Most fail to realize how simple steps can be a difference-maker.
Do new cannabis markets set themselves up for failure?
Are eager entrepreneurs trying to reinvent the wheel?
This week we sit down with Lulu Tsui to discuss:
Relationship Management/ Due Diligence
How to learn from other markets
West Coast vs EAST
About On The Revel
REVEL IS… – Opening hearts and minds to the business opportunities in legal cannabis. – Celebrating the diverse voices that are defining the next generation practices and standards for the cannabis industry. – Building towards a cannabis industry that is equitable, inclusive, and provides opportunities for all. – Choosing inspiration and collaboration for a stronger industry and a healthier business community.
Editors’ Note: This is the transcript version of the podcast. Please note that due to time and audio constraints, transcription may not be perfect. We encourage you to listen to the podcast, embedded below if you need any clarification. We hope you enjoy!
Big Tobacco’s relationship with the cannabis industry is complicated. While most can agree that there is an overlap between the two, many quickly point out that they are dangerous to the industry.
Turning point brands sits at the intersection of this dynamic relationship.
This week we sit down with Scott Grossman, VP of Corporate Development of Turning Point Brands, to discuss the following:
The relationship between big Tobacco and the cannabis industry
The influence of brands on the future of cannabis and Tobacco.
Resources, Overlaps, and Sensors
and so much more
About Turning Point Brands (NYSE: TPB)
We are a branded consumer products company that markets and distributes products, including alternative smoking accessories and consumables with active ingredients through our iconic and emerging brands.
[00:00:02]Bryan Fields: up guys? Welcome back. Turn up, what’s up of the dime. I’m Brian Fields and with me as always as Kellen Finney. And this week we’ve got very special guests, Scott Grossman, of Turning Point Brands. Scott, thanks for taking the time.
[00:00:11]Scott Grossman: How you doing today? Of course. How you doing gentlemen? Good
[00:00:15]Bryan Fields: meet you.
[00:00:15] Doing well. It’s good to see you, Kellen. How are
[00:00:17]Kellan Finney: you doing? I’m doing really well. Excited to to talk to Scott. Really excited to learn about, uh, turning Points place in the industry and you know, just hoping to hold the West Coast down over here.
[00:00:27]Bryan Fields: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Scott, just for the record, your location
[00:00:31]Scott Grossman: please.
[00:00:32] I am located in Connecticut. I’m actually on the road today in the field, but, uh, spend most of my time in the Northeast say, shout out for
[00:00:40]Bryan Fields: another east coaster. Kellen, you are losing the battle . So Scott, our listeners are un about, you can give it a
[00:00:46]Scott Grossman: little background about your. Yeah, sure. Uh, I head up COR corporate development at Turning Point, uh, where I lead efforts on m and a and large commercial partnership focused, uh, in the cannabinoid space.
[00:00:59][00:01:00] Um, just some context on Turning Point. Turning Point is a, a marketer and distributor of branded consumer products, uh, in the active ingredient space. Uh, we’re led by our core branch such as zigzag, which, uh, as you may know, is a, as a leading and iconic. Hundred 50 year old brand in the rolling paper category.
[00:01:21] Um, you know, high level turning Point is about a 450 million revenue business. We sell across both B2B and B2C channels, including over 200,000 C stores, head shops, dispensaries, and, and directly to cannabis operators, both on the cultivation side as well, uh, in. and kind
[00:01:44]Bryan Fields: of picking that apart. Cannabis is just one vertical underneath Turning Points umbrella.
[00:01:49]Scott Grossman: Yeah. So, you know, like I mentioned, you know, zigzag has been around for over a century. Um, I think the joke is that it was, uh, it was a, a taboo [00:02:00] cannabis accessory for most of that time. Um, turning Point went public in 2016 and you know, to our credit, you know, we are one of the first public companies certainly listed on the New York stock.
[00:02:13] To actively embrace cannabis and deploy capital, uh, in several, you know, non-planned touching companies to help fuel growth and, and really further embed zigzag into, you know, this, this huge market that we see. , what was
[00:02:29]Kellan Finney: that transition like fa from kind of cannabis being illegal taboo to now it’s kind of, there’s adult recreational in some states, hemp of course is, uh, completely legal.
