MP: Being able to replicate things is so critical. I’ve seen so many farmers who are always trying new technology, new nutrients, new pH, chasing humidity — they’re always changing things. And if I ask a farmer, what’s their cost of production, per pound, or whatever their metric is, almost nobody knows how much it costs them per pound. Only the exceptional growers who have tracked everything meticulously and don’t change things, except in a controlled setting where they can experiment on one thing at a time can answer that.

You need to be precise, so things like testing using laboratories. I’d recommend sap analysis, tissue samples, our pathogen tests — any point of data that can help you steer the crop, reduce input costs, and increase yield is going to pay dividends. Make sure you track and monitor everything you possibly can so that you know where you are compared to the last point in time throughout the growth cycle. That way you know if you are improving. But if you don’t measure it, you’ll never get there.

LW: What else should the industry know about Cubed Labs?

MP: Our N-Sight plant health testing system is revolutionary. We’ll be able to test for chlorophyll, sugar, Brix level in the leaf as well as in the flower, protein content, fats and lipids, potency, NPK, Cal mag sulfur — we will be able to give you a live reading on those things. Then by bringing in some traditional agronomists to look at this these points of data we have a whole new way too look at plant health. Instead of environmental first, it’s all about planning and health first. Over the next two years we will be optimizing N-Sight not just for cannabis, but for all crop production at large. 

I think that’s the biggest thing coming out of Cubed Labs. Instead of just relying on what you’ve done and past results, you can make changes accurately by using a scientific method. If you’re low on calcium, you now know by how much. If you’re low on potassium, you’ll now be able to know by how much and adjust accordingly without any extra inputs. You eliminate some of those risks.

How Cova Became the Most Trusted Cannabis POS in North America – Gary Cohen CEO of Cova Software

Cannabis retail is no ordinary ballgame. The regulatory frameworks in place demand point-of-sale systems go above and beyond the normal transactions typically seen at mainstream stores, requiring track-and-trace capabilities at all times. The team at Cova understand this notion, putting it at the forefront of all they do. The POS, inventory management, and compliance software company puts the focus on the success of their clients, deploying easy-to-use and reliable solutions that help dispensaries run efficiently and within the letter of the law.

Learn more about Cova, its unique philosophy, and the company’s journey to the top in this exclusive Leafwire interview with CEO Gary Cohen.

Leafwire: What is Cova’s purpose? What is the company’s brand promise?

Gary Cohen: The purpose is to simplify the complexity in managing a dispensary. What people don’t usually realize is, you not only have a retail store, and all of the elements of that, but you also have online elements. On top of that, you have compliance, and all of the different regulatory requirements. Our purpose was to make that easier to manage — to be able to take a lot of that complexity out.

Our brand promise is to do everything possible to help our clients preserve their licenses.

LW: What sets Cova apart from potential competitors? What is your company philosophy?

GC: We were the last ones into the game of the big POS players and we focused on simplicity of use and compliance. We were very fortunate to have the resources and the experience to build Cova in a way that can deliver superior service and support — that’s a people thing. 

Our philosophy from day one was to be the lovable software company in the cannabis space. We really wanted our client’s experience with Cova to be positive in every single touchpoint, in their journey of discovering what software is out there, and which technology can help their stores through the entire purchasing process, setup, launch, and beyond. We’ve always strived to make that the differentiator. The technology is great but the interactions with us are just as great. Hopefully, when someone asks a customer, “Tell us about Cova,” they say “I love those guys.” That was our goal.

LW: Cova was able to beat 40+ POS companies to become the single POS that dispensaries trust the most — how did you achieve that?

GC: It’s this focus on the success of the retailer that really propelled us further faster. It begins with compliance and reliability. It’s what makes our industry so difficult and complex, compared to other spaces with retail. For other industries, if the software doesn’t work properly, or accurately, or it’s unreliable, it’s not the end of the world. But in our industry, they can pull your license and you’re out of business. So the stakes are much, much higher to do things well and do them correctly. That’s where reliability kicks in. ‘

These are incredibly lucrative businesses. If the POS doesn’t work, then you can’t do sales. If you can’t do sales, you don’t have revenue. 

One of the things Cova did that was and still is unique: we built this thing called offline mode. If you lose your connectivity, Cova is caching all of the inventory on the tablet itself and all of the employee credentials. Meaning you can still do transactions even if you’ve lost your connection or you lost the power to the store. Once you get connectivity back, we sync everything back up, not only to your POS platform that does all the accounting, but it syncs it up to the state traceability system so that you’re still in compliance.

All the elements I talked about around service and support are reinforced by the capabilities of the technology. 

LW: Why is support so often overlooked, when retailers are evaluating a POS system?

GC: Because we’re a new industry. What typically happens is, if you’re in a new market, and you’re just getting to open your dispensary, you don’t have experience with other cannabis POS companies. So, you don’t know good from bad support. It’s not until you actually get into the process to open, that the differences become super apparent. But then it could be too late — you might have chosen the wrong one.

In the case of Cova, we put so much emphasis on that initial relationship, to open your dispensary, that we assign a project manager, specifically to every single store, and then they work with them through the entire process of getting up and running. This person is really trying to work with you to get everything right, to understand how the software works, and to set the business up. It also lends to the success that you’re going to have. 

If you understand how to use the software at a high level, it makes you more efficient in your operations, and that makes the whole company run smoother and better, which helps you be successful. 

We have nearly 2,000 stores using our software. We’ve got a lot of people who will attest to the fact that that matters.

LW: How do tech ecosystems help your retailers achieve their vision of success?

GC: The truth is, dispensaries always use other solutions, whether it’s menu boards in the store, an online presence, even an E-commerce capability to place the order and come and pick it up in the store or have it delivered. There’s a whole ecosystem around the way dispensaries operate.

What’s really important is how easily the POS, which is the heart of the technology of a store, connects into these various elements or other companies in the ecosystem? The easier they connect and the relationship of the POS company with those companies just makes it easier and better for the store to operate. 

Having a really good partner like Cova that has purposely built the connectivity between and all these services to be straightforward just makes it easier for the dispensary to get what they need.

LW: What advice do you have for budding cannabis entrepreneurs? If they’re entering retail, what’s the best way to evaluate technology options?

GC: I have three pieces of advice. First, try to determine what the best-in-class for anything you need is, if it’s the POS, or if it’s eCommerce, or if it’s CRM, or loyalty. Evaluate what makes a certain partner provider the best, especially in service and support. 

Second, know what you’re about. You need to have a brand and a brand promise. Cannabis is a repeat purchase type of business. It’s not one and done. So, you want to try to build that loyalty and build a customer base. But you need to give them a reason to come back. Be consistent. 

The third piece is education. Everything about this business revolves around education, educating the consumer or the new customer about cannabis. This is a brand new industry. As new markets open up, there are a lot of people who have no idea what’s behind those doors in a dispensary. They’re a little nervous. If you could make it an educational and fulfilling experience, not just a transaction, you’ll build trust and trust will bring people back over and over. 