[00:02:41] Like how was that kind of transition from a public image
[00:02:43]Scott Grossman: perspective? Yeah, it’s a great question. You know, I’ve been a turning point now just over, uh, almost about two years. Um, you know, privately, you know, not privately, but before. , I was a public and private investor, uh, on Wall Street and spent most of [00:03:00] my time focused on, on consumer retail hospitality.
[00:03:04] So I’ve been investing and been around the Canada space for a long time and was looking for the right platform to really spread my wings, uh, given, you know, this green wave that we’re experiencing. with respect to inside Turning Point? Listen, it’s been an evolution. Um, obviously we’re a public company.
[00:03:22] Um, there, you know, historically there’s been laws against paraphernalia, et cetera. I think we’re way past that and be given the change, both the normalization, the consumer adoption. We’re now in 39 states, 21 of which is recreational. 25 billion industry. Um, it’s been embraced by a variety of industries from big tobacco where we sit to big food, to, you know, big pharma.
[00:03:54] Um, the conversation gets easier and easier every day, uh, which is great to see both [00:04:00] as a, a consumer and advocate of the plant, but also as a professional. Uh, just gives us a lot more flexibility and, and, and ability to kind of move around in a, in a, in a very exciting. I’m
[00:04:11]Bryan Fields: curious to know from an investment standpoint when Turning Point talks about the cannabis vertical.
[00:04:15] Obviously early on it’s probably exciting. There’s all these unknowns and opportunities, but obviously as we see now with the economic climate that’s going on, it’s, it’s not as advantageous. So have you seen a shifting in the narrative or in the feedback from investors or is it kind of
[00:04:29]Scott Grossman: stayed constant with respect to Turning Points investors?
[00:04:32] Yeah. Yeah. So like I said, zigzag is, is roughly half of Turning Points revenue. , it’s over almost two thirds of our cash flow and ebitda. Uh, you know, zigzag when we went public in 2016 was relatively flat and to the points which I just made. You know, we’ve put a, a real effort to try and grow zigzag and, and make it, um, you know, what is potentially one [00:05:00] of the only few nationally recognized cannabis brands in the.
[00:05:05] Um, so when we went public in 2016, since 2019 to today, the Zigzag brand has grown 75%. Um, obviously a lot of that is tied to the secular wave that we’re seeing. Um, and so with respect to our investors, uh, you know, we’re viewed as, as a, as a Pex and Shovels brand. Um, a, a valued strategic partner. Clearly have, uh, you know, our, our toes in the water with respect to directly investing in the space and from, you know, our investor standpoint.
[00:05:42] It’s, there are very few companies and industries today that have these secular tailwinds, which we’re enjoying and we’re just trying to do our, the best to, to, to help monetize. . Sure.
[00:05:53]Bryan Fields: And I know one of the areas that you enjoy is playing offense from an m and a perspective. Is there certain characteristics for companies you’re [00:06:00] looking for, especially now given how the industry is operating?
[00:06:04]Scott Grossman: That is a great question. You know, one of the things that, that I was tasked in doing when I joined, um, a lot of it was doing more of an education and, and, and getting the management team as well as the board of director. , you know, up to speed on, on this market cuz it’s grown so quickly and it’s really hard to keep track of.
[00:06:25] And so, you know, what I would tell you is that we invest, uh, based on our best view of what we think the end state could be. Uh, we’re not financial investors. . And so therefore, we’re not investing for the next call of three to five years. But really we have to make bets for, you know, a almost a perpetual capital duration.
[00:06:47] And so what that, uh, forced us to do is really, you know, what do we wanna be when we grow up? And, um, you know, we took a page from, you know, what we’ve done. And, and, and really [00:07:00] the pig, big tobacco side. We own a brand called Stokers. , which is, uh, a leading value, uh, brand in the, in the moist snuff and chewing tobacco space.
[00:07:11] Um, and so, you know, we’ve never grown tobacco and we’ve never run, run, uh, retail. And so it really forced us to be really, uh, strict upon, you know, like what do we want to do in cannabis? Uh, and so that actually. Cleared a lot of the chess board. Uh, we knew we didn’t want to be an mso. We knew we didn’t want to be a cultivator.
[00:07:34] And at the same time, we also knew that we didn’t want to run dispensaries. Now, never say never, but that really forced us to be a little bit more focused on trying to find areas where we can find opportunities that are highly synergistic with what we do, namely zigzag and the product portfolio there, but also, um, find ways, whether it’s on the brand.