LW: Do you foresee any major changes taking place in cannabis this year?

GC: Yeah, I do. And this is coming out of the clear blue sky. But if you look at New York and New Jersey coming online in the next 12 to 18 months, there’s no way they’re going to be able to have the supply necessary to meet demand. Then you look at the West Coast — you have a surplus of supply.

I think something’s going to happen between Chuck Schumer in New York running the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi in California running the Congress. I think there’s a deal to be made for interstate supply to meet demand. 

Funding Options for Emerging Cannabis Brands – Micheal Tew of Canna Business Resources

It’s no secret that there’s a serious lack of funding sources in the emerging cannabis industry. Despite explosive growth and the majority of states enacting reform, the continued federal prohibition of cannabis prevents financial institutions from providing services to operators within the space. This creates quite the challenge for companies looking to grow.

Canna Business Resources aims to rectify this issue by offering a wide range of funding options to plant-touching and ancillary companies alike. The firm provides both secured and unsecured loans as well as working capital, equipment or real estate financing, and accounts receivable lines of credit. But more importantly, CannaBusiness Resources is focused on relationships, helping their partners evolve their operations and achieve success.

Learn more about Canna Business Resources and what sets them apart in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A with Michael Tew.

Leafwire: What is Canna Business Resources and how did you get into the cannabis space?

Michael Tew: CannaBusiness Resources provides business services and lending to business operators in every state and every market in the United States — and only in the United States. I’m the lead underwriter on the lending team. I help underwrite and analyze and review every single transaction that comes across our desk. We are currently originating about $30 million per month in lending transactions. 

We are a family office. We started back in 2008, during the financial crisis. The family that started CBR was lending to small businesses in primarily the tri-state New York area under the name TVT Capital. They grew that into a multi-hundreds of millions of dollars lending business over the last decade, and then in 2018, they saw the opportunity in cannabis. These are the very same types of small businesses that could not access banks in the financial crisis. The underwriting of the analysis is similar, except you have all these really interesting and unique cannabis nuances.

LW: How does Canna Business Resources financing structure differ from traditional investment?

MT: There are investment firms that provide lots of access to what I’ll call investment capital, right? There’s the Poseidons of the world, the private equity groups, but there’s still not enough of them. There’s just not enough capital in the space. That presents opportunities, but it also presents challenges. One of the challenges is that private equity firms provide growth capital and private equity capital, but they don’t provide day-to-day working capital that banks or other lenders usually would. And that’s exactly the type of capital resource that cannabis companies need. 

For example, let’s say harvest season is coming up and a manufacturer needs a million bucks to go buy bulk flower because they’d be getting them at a 40% discount over financing with the cultivator. You’d rather pay a significant interest rate on that capital because you’re still saving money, rather than paying a higher price at the pump so to speak, to pay the cultivator to finance it for you. You’re better off borrowing that money and paying upfront, because you can have control over your inventory, have control over pricing and margins. And you don’t have to chase the dollar every day to pay it off. We provide that type of working capital that just doesn’t exist in the industry at this point.

LW: What sets Canna Business Resources apart from potential competitors?

MT: I think what makes us unique is we look at on-the-ground operators every day. Big, small, medium-size whether they’re acquiring retailers, or a cultivator building out a new facility, and they need a million or two for that over a 12 or 18 month period. We can tranche it out. Here’s a half-million today, here’s another half-million in six months. Nobody does that.

We actually set it up so that the loan packages are bespoke to the borrowers. So we can tranche it out. We can do it all at once. We can structure it anyway that’s effective for the borrowers, which is extremely uncommon at this point.

LW: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to enter cannabis?

MT: First of all, it’s not cheap — and do not nickel and dime, you’ll lose. This is not a cheap industry. It’s incredibly competitive. Particularly for licensing. It’s a lot of limited license markets, but the unlimited license markets are even more competitive. You have MSOs eating the world. 

My advice is you dive in headfirst, but you have to realize that it’s not going to be easy. Having passion is a prerequisite. Having the business acumen, all that stuff is a prerequisite. But you need a nest egg. You need the ability to operate a business in an all-weather environment.

LW: What should Leafwire readers know about Canna Business Resources?

MW: We’ve recently opened our investor group up because we just can’t keep up. We have a technology platform with real-time data and analytics. We want to open our doors up to more investors that have an interest in learning about what we do and how we can help the industry further. 

We have a lot of resources that we can access. We have unsecured lending. We have secured loans, and equipment lending. We also have real estate lending. And we have our financing like accounts receivable factoring and lines of credit for that as well. We know every part of our client’s business because we lend into different for different reasons, different structures and that’s how we develop relationships. 

We reinvest with our clients all the time. It’s a great model for us actually, because we already know who they are. They know us. We’re basically betting on our friends. And if things go sour, we restructure. Because we know that when things recover, they’ll come back to us again. 

“Well, hey, you guys just gave me some startup money for this new facility.  I got my dispensary up and running. Now I’m going to go buy this grow facility, but I’ve got the real estate, I need the money, I need the equipment.” We’ll look at that too and say, “Okay, great. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Go vertical. Here’s the money for that.” 

We help these businesses actually grow, we don’t just write a check for them, and then suck the cash out of them. There’s always a goal in mind.

Building a Seed-to-Shelf Hemp Empire – Franny Tacy Founder and CEO of Franny’s Farmacy

Franny Tacy is a cannabis icon. The founder and CEO of seed-to-shelf hemp and health company Franny’s Farmacy changed the face of hemp cultivation in the South. A farmer’s daughter, Franny studied forestry and education, eventually earning a Ph.D Q&A. She spent 15 years in pharmaceuticals before returning to her roots in North Carolina. A longtime supporter of cannabis reform, Franny began to assist with efforts to bring the state online to the country’s legal hemp program. Fast-forward to today: Franny’s Farmacy online business is booming with brick-and-mortar franchises across multiple states.

Learn more about how Franny’s Farmacy got to where they are today, the disruptive model that garnered national attention, and what’s to come in this exclusive Leafwire Q&A.

Leafwire: How has Franny’s Farmacy evolved since its inception?

Franny Tacy: I planted the first crop in 2017. I then organized and helped start a women in hemp nonprofit, expanded into a three-year research trial with the university for hemp as a crop in 2018. I was the first person in the country to do a TED Talk on health as a crop to start showing people what this was all about. It’s also the year I pivoted to grow hemp for CBD. 

In 2018, we opened our first dispensary. And from then, we were the first to put UPC codes and tracking, seed to shelf, where all our products are coming from. We were involved with legislation. We were educating police forces. We spent two years helping build the supply chain. All of our farms and our products got implemented into the research program. We were working with single crops. We were testing. We became vertically integrated, and in the process, the most reputable people that were involved in research.

LW: How does Franny’s Farmacy set itself apart?

FT: All our budtenders go through all sorts of training, they are specialized in helping other people. We also invest more in GMP practices at our manufacturing facilities over marketing and advertising of our products. We have discovery day, twice a month where people can actually come to our facilities and tour. Transparency is so important in our space, especially since it’s highly unregulated.

LW: Your franchise model was quite disruptive. Tell us why?

FT: In our franchise model this year, in my first year as CEO, we worked on software programming to give our franchisees opportunities for a percentage of the E-commerce business that they can operate. They also have multiple revenue streams beyond the brick and mortar. It made the national press. People are like “she’s either crazy mad or a genius,” which is yet to be determined. And that won many awards. From being on the cover of Franchise Times to being in Entrepreneur Magazine. I’ve been in every major media, ABC, NBC Fox, on 90 podcasts, have won awards in our community for best in business, entrepreneur of the year. There is a lot of recognition for what I’m accomplishing doing things a different way.

It sets us apart because we’re a brand. And there’s a person that stands behind everything who also takes responsibility. We’ve set up a system to help people be successful because nothing happens alone.

LW: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis space?

FT: Find a mentor, or a franchise company like us, and don’t go at it alone. There is a lot that is moving. And together, we make a better impact, move it in the direction that it’s beneficial for all people, the invisible impact. 

When you find a mentor, it needs to be somebody that has the experience, which is hard to find right now. Fortunately, the number’s growing. Lots of people have advice. So make sure that your mentor is somebody that has more than lip service that has the experience.

LW: How else is Franny’s Farmacy evolving?

FT: Franchisees now have other opportunities to integrate their businesses. The Canna Cafe is super fun and exciting. It’s not all CBD or cannabis-infused. A lot of this is bringing hemp for food to the forefront. We’re more than just a dispensary. We are an example and advocate for hemp. All aspects, even building materials. For our franchises, we incorporate hemp wood. And that’s super exciting. So everything in this experience is an immersive experience. Oftentimes people don’t even understand how embedded in this industry our company is.

We also have 46 products in the queue that we will be launching, so stay tuned this year.

LW: What else should Leafwire readers know about Franny’s Farmacy?

FT: We are a high-quality, trusted, seed-to-shelf business that’s building a brand that will always remain true to seed to shelf through quality and trust. We walk our talk.

Supply Chain, Automation, and Predictions for 2022 – David Kessler, CSO of Agrify

The rapidly evolving cannabis supply chain is quickly becoming more efficient. In order to give consumers consistent, high quality experiences in a cost-effective manner, cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers must deploy the right tools. Agrify provides end-to-end solutions for the booming cannabis industry, blending science, data, and technology to propel the market forward. 

Leafwire spoke to Agrify Chief Science Officer David Kessler about the company’s cutting-edge product offerings, the future of the industry, and his advice for up and coming entrepreneurs.

Leafwire:  Agrify provides premium cultivation solutions — what are the direct benefits to the supply chain?

David Kessler: When we look at the entire industry, what we noticed was that it really didn’t have enough repeatable processes. There’s some great producers, there’s some great businesses out there, but in terms of delivering a consistent product, whether that’s a flower product, a concentrate product, or an edible, the processes, the technology in place just didn’t exist. So what Agrify did was really take a different approach by designing cultivation solutions to deliver a level of consistency, a reproducible consumer or patient experience and expectation, and then combining that with facility optimizations, workflow optimizations, and the incorporation of artificial intelligence. What we’re really trying to do is deliver a sustainable method for cultivating high quality cannabis and delivering a consistent consumer and patient experience.

A lot of that comes from our demand-based planning algorithms. If cultivators are seeing an uptick in the demand from dispensaries, for example, of three of their key strains, they can use our software to quickly transfer over production and increase the capacity of those varietals based on the information that they’re receiving.

So it delivers a lot of actionable business insights, the ability to rapidly adjust and change based on the market demand, the market conditions. Ultimately, when we start talking about the supply chain, we just want to make sure that not just cultivation is accounted for with this level of technology service, we also want to ensure that that level of service technology is delivered to the entire supply chain and that’s everything from your genetics, which we’re not plant touching, but we do have plant touching partners through the cultivation equipment into the extraction formulation of products, and ultimately even with the brands deployed so that consumers and patients can have a consistent experience, and when they purchase a product from one of our cultivators, that they’ll have an expectation and a repeatable experience each and every time.

LW: Why is automation so important in cannabis?

DK: We’re a maturing industry, we’re still quite nascent, but what we are seeing is the scale up of production capacity. You’re seeing larger and larger businesses merge together. You’re seeing the formation of MSOs marching across the states taking larger shares across the country. As you start increasing the production, you would of course expect and require increases in automation, essentially the ability to lower costs and do processes more efficiently. So what Agrify does is we look at each individual task that’s a part of the production process and we look at where the addition of technology, the addition of science, the application of data can yield results.

We’re not trying to replace growers. This isn’t the kind of automation that’s robotic that, for example, would prevent or replace a grower from trimming a flower. What we’re talking about is the kind of tools that empower growers to remove some of the unnecessary. If you will, grunt work things, like fertilizing and irrigating the plants and taking notes. All of that is being automated and so it’s a tool to empower growers to really allow them to produce the finest quality cannabis repeatedly. That’s both on the process side and the environment side. So when we look at automation, what we’re really doing is kind of parsing the different processes of cultivation, extraction and so forth down, and seeing where we can use the technology, use the data to really improve the process.

We still believe that it has to be a hands-on, eyes-on, human-centered process, but we can alleviate some of the work and allow the human spent hours to be more efficient. So I think that’s the future of cultivation. I mean, we saw these big mega facilities in Canada at the Aurora Sky facility where they used robotics and automation to do things like plant movements and harvesting the plants. While I love that, I don’t think the industry was ready and their approach yielded very low quality cannabis. In fact, a lot of those facilities have been shuttered. Our approach is really designed to foster the highest quality, the most consistent cannabis produced at a lower price point to allow competitors, to allow our clients to successfully maintain their position and actually increase market share over time in this competitive space.

When we think of automation, I don’t want people to think that it is big box cannabis. The fact of the matter is our technology is modular and scalable. What we’ve done is we’ve taken cultivation and we’ve miniaturized the cultivating environments down to very small 300 cubic air feet chambers. What that allows is the production of craft quality cannabis at scale. So I just don’t want people to think that the move towards automation is this move towards low cost, low quality cannabis. I think that automation and craft quality are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the adoption of technology like ours allows producers to produce craft at scale and that’s going to be the key differentiator moving forward because people can always produce lower quality for a little bit less. It’s been documented time and time again.

LW:  What brought you specifically into the industry?

DK:  Well, I am Aristotelian by nature. My grandmother had me on nature walks as soon as I could walk and my mother used me as free labor in the gardens as soon as I was able. So I was always very in touch with nature and plants. I just didn’t think it was a viable career path. So I went to school and while I consumed cannabis as a college age youth, my focus was on law. I was going to be a lawyer. Eventually my love of cannabis, my love of plants, really guided me away from the study of law and towards horticulture. So I studied horticulture. I started a tropical plant nursery specializing in orchids. Again, I didn’t think cannabis was a viable career path at that point, and I was working for a woman from Harvard who had one of the largest rare plant nurseries in the Northeast.