[00:07:56] side whether it’s on the value added [00:08:00] supplier side and the distribution side, um, to to be a valued partner to a variety of people who are already in the space. .
[00:08:08]Kellan Finney: So you said you guys kind of like cleared the chess board, right? And, and you mentioned a couple really important pieces in, in the entire industry and, and those pieces are, are valuable for the industry as a whole from a supply chain perspective.
[00:08:20] Mm-hmm. . So are you guys doing anything specific to at least understand those sections of the supply chain? Um, is there any activities that you kind of participate to, to help with
[00:08:29]Scott Grossman: that? Yeah, that’s a great question. I, I think one of the, parts of my job is, is really just being a, a, a student and, and, and, and really learning, uh, as much as I can.
[00:08:44] Throughout the value chain, from breeders to cultivators to best in class MSOs to small state operators. Um, I, I do my best to be in the field like I’m doing now to really understand exactly [00:09:00] what’s happening inside the dispensary. Um, and that serves a few for a few purposes. One, the, the, the industry’s moving so quickly and so, you know, I can go into a grow room and I’m actually did it today.
[00:09:13] You know, finding out the new technologies, whether it’s crop steering or new sensors that didn’t exist 6, 9, 12 months ago. Um, and, and so that’s only beneficial to what I do by, by trying to be a student and hopefully an expert in the space, I can then not only have that connectivity, but just deeply understand to the best I can, where ultimately the, the, the industry’s.
[00:09:38] and a lot of that has to be
[00:09:39]Bryan Fields: connected on relationships. And now that’s really paramount for you and something you hold really true. So can you kind of share more about how you take that information and those relationships and you help kind of bring that value to, to your
[00:09:48]Scott Grossman: current role? Yeah, sure. So, um, I think a good example is potential using one of our portfolio companies.
[00:09:56] Um, You know, I, I, not to pick one, [00:10:00] everyone’s baby looks, uh, everyone says their baby looks the prettiest, but you know, one of our babies is, is oal. Um, oal, as you probably know, is, is was one of the pioneers in the asset light model licensing model. , um, clearly very synergistic with zigzag. They use all of our papers for the pre-rolls and the role you own.
[00:10:21] Um, they don’t touch the plant and they’re in, you know, call it nine states today. And so they have connectivity in relationships and partners, uh, across the country. And so, . Um, you know, I think that’s a good example of trying to, you know, one of the big theme that, that I’ve been harping on both internally as well as externally to this extent I can, is this concept of partnerships and collaborations.
[00:10:47] Uh, I don’t necessarily think, uh, there’s one operator out there that has this silver bullet to do everything exceptionally perfect, and so we’re definitely seeing a. [00:11:00] Um, receptivity across the value chain to work with partners to solve other people’s problems, and in doing so, solving our own. Um, so Al’s a good example where, you know, we, we, we are obviously invested in them.
[00:11:14] We distribute all of their apparel, um, and their accessory side. Um, and given, you know that our products in their end product, uh, we have a number of fruitful conversations across the value chain to not only grow old power, but also grows the exact at the same time.
[00:11:30]Bryan Fields: Sure. And kind of expanding on that, a lot of the relationships, are they equity ownership where your team takes ownership in it, or is it just distribution assets in order to help grow their, their
[00:11:39]Scott Grossman: share?
[00:11:39] How does that. We, we do both. So, Opal is a, is an equity and debt investment, but Clipper as a good, uh, Corolla area is, uh, we have the exclusive distribution rights in North America, both in US and Canada. Clipper is, as you may know, is a, is a number one reusable lighter. They [00:12:00] have a 20 to 40% market share in Western Europe where they’re, where they’re founded in.
[00:12:06] they have a very small market share, uh, in the United States, roughly around 3%, um, behind the number one, uh, player, which is bic. Um, so in that case, you know, we, we don’t have an equity investment in, in Clipper, but it’s really doing what we do day in and day out. We, like I mentioned, we’re over in over 200,000 stores.
[00:12:27] We have 150 people on the street, day in and day out, both in head shops all the way through dispensaries. And so we’re, we’re trying to push and build not only our brands, but also our partner brands.