She really encouraged me to just dive headlong into horticulture if this was my passion, and it was, and so I set up the orchid nursery. I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and became a judge with the American Orchid Society, which took about seven years. From there, my day job was to do commercial agriculture, closed environmental agriculture, and farm design. So I had a wonderful experience working with Georgia Tech, KSU, designing STEM curriculum for the Georgia Public School Systems. I wrote grants and was funded by Google and Chase banks and I got into consulting for Hollywood films, such as Black Panther, the Legit series, Hunger Games. All of that was just fascinating and it allowed me a lot of very unique experiences, related in surrounding horticulture to widen my expertise.

At the same time, I was designing a vertical food for the farm for an Atlanta business person and this actually became the early technology that is now Agrify. After a few years of working with them, they said, “Would you ever move to Colorado to do R&D testing on cannabis?” I said, “Absolutely.” So it was probably about six years ago, packed up the family and moved to Colorado, started optimizing the technology for cannabis and really evolved it to the state it is in today with Agrify and I’ve never looked back. It’s been something I love to do. I love to teach. I love to design. I love cannabis. I love horticulture. So every day is just a delight. While each day is a little bit different, I continue to grow professionally, I continue to kind of use my passion for horticulture and for cannabis to better the plant and to better Agrify’s ability to cultivate. So it’s really just a confluence of my own personal interests, unique opportunities, and a unique skill set.

LW:  Are there any major changes ahead for the industry in 2022?

DK:  I would say we’re seeing an increased rate of mergers and acquisitions. MSOs are now having access to debt based capital instead of just equity based and that’s increasing their ability to take market share. I also think that instead of the days where businesses were being purchased in their entirety, now you’re starting to see segments of businesses being acquired. So not a vertically integrated player, but maybe just someone that has specialized in just extraction in two states or just cultivation in three areas. So I think you’ll continue to see that as the larger companies try and strengthen their offerings in specific areas. I think that you’ll continue to see brand penetration into new markets.

I think where MSOs and larger businesses have to take the slower steps necessary caused by regulation, brand adoption is quite easy. I mean, if you have consumer recognition and you have a following, let’s say, out of California on the West Coast, when that brand penetrates, say, Cookies into a new market, you have immediate consumer recognition, immediate consumer demand. So I think that you will start to see more brand penetration continuing. Ultimately, though, I think that this brings up a real issue for the industry as a whole and something that Agrify looks to solve, which is consistency. When I was on a tech panel, it was the primary panel at the Michigan Cannabis Aid conference, we were asked by the audience, “Why is it, with all of our PO data, do we see so much repeat consumerism and very little three-peat consumerism?”

So the lecturers and I conferred and we all agreed it’s because we’re in legal cannabis, everyone’s excited to shop, there’s lots of options. If they try something that they like, be it a patient or a consumer, then when they go back, they want to experience that again and they will absolutely try that product a second time. But if you can’t deliver that same expectation of the experience or the medical benefit, then you’re not going to have a third chance. So it’s the need for CPG-like product consistency, right? Every Pepsi tastes like every other Pepsi, regardless of whether it’s bottled in Texas or in Vermont, and that’s the consumer mindset. That’s where we are as cannabis consumers. Until we can deliver that level of consistency, that expectation, it’s going to be hard for these brands to build larger footprints because it is different every time.

Agrify’s technology, which really takes cultivation down to a very granular level, allows fine-tunable control over the micro climate for cultivation. Because cannabis produces over 550 different chemical metabolites and the environment has a tremendous influence on which chemicals are produced and in what quantity and proportion ratio to one another, the need for consistency is even greater than with traditional food and beverage products. So I think that what you’re going to see is that as the consumers become more educated as they have more of these options in front of them, you’ll see this move towards CPG, the consumer product good form factor, this demand for consistency increasing. I think that’s a trend that’s going to continue for several years and where the adoption of technology like Agrify’s vertical farming units can minimize that variability, most of the cultivation today still suffers from that problem quite markedly.

LW:  Why is that product consistency piece so crucial?

DK:  If I told you that you should take between one and 50 Tylenol for your headache, we would never be able to prescribe it as a medicine. We would never consider it a medicine if it was variable like that. So I think that we all know that this push and change towards a more consistent production methodology is coming. I just don’t think everyone has figured out how.

What Agrify has done is by shrinking the cultivation environment, and then focusing on a very uniform reproduction across the entire 300 cubic feet of aerospace, what we’re allowing is the minimization of plasticity, the minimization of chemical variability based on that environment, and because we’re automating the environmental control, because we’re automating the data collection, each chamber records at least 1.5 million data points per year at minimum. That is all data used to recreate very specific internal environments for each individual strain, which can be different strain to strain to elicit different outcomes, different chemical profiles and so forth.

So what we’ve really done is create a reproducible micro climate that allows growers to minimize the variability to deliver a higher level of both quality and consistency, and if they found a recipe that worked, they can go back through the software and just simply say, repeat because whatever they did last time was the best it’s ever been. That’s going to allow cultivators using Agrify’s technology to deliver the consistency that the market is really starting to demand and ultimately is going to require.

LW:  What are some benefits of utilizing AI in cannabis that may surprise people?

DK:  Agrify is really about the incorporation of artificial intelligence. So we’re incorporating cameras with the ability to look at images in real time, detect pests and pathogens from visual camera feeds, which again, foster the ability of cultivators to do their job without requiring as much hands-on, eyes-on, but it still is just an alert that cultivators need to go and take a look. Then we’re also using technology to do a lot of other wonderful things. I see that as cultivation narrows, we talk about the future. I think that what we’re going to see is cultivation improvements based on a couple of key factors. One, improvements in genetics. We’re behind a hundred years on every other major agronomic crop because of the illegal nature of cannabis.

I think you’re going to see tremendous improvements based on biofeedback. So right now, for example, the growing media has always been well, you water it, you add fertilizer, you don’t get droughted. But what we’re realizing now is the ability to steer a crop to really foster and elicit a specific outcome from a plant. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, but what you need to do is have biofeedback from the plant in order to capitalize on that. So by understanding the moisture in your growing media, the EC or the level of fertilizer, you can use those levers in addition to CO2, light intensity, light spectrum and so forth and many others to really drive the best expression from the plant, the highest yield, the highest quality. As you control all of those factors as Agrify documents each individual change, we are enabling you to improve the recipes for cultivation and then hit repeat.

So I think what I just want to say about the inclusion of automation and technology is really that as we move forward, you’re going to see more of this biofeedback, whether it’s biofeedback from the media on the moisture and EC, biofeedback from the leafs, looking at vapor pressure deficit and photosynthesis rate of transpiration rates, and having these pieces of data is going to allow us to move cannabis forward more rapidly. Because it is so far behind other agronomic crops, I think that you’ll see a more rapid evolution and improvement, and it’s going to be to those that incorporate technology, look at data, review the new scientific literature to really lead that path forward. That’s where Agrify is leading the way through the adoption of technology and the application of data to improve production of both cannabis cultivation, extraction and process, all the way through the supply chain.

LW:  What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur in cannabis?

DK: The first is stolen from real estate agents: location, location, location. You have to understand how licenses and regulations matter in this industry. The difference between starting a business in Oklahoma and in New York is profound. Oklahoma, it’s very simple. It’s not a limited license state. It’s low cost of entry and the assumption will be that the cream of the crop will rise and attrition will occur because not everyone can succeed. They’ve licensed almost as many cultivators as the state of California with 10% of the population. So while Oklahoma is a great location for low cost entry, it’s also going to be high competition. Whereas you have more restrictive states like New York that are coming on with more regulations, higher capital demands to enter the market and a more competitive space overall, and it’s just going to be a very different experience for an entrepreneur starting that business.

Number two: know your business model. You have to find a niche. You have to decide what it is you’re going to do and what it is you’re going to specialize in. I’ve talked to lots of people that say, “Well, I grow cannabis and I’m just going to make lots of money.” It’s not that easy. I wish it were, but it’s not. I mean, the “green rush,” as they call it, is not something easily won and at the end of the day, what you need to do is have a solid business plan built on fundamentals. So that means understanding who your consumer is, understanding what the costs are that are going to drive your business and understanding what your niche is. What it is, what needs you are specifically going to fill and what’s going to make you different from every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there trying to do the same.

Then the final piece, this one is my favorite, it’s to delight your customer. That’s your job. Your job as an entrepreneur is to deliver a good or a service and the consumer to be delighted, to be elated. Whether that’s done through the quality of your product, the novelty of your product, the efficacy of your product, figure out a differentiator, delight your customer and make sure you set yourself up in the right location with a solid business plan and you’ll do wonderful.

LW:  What else should the Leafwire community know about Agrify?

DK: I think that fundamentally we need to be seen as more than a hardware company. A lot of people when they come and they see us at a trade show, they see our hardware on display and it’s pretty big and bold. I mean, a vertical farming unit is a cultivation chamber that’s roughly four feet by eight feet by nine feet tall, and they stack like Lego bricks. So it’s quite impressive and imposing when you see this laid out in front of you. The entire idea is that every chamber can be completely independently controlled from all the other chambers. So because of the novelty, because of the wow factor, a lot of people will walk away from an initial meeting with us and think, “Wow, that’s a really interesting hardware company,” but we’re so much more than that.

We’re really an ecosystem of solutions. It’s an integrated solution of hardware and software that was designed to work with one another. So the days of needing an integrator because you bought an HVAC system and then you bought the best of the best humidifier and the best of the best lighting and then you bought a building management controller and got a fertilizer system, all of that combined together, you still have disparate pieces of equipment that need to be integrated to work with one another in order to deliver a high quality product. Because we have taken more of the apple ecosystem approach, everything works with everything else. It’s all designed to work seamlessly to deliver that uniform environment, which ultimately leads to higher consistency, fosters brand building and the CPG form factor, and ultimately delivers consumers and patients the kind of experience that they’re seeking.

So what I want people to know about Agrify is that we’re really looking at this holistically, from cultivation to a branded product that people consume, and we want to deliver the best technology, the most data and the highest level of repeatability to our clients to foster the highest quality, lowest cost and most consistent cannabis on the market.

Transition From Legacy to Legal Industry Leader – Ruben Lindo, CEO of Blak Mar Farms

Ruben Lindo is a former professional football player, executive, and thought leader blazing a trail in the cannabis space. The founder and CEO of Blak Mar Farms and Phoenix Nutraceutical, Ruben is driven by a passion for plant medicine. His experience going from “the streets to the suites” as a serial entrepreneur has been both fascinating and inspiring, transcending industries and overcoming incredible odds to become one of the legal market’s first true success stories. 

Learn more about Ruben’s journey, find out the advice he’d give newcomers to cannabis, and hear his predictions for what’s ahead for the industry in this Leafwire Q&A.

Leafwire:  What is your cannabis industry origin story?

Ruben Lindo: I got into this space in 2016. I was a legacy guy for years. I dabbled throughout my playing career, I supplemented my income at times. For me, cannabis was always there for me to go to in the legacy world, to make some money, to tie up some loose ends, or make ends meet when they just didn’t seem to meet. Then I stepped away from it because after I went to prison I was scared to death to leave my kids again.

I was introduced to this industry by two very brave individuals who took a shot on a formerly convicted individual to step into leading a revolutionary company, a tech industry upsetting company, a disruptive company, in a brand new emerging industry called cannabis. When I stepped into this, it was still highly regulated, and it was still very, very, very illegal at the federal level. There weren’t those changes to the CSA yet, there weren’t changes locally in state law, and although we had a medical market, black and brown people were still going to prison at disproportionate rates still.

I came into this space with two things in mind: one, that cannabis has been a part of my life. My mother consumed it, my aunties, everybody around me consumed it, and it was medicine. It was truly medicine. I used to joke and say my mom’s got to smoke weed for her nerves because she’s got me, my sister, my brother running crazy. But when I think about it, it really was just medicine. It’s never been a drug to me. And getting out of playing professional sports, and knowing that I had teammates that were banned for playing, punished for playing, friends that were punished for consuming, really motivated me.

Before I jumped into the space I was on the verge of being homeless, I couldn’t get a job because of my felony conviction, and I had maybe $8. My wife said, “Go buy a cigar with this last $8.” But I couldn’t go to my normal cigar shop, because $8 was taboo, like who smokes a $8 cigar? So I drove to this place about 25 miles away and bought an $8 cigar, and was on the phone with Leonard Marshall having a conversation. Leonard and I were talking about cannabis, and my future employer, little did I know, was sitting in the same room talking about cannabis on a call, and thought that I was mocking him talking about cannabis, and we just hit it off. So I got into this space over an $8 cigar and two guys who took a real gamble on me.

My why was very clear. From the minute I walked into this industry, I haven’t worked a day. It’s not work for me. It is my passion. I love what I do. I love the people that I connect with. I love everything about it. But I knew that it was going to be my legacy to create a social justice change moment. As I delved deeper into the world of cannabis and started understanding the business side of it, I always said that cannabis legalization was the tip of the spearhead that would change the entire social justice and criminal justice system. And lo and behold, we’re seeing that. That was my reason why.

I brought a very corporate, Wall Street, B school mentality to it from day one, that we needed to have a level of maturity in order to be taken seriously as a future industry. When you started hearing numbers of $4 billion projected revenue in the state of California, I started saying, well there’s some real money to be made here, but I’ll never make that money, because I don’t have access to those things. I’m just here to lend my knowledge and build an industry.

LW: How did you come to launch Phoenix Nutraceutical?

RL:  We started out as a research and development company, studying the effects of CBD and how CBD, and hemp-derived CBD specifically, impacts the body. We expanded into products, and we have two product lines, Aminatu Beauty and Wellness, and we have Blitz Health and Wellness. Blitz is more focused on the sports side of the world, where we have our relief rubs, tinctures, and gummies. Then on the beauty side, we kind of stretch boundaries. We started out with shampoo. Now we have about 16 to 18 products in the Aminatu beauty line, and those products range from everything from skincare to eye care, hair care, all the way down to massage oil.