[00:12:39]Kellan Finney: Are those kind of relationships, strategic, like you guys get together and you, you, you are like, Hey, clipper is got a great market share in Europe.
[00:12:46] Did they be a great partner or is it something that kind of more naturally falls together? Like you’re like, oh, we both are in the same category. Like maybe we should dance together. We’re both gonna the dance. Kind of walk us through that, uh, that process,
[00:12:57]Scott Grossman: if you will. . Yeah, it’s, it’s [00:13:00] also a phenomenal question.
[00:13:01] Um, obviously there’s a ton of accessories out there. Um, and so we have to be very, uh, strategic in how we approach it. Obviously, everyone’s time is very precious. Uh, you know, clipper, you know, by owning a, the lighter, it’s, it’s very synergistic with rolling papers and roll your own and, and pre-rolls. Um, the brand’s been around for over a hundred years, so there’s that nostalgic, iconic.
[00:13:28] um, type of brand equity, which we understand deeply well. Um, you know, what I would say is, you know, clipper historically has relied on rolling paper distributors in Europe. . And so there was a playbook that they’d been deploying in Europe that they wanted to bring in the United States. They weren’t, they were with two previous partners before us.
[00:13:50] Um, and hopefully we can just do a little bit of a better job to, to get them further embedded in, in a much larger market. It’s about a 500 million category United [00:14:00] States. . Um, and we’re, we, we think it’s a hundred million opportunity. Don’t know when, but you know, we started selling that product in Q3 of last year.
[00:14:10] We got it in already into 25,000 stores. And so, without question, it’s one of the most successful launches that turning point, uh, that actually, uh, that we’ve turned on.
[00:14:20]Kellan Finney: I’ll be honest, I did not know of Clipper lighters maybe like 14 months ago. And I have no idea of Turning Point is responsible for this.
[00:14:26] It’s just a natural coincidence is, but I do know of Clippers now and it’s because, uh, my dispensaries in Colorado, they literally give, give out Clipper. And I was like, what is this? And then someone explained that they’re reusable and the whole story. So that’s a recent development in my life. So I don’t know if it’s because of your guys’, uh, efforts, but I just wanted to give you a
[00:14:45]Scott Grossman: shout out.
[00:14:46] Thank you. I I have nothing to do with it. . . But, uh, yeah, I mean, clipper is, is, is a, is a big brand in the, in the alternative space, alternative to us. So we’re clear is. , you know, anything but sea stores, you know, [00:15:00] head shops, smoke shops, vape shops, dispensaries, uh, the clipper besides the reusability, it has, uh, the flint comes out, which helps as a packing tool.
[00:15:10] Uh, a lot of consumers use the edge to, to help with, with joints and the rolling of that. Uh, it’s a great product. Um, they’re also very customiz. . So a lot of dispensaries and, and, and head shops put their, their own logos on it. And so, um, it, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s been a, a success so far and we’re excited about where we can take it.
[00:15:33] Staying on the
[00:15:34]Bryan Fields: strategy side, obviously with the m and a is a big focus for you. Are you looking for specific, uh, add-on products that fit into the portfolio from a consumer standpoint, a as in this consumer likes to smoke, we’re looking for products that evolve by them, or are you targeting certain regions, knowing the Northeast is coming online, the southeast in the future, and looking for certain products that fit in those categories?
[00:15:52] How, how do you think about each of those?
[00:15:55]Scott Grossman: Yeah, so with respect to geography, uh, we pay very close [00:16:00] attention to what states are being green. When they’re coming online, um, and we dive, you know, we, we divert a lot of our Salesforce efforts into trying to be a good partner into, you know, getting those, um, you know, head shops and alternative stores to look like the best world-class, you know, dispensaries, whether it’s in California, et cetera.
[00:16:22] Um, that would be more on the geography. We don’t necessarily invest specifically on. With respect to categories, I would say everything is fair game. You know, 99% of the stuff we look at, unfortunately, we turn down for a variety of reasons. Um, but you know, we’re trying to, again, trying to find something that, you know, really fits with what we do.
[00:16:44] That can be. Put into the sales bag and, and so be a little bit more of a one stop shop for the, for the customer. And the customer in this case would be the store owner or the m mso or the head shop owner. Um, and so that’s, that’s kind of how we approach it. [00:17:00] Do you guys have any data
[00:17:01]Kellan Finney: that, so like within zigzags there’s different.