The company was really born out of necessity. My daughter in Canada was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia in 2017. In 2018, treatment wasn’t really going so well, so I started to panic. I started reaching out to science guys and researching NIH papers on CBD and blood-borne illnesses, and I came across a doctor in Warsaw, Poland, who had written a thing on CBD and antioxidants in hair growth. I reached out to him and he was generous enough with his time, and then as soon as he found out that it was about my daughter, he agreed to fly to Toronto to meet me. He was coming to Canada anyway, so he was going to Vancouver, he flew to Toronto first. We spent two days in a hotel room, just going over different formulations and things that he thought would help, and things that he’s done in his research. Then I found a lab partner in San Diego to create the product.

I fell in love with doing custom formations, CBD products. We’ve created over 115 products. It costs a lot of money to release those products to the public, but we have them in custom formulation, and we’ve worked on getting some mechanical patents on some of the formulations. But that’s very tough in the United States, to get patented in general, but even more specifically in a hemp-derived CBD product. Because the United States government holds so many of those patients already. It’s been a wild ride.

Out of that, we started exploring THC and cannabis-derived products. We looked into two different areas. As you know, I broke into this industry designing and developing lighting spaces using natural light. We looked at building cultivation spaces, and I said, “You know what, I know enough about cultivating and I know enough cultivars; let’s jump in and create a company.” So we created this company Black Mar Farms in 2019, but we didn’t do anything with it until 2020.

LW:  How did you end up developing Black Mar Farms?

RL:  I partnered with some guys up in Eureka who had a grow, legacy guys as a matter of fact, and we transitioned them into legal, and we partnered. I managed and ran the business side, and they did the work. They grew the product. It was a marriage made in heaven. It gave me a chance to own a cultivation facility and be part of our first regulatory licensed environment.

Black Mar Farms really became my purpose project. Coming out of the tumultuous summer of 2020, I started really paying attention to things that were hurting us. One of the things that I noticed was, black and brown people, although social equity were words that were still being thrown around, and I was considered a thought leader in the social equity space, we weren’t doing it for our people. So I said, “Black Mar Farms is going to be the brand for the people.”

We made a low entry for investment for folks who wanted to invest, and we went up to Michigan and we partnered with another predominantly white company who, I didn’t realize that his daughter was black. He had adopted a black daughter. But we just never talked about race. But I always just knew he was super hip. Then he found out the name of our company was Black Mar and he said, “Would you be interested in a partnership, in doing a model?” I was introduced to him by a gentleman by the name of Errol Service, who was the first black McDonald’s multi-franchise holder. I reunited with Derek Coleman of the NBA, and DC and I have been doing this dance to put together this magical moment.

So I just jumped in, and we purchased the real estate, and we created the same exact thing that we had in Eureka. We created it in Michigan with these partners, and we own the real estate outright, and we leased the cultivation operation to the cultivar. My one condition was that he had to train some black folks in the business. He had to train them to be cultivars, not cotton pickers, not trimmers. And we did it, and it was wonderful.

LW: How can the industry go further when it comes to improving social equity opportunities?

RL:  I stand on the platform of social justice and social equity. But I changed the language and the narrative of social equity a little bit because we all know what the problems are. We need to now create social change, and people are starting to use the words social and economic equity. Yeah, there’s a problem with economics, but black people never have a problem getting money. We have a problem with getting access to the information that leads us to the money. So I’ve kind of changed things and say, it’s no longer about having access because just because you have access doesn’t mean you have accessibility.

These are the things, and this is the direction in which the messaging needs to go, because out of that is what spawns change. So now we have social equity, and the term social equity has been really watered down. It’s kind of like the term GOAT, in sports. Everybody’s the GOAT. Well now you have people calling people equity entrepreneurs, and I think that that’s a little bit of a slap in the face. We’re creating a subclass or a sublicense in our own industry by calling it a social equity license. No, they’re license holders. They have to follow the same compliance as everyone else, we have to do the same thing.

The only thing that made it equitable wasn’t a handout, it was just the fact that some of the barriers of entry were removed that were unnecessarily placed there in the beginning. And it’s not a reparation, it’s a restoration. Because again, if we’re being honest, this industry was built on the backs and liberties and lives of black folks. That’s how they criminalized it, they made money off of it when it was illegal, by capitalizing on the fact that black and brown people were prolific in the industry of cannabis, and they marginalized it, they criminalized it, and then they penalized it. 

Now we have black-owned businesses, and we have multi-state operators that have risen to the highest heights, and Al Harrington, Chris Weber, and guys like that are jumping in and putting their name behind it, but we still need to have accessibility. We need to be able to disseminate truthful information to people so that they can educate themselves and learn to become business owners rightfully, and operators in a once-in-a-lifetime industrial revolution.

As my brother, Steven DeAngelo said to me, “Ruben, you’ll never be able to operate in this space, in an opportunity like this, again.” And I take it a step further in saying, we took this from the streets to the suites. We’ve taken this from the dirt to the boardroom. And this is the only industry that this has ever happened in. We actually are seeing the formation of a new industry in front of our eyes that originated on the streets, in the alleys, and now it’s in boardrooms and banks, and low and behold, clergy breakfasts. It’s just amazing where we are.

LW:  If you could give some advice to budding entrepreneurs, what advice would you have for them for trying to get into this space, or for trying to start a new business? What would you say to them?

RL:  I’d say three things. First, I’d say find a mentor that is established and running a business. Find somebody that’s willing to invest in you. 

The next thing that would say is, become a sponge, become a student again. Learn as much as you can, from whomever you can, and discern what you can store in your toolbox. Because you’ll come back to it, especially in this industry, at some point.

Then the final thing that I would tell a young entrepreneur is to come into this industry with the desire to give back and reach back. Especially black entrepreneurs. Have a spirit of reaching back, paying it forward every chance that you get. Any time that someone shares the knowledge, go back and share the knowledge with someone else.

Our job is, like Jackie Robinson said, to knock on the door. And Reggie Jackson was supposed to hold the door open so that everybody else could come into major league baseball. I’m using a sports analogy, but my job was to crack the door. It’s kind of like I’m wedged in there, and I’m like, “Come on y’all, come on, come on, and I’ll hold the door open for you!” That’s what I want to see.

LW:  What’s on deck for Phoenix Nutraceutical and Black Mar Farms?

RL:  With Phoenix Nutraceutical we’re hoping to get funded so that we can push ahead with our bio-hemp research. Prior to the pandemic, we started researching hemp as a biofuel to power Trion Supercars. Then we pivoted and said we might as well create a fuel that runs at 82% octane or less that can run farm equipment. Because sustainability is really got to be the focus of this industry now, right, and where we’re headed.

For Black Mar Farms, my baby, and my pet project, some exciting things are in the works. We’re negotiating a deal to acquire three facilities in the state of Massachusetts and partner with two other black entrepreneurs. We’re looking at an expansion in Michigan, moving down into Detroit, and really launching our equity brand. We have a brand called Equity Farms, and Equity Farms is really twofold: we want to launch our indoor cultivation, and 50% of that cultivation revenue will go toward independent rooftop gardens throughout the city. Those gardens would provide the community with fresh fruits and vegetables.

And finally, we’re going to start a project working with the First Nations folks, the Senecas, here in New York. I’m super excited about that. We’re moving very quickly in a partnership deal, and we’re going to go there and teach the first real social equity folks of the Americas how to get into this industry, and how to run and maintain their business. That’s our path from now till the end of the year, and that will take us into second-quarter 2022, some of those projects. But that’s where we are, that’s what we’re looking at.

LW:  What do you think is ahead for the industry in 2022 and beyond?

RL:  Let’s look at cannabis on a global landscape. Let’s look at what’s happening in emerging economies like Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Zaire. Even in Jamaica, Jamaica’s always been, the kaya plant, the plant of the people. But even in Jamaica as a business, it’s expanding. So we’ve already seen the growth in 2019, 2018, in Europe; now we’re going to see these other countries, these other places in the world globally, again, not making it a black or white thing, but predominantly black communities, black regions, of the world, really exploding, and changing the trajectory of this industry. I always say there’s a force multiplier of one and a half times when we get into these emerging economies because we’re going to teach people how to do two things: sell their culture, which is big, and then the second thing is, we’re going to teach them how to sell finished products.

So again, I’ll go back to this and mention Steve. Steve DeAngelo’s down in Mexico, and I’ve been following Steve, and Steve’s been active in talking to the people, and before he left I said to him, “We have to start teaching people how to sell finished products. We can no longer sell raw goods. Especially these African countries, in the continent of Africa, and South America, and indigenous folks. We need to teach them how to take finished products and combine it with their culture.” That’s what we’re going to see in 2022. We saw a little bit of it, and then the pandemic hit. Now we’re going to see the explosion of it through this industry globally.

LW:  You’re a role model for so many BIPOC entrepreneurs and legacy operators. How do you manage that responsibility?

RL:  I take it with a tremendous amount of gratitude, because of what I was able to overcome, and for those who gave me an opportunity. I feel like I worked super hard to get to a place, and some people will say, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” I’m not royal. I’m just loyal to this game and to life. But truthfully, it feels good to be a leader in the industry, and it feels good to be in this position.

It does force me to maintain my integrity at all times. And it forces me to operate transparently because of the things that I’ve gone through and the places that I’ve been. It really makes me remain accountable to my word. And there are two things I always say: with integrity comes justice, but also, with integrity, you have to be transparent. I am fortunate that I’ve gotten an opportunity to show this. The one thing that I regret the most is that two people who are very dear to me only got to see the beginning of this.

Communication, Advice, and Predictions – Let’s Be Blunt with Montel Williams

Montel Williams is a former television host, speaker, and plant medicine advocate. He has been an outspoken supporter of cannabis for two decades, and being a medical patient himself, Montel’s authenticity and passion never wavers. Having served in both the United States Marines Corp and the Navy, he has also championed the cause of veteran access to medicinal cannabis. Montel’s podcast, Let’s Be Bluntdives into the world of cannabis, providing honest and thought-provoking information in an entertaining format.

Montel chatted with Leafwire about his incredible cannabis success story, where he sees the industry going, and the advice he has for new entrepreneurs.

Leafwire:  How did you discover cannabis as a medicine?

Montel Williams:  I came to cannabis because when I was initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was put on a regimen of opioids that really didn’t do anything for me and had a doctor recommend cannabis to me back in 2000. The doctor basically said, “You need to go out and find out as much as you can about cannabis because I know that there have been some patients who have said that they’ve gotten relief from varied forms of cannabis, and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you do the study, you can figure that out,” and so really dove deep into cannabis back in 2000 and realized that this is a product that the federal government was in the process of granting itself a patent for.

And it extolled and talked about the virtues of cannabis in its abstract, in its own patent applications, so I felt like I was doing nothing different than what the federal government was doing, even though out of one side of the face, they were supporting cannabis by funding research all over the world and here in the United States, but out of the other side, claiming that it had no medical advocacy. So I really started the journey to gain relief from some of the symptoms that I was exhibiting from MS and cannabis was one of the only things that helped do that.

LW:  Tell us about the Let’s Be Blunt podcast — what can listeners expect?

MW:  Let’s Be Blunt is a platform similar to Leafwire —  a platform that provides good validated information, talks to other patient advocates, talks to doctors, talks to people who are trying to share valid information about cannabis and its effects. A platform to share information about the cannabis business and some of the pitfalls and some of the advances that are happening to make consumers more aware as they try to navigate this really ever-changing landscape. 

We live at a time now where we’ve got 37 states in the District of Columbia that all have some form of legal cannabis laws, but almost every one of them is different. Every one of them allows for different delivery systems. Every one of them has different practices for getting either registered in a medical program or even in their adult-use programs — they all differ. We aim to be a one-stop shop for people who want to learn more, know more. That’s what we set about doing with Let’s Be Blunt: it’s a blunt conversation.

LW: You dive into psychedelic medicine on the Let’s Be Blunt podcast. Are you looking at that space more?

MW:  I’ve used the platform to open up those kinds of discussions because a lot of people who are looking at holistic medicine and also botanicals of all types, need to have a place that they can go to get information. And we’ve received questions about psychedelics, and I’ve been digging in and talking to some of the people who are the industry leaders in what they’re trying to accomplish. This is a brand new field, a wide-open field that, just like when cannabis first started being discussed, there’s a lot of misinformation. So I want to try to get some legitimate information out there, especially for those who are inquisitive and want to know the benefits and allow for a discussion that doesn’t get to take place in many places.

LW:  You’re inviting the conversation and getting the information to the people in an accessible sort of way.

MW:  Yeah, I try to provide a safe outlet for those who want to be able to express their views without having to worry about being challenged as much, not over the veracity or the accuracy, but challenge only in helping them express themselves. I’ve spoken to people from as far away as South Africa and Australia and the EU, all living through different types of journeys with cannabis and trying to explain to people how this is being looked at around the world at a time where most of the world is wrestling with trying to provide decent healthcare to its constituents. 

Here’s an opportunity in the United States for us to be able to do the same thing with lots of countries, other countries have figured out is that when it comes to cannabis use, it literally, especially in the aging population, helps to reduce some of the pharmaceutical use that a lot of middle-aged and older people have routinely been prescribed that are unnecessary as we get older.

I’m a very strong believer that no matter whether it’s adult-use or not, people who gravitate to cannabis gravitate to it because of some form of underlying medical reason, whether they admit it or not. If it’s just to relax, that’s a medical reason, if it’s just to lessen some anxiety, that’s a medical reason. And so, I think providing space that’s safe for people to be able to share ideas and information that is usable for everyone is what we’re trying to accomplish with Let’s Be Blunt.

LW:  Your military experience has inspired you to advocate for medical cannabis access for veterans. How can people support these efforts?