[00:17:04] Types of rolling papers, correct? Like there’s larger ones, there’s smaller ones. Um, and I’m generalizing, right? But do you guys have any data where specifically in different geographic regions you noticed that hey, larger, um, papers sell better in the Northeast. And so then do you guys kind of integrate that into your strategic like launch?
[00:17:25] When a state comes online.
[00:17:27]Scott Grossman: Yeah, I, I, for sure, for sure. Um, I personally do not have, you know, I’m not really, uh, deep in that data day in and day out. . Um, you know, one of the things that we’ve done over the last couple of years, like 2019, we launched cones 2022. We launched, uh, you know, natural leaf wraps. So the portfolio of zigzag is, is getting larger from anywhere from different sized cones to different types of rolling papers.
[00:17:57] King size, unbel, bleached [00:18:00] hemp. Uh, we have terpene wraps and so, Right now the industry, roughly speaking, 40% is flower, 20% is pre-roll. Uh, and the reality is, is that there’s just a number of different use cases for that flower. Some people like to use glass, some people like to use vape. Um, and so we’re trying to figure out the product suite to satisfy all different types of user experie.
[00:18:25] I thought you were gonna say
[00:18:26]Bryan Fields: 30% beverage and just make a lot of people angry. ,
[00:18:29]Scott Grossman: I’m bullish on beverage. Uh, you know, I think it’s less than, you know, one to 3% of the market today. Um, I think there’s definitely an argument if, if you kind of unwrap the industry today, um, there’s clearly a par a portion of the market.
[00:18:50] Will never, uh, combust, right? They don’t wanna smoke a joint. Um, and so as you think about consumption lounges, as you think [00:19:00] about the more of a normalization of the actual end, uh, product, you know, the THC product, um, I, I think it, you know, all the above for the industry to grow to what we think it will.
[00:19:13] Um, there’s no question in my mind that, that that beverage will be part of that. . I think that’s a,
[00:19:19]Bryan Fields: a great transition to the cannabis tobacco overlap. Mm-hmm. , the cannabis industry seems to have, uh, a big distrust for tobacco. Would you find that true? And you have any rebuttal on why that shouldn’t be
[00:19:32]Scott Grossman: accurate?
[00:19:33] Yeah, I mean, I think, um, a, as a industry and, and I, obviously I’m in it, so there’s, there’s reticence to get in bed with big tobacco, big food. Big pharma. Um, they tend to be big companies. Um, I, I don’t necessarily think we’re, we’re definitely not enemies. I, I, I think at, at, at worst we’re frenemies, right? Uh, you’ve [00:20:00] seen a number of things, whether what we’ve done or b a t or Ultra with Kronos, there’s, there’s been a do a bunch of like toe dipping from a number of big tobacco.
[00:20:11] With us. I think it’s a little bit of an easier sell, right? Because we’ve been in the rolling paper business now, uh, for a very long time. Um, and, and at the end of the day it comes down to trusting and knowing your partners doing what you’re say you’re gonna do. Um, and so I think it’s a little bit easier for us, but at the end of the day, I think this whole strategic first startup mentality is, is always, uh, whether you’re in cannabis or.
[00:20:37] There’s always that fear that you’re getting in bed with a much larger company. Um, and, and I think over time that that will fall away. At least that’s my hope. Yeah, I think
[00:20:49]Bryan Fields: so. A hundred percent. And I think synergies is, is a big, big add-on advantage, right? The resources that a tobacco company can bring to the table is just massively advantageous.
[00:20:59] They’ve done it at [00:21:00] large scale, which is critical, right? As the game evolves from like, let’s call it independent market to market becomes a global game, you’re gonna need resources and infrastructure that just isn’t currently seen here in cannabis that can be utilized, that are already in place from
[00:21:14]Scott Grossman: tobacco.
[00:21:16] That’s fair. That’s completely fair. And, and if you look at big, you know, big tobacco specifically, you know that industry is fragmented as well, right? There are, there are people who grow it, there are people who package it, and there are people who sell it. Um, ultimately, I think that’s, that’s where our industry is going as well.
[00:21:33] And this kind of speaks to being world Class E exactly what you do and staying focused. And so over time, I, I think that, you know, these companies, Um, are gonna need partners whether to getting the, the, the products on the shelves or marketing it in the right way or producing it in the right way. Um, it’s really hard to do everything, uh, great, which is what I said before.