MW:  There is a federally-sanctioned study happening on the West Coast right now, a study looking at cannabis and its effects on PTSD. I think that those who have done so much for us need to have every tool in their arsenal that they can use to fight the ravages of their remnants of war. So I am a huge supporter of cannabis for vets and hoping that some of our partners in this industry start to think in terms of that.

I will always be a supporter of ensuring that vets have safe access to cannabis. Some of the guests that we’ve had, guests we’ve brought have been people like Walking Dead, Tommy Chong, Redman. We’ve had Dr. Tishler from Harvard, Brooklyn with us, college and Dr. Michelle Weiner out of Florida, Kevin Greene, who’s got the Cleveland School of Cannabis, Chaunte Wayans, who’s the niece of the Wayans brothers, who talks about how cannabis helps to keep her sober. Believe it or not, this is a person who dealt with substance abuse but uses cannabis.

And then, we understand that science is now proving that cannabis can be a true exit drug rather than a gateway drug. An exit drug to opioid addiction and alcohol use. We should be doing more research on that and actually extolling the virtues. I think that we have some really engaging conversations on Let’s Be Blunt, but we also provide that kind of information that I believe that most people, once they start to hear, will start looking for you more.

LW:  Where do you see the cannabis industry heading in 2022?

MW:  I’m hoping that this industry wakes up and recognizes what it needs to do. We have done, I think, a fairly decent job in the last couple of years from a B2B standpoint, especially during the pandemic. Cannabis was considered an essential service and almost every legal state passed laws, literally making sure that their local officials and local politicians understood how important cannabis was. However, I think the industry really needs to grow up now and understand that we are just literally scraping the surface. We haven’t even really become a full-blown industry. This is like a Wright brother pushing a wooden plane down a hill.

We still have jets and other things that are down the road that we need to get ready for. And the only way we’re going to do that is through education. That’s what I like so much about Leafwire: that education is a paramount part of what you do, not only in connecting individuals in the business setting, but you also allow for individuals to share ideas and information that helps to educate the industry as a whole. And that’s what we really need to start focusing on, is not just B2B but B2C. We’re still caught up right now in trying to figure out how much THC we can raise the level of plant to and how many synthetic versions or modified versions of THC we can come up with when the truth to the matter is most consumers aren’t looking for higher than high.

That’s not what cannabis has always been about since the beginning. What we need to do is try to figure out how we can take apart over 250 component parts that have some form of medicinal property, and start figuring out how to utilize those and formulate those in their natural way. Maybe just by taking out the deleterious things and leaving in the positive things. And that’s where I hope the research leads us to and that’s where I hope this industry goes. 

In the next year and a half, I’m really a little jaded because I’m concerned about the fact that the industry jumps behind candidates for president, vice president that talk a mean game and basically lie to the industry. Claiming that in its first 100 days, they would make significant changes and none of that’s been done. And you don’t see anything getting ready to get done on the near horizon because of all the other setbacks that this administration is going through.

That means that we have to look to the next administration, and then we look to the next administration. That’s like looking into the eye of the storm because we have no idea who’s going to be the next administration. And if it happens to be the former one, you may as well kiss cannabis goodbye in the way that we are thinking about its evolution moving forward. Can you put this dog back behind the fence? No, I don’t think it’ll ever get back behind the fence. But can it be thwarted every step of the way? Absolutely. Can we put chains on it? Can the government put chains on it and leave it outside in the rain? Absolutely.

And we’ve already seen initiatives across the country from some of the deepest, darkest conservative bases that are trying to roll back even the will of the people, not just for the presidential election, but the will of the people who voted in cannabis for their constituents. And so, I think this industry needs to literally now begin the process of stopping the infighting, not worrying about your little piece of turf rather than figuring out how to come together to move this entire industry forward. 

I think that one of the things that I’m really excited about is that, I know I’ve been talking to Reggie Noble, Redman, who has been a staunch supporter of cannabis from back as long as I had been. He and a group have just launched something called NCP, which is the National Cannabis Party, which is a federally-registered cannabis party that is now capable of endorsing and being on a ballot in all 50 states. I think what we need to do as an industry is everyone who has a share or stake in this business needs to get behind this party and start impressing upon candidates that we’re not going to take it anymore. We need your support, and we need to be able to pass good and consumer-friendly cannabis laws across the country that allow those who are patients to have access to this incredible medication. And those who choose this over other products like alcohol, have safe access to that too.

We sometimes forget that the same people who fight so hard against cannabis are the ones who are sipping down on brown liquor when they get home, or sipping down a glass of wine, or going out to a restaurant, sharing a drink with a friend. What right do you have to tell me how I imbibe in something that is socially relaxing?

LW:  What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are considering entering the industry?

MW:  I hope you’re getting into this industry for the right reasons. If this is an industry that you decided that you want to get into because you want to make a lot of money off of other people’s suffering, then I tell you, skip it. 

But if you are interested in helping to provide relief to those who are looking for relief, helping to provide an alternative substance for those who are looking for something alternative to alcohol, have that be your core. And then from there, build out what it is you want to build out. Do you want to be a grower? Do you want to be a processor? Do you want to be a salesperson? Do you want to be a formulator? What is it that you really think you want to do? Is it just all about making money? If it’s all about making money, then I have nothing to say to you, but if it’s all about keeping the consumer in mind and trying to develop products that can continue to be innovative, a space that is ripe for innovation, then I’d say jump in with two feet.

But you also have to understand that, because there have been so many before you that have come in looking to make money, this has now become an industry that is extremely expensive to get into. You get no support, really, and the support that you get is going to come with a pretty big price tag. So align yourself with those who can help you move your paradigm forward in what’s now becoming a crowded, greedy land space.

LW:  You have always been about patient access at the forefront. Is the industry losing sight of this?

MW:  Yeah. I think we, again put ourselves in a position where there are too many putting money first. Again, this is like the Wright brothers pushing a wooden plane down a hill. We have to remember. The last hundred years of aviation have created billions, trillions of dollars. The first 10 years of the aviation industry didn’t create millions. And so if we stop and think about this, we still have trillions of dollars on the table. So everybody’s going to make their piece. Why not try to do so, providing a better landscape than those out there eating right now?

LW:  What’s ahead for you?

MW:  I’m still in the industry. I’m a formulator myself with my own products and going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, but I’ve got another contract manufacturer that I’m working with. And hopefully, we’ll have some broad-spectrum products in the marketplace very soon again. And I’m also working with multiple cannabis companies around the world, trying to innovate some new products in the space and keep your eyes open, because I think over the next year, some of those will start to actually come to fruition.

I can’t really dig deep into some of them right now because we have some of the ink that is just now drying on paper. However, within very short order, I’ll be able to talk about some of the relationships that I’ve been able to forge. And I’m excited because I’m working with a company from South America, I’m working with a company out of South Africa, I’m working with a company here in the United States. I am getting ready to start working with a company in Eastern Europe, all of which have one thought in mind, and that’s growing the most efficacious cannabis and hemp that they can grow to provide safe access to patients.