[00:21:56]Bryan Fields: Scott, do you have any, um, partners [00:22:00] outside of the cannabis industry that are interested in, in getting inside that say, Hey, Scott, you know, what do you think about bringing product X or infrastructure Y into the cannabis industry? Is the, the feeling and the outside industry of, of getting warmer and being interested in learning more and then potentially partnering in the space?
[00:22:17]Scott Grossman: When you say outside industry, can you be a little bit more specific? Sure. So like more
[00:22:21]Bryan Fields: specific tobacco based companies that are not currently partnering with cannabis companies or more, not necessarily operating within cannabis currently, but more interested in learning about it and then dipping the toe inside, like you were saying.
[00:22:31]Scott Grossman: Yeah, this is gonna be controversial, but if you’re a, a tobacco company or an alcohol company, that that is not up to speed on the industry. You’re five years behind and, and, and, and I know that sounds controversial. Um, it, it, there has to be, uh, you know, this take this industry is hard enough. Uh, and, and I think that, you know, pretty much every single big company, uh, [00:23:00] is looking at it.
[00:23:01] And if they’re not, um, they’re way behind the curve. Um, like I said, my past, you know, the reason why I ultimately decided to, to go all in. is that I was on the board of a small beverage company that was, um, had nothing to do with cannabis of course, but they were looking at hemp derived and T h c and, um, you know, I, I like, I, like I mentioned, uh, you know, I was an investor in mostly bigger companies and, uh, I would tell you that the information inside the boardroom of a big food company on cannabis today is light years ahead of where it was called it three or five years ago.
[00:23:40] Um, and, and that’s for a number of reasons. One, I think it’s potentially cannibalizing their core business. Um, but also, uh, you know, if you’re a distributor of alcohol or et cetera, or, or soda, um, this only adds to the sales bag and, and, and it’s, it’s somewhat of an easier sell for, [00:24:00] for a bigger company.
[00:24:01] And so I, I think we’re only going to see that.
[00:24:04]Bryan Fields: I a hundred percent agree, and I don’t think it’s controversial at all. And I think the people who, who believe that’s controversial are just maybe lacking with understanding of what the current times are. Because if your role is to be head of strategy of one of these large companies and you’re not thinking about cannabis as a possible added, probably doing a disservice to your company because it is a massive opportunity, one that needs capital infrastructure and resources desperately.
[00:24:25] And it’s just a whole matter of time before the walls come down and the bigger players are here operating. So if you don’t have that strategy ready to roll, probably
[00:24:32]Scott Grossman: gonna be. Yeah. And not, not only the actual end product. Uh, you know, a good example is what we did with AM Miri. Last year we did a partnership with AM Miri, which is a high-end clothing brand, and we created Zigzag a Miri products that we’re selling for, you know, $500 t-shirts.
[00:24:52] And, um, I think that’s a really good example of cannabis crossing across, um, [00:25:00] you know, different parts of pop culture. , whether it’s in the concert space or the event planning space, uh, or the advertising space, the cannabis consumer is very different than when it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. And, um, whether you do anything or not actual on the product side, I think knowing, you know, the, what’s going on inside the industry is, is only gonna be beneficial to, to what you do day in.
[00:25:30]Kellan Finney: it’s also beneficial to a lot of these cannabis companies that probably just don’t know it yet. Right. Because, uh, they, they, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Right? Like a lot of this infrastructure and relationships and all these other things are already present. It’s just a matter of getting two parties to agree on terms and be able to kind of utilize like the infrastructure that’s already present.
[00:25:51]Scott Grossman: Yeah, exactly. , going back to what I just said, it, it, it might not be, uh, a, a a a, a traditional partnership or [00:26:00] investment. It might be X, Y, Z product is selling in sacs, but is trying to, you know, target that consumer who’s more prone to using cannabis versus alcohol. Um, you know, so there, there are a bunch of ways.
[00:26:14] I think, you know, on the concert side, you’re seeing it. , um, you know, whether it’s out out limb bands or, or Lollapalooza, uh, there’s been a a huge outreach on amongst, uh, amongst these types of, of companies to try and market to these consumers. Um, so that’s pretty exciting and I th still think we’re very early.
[00:26:37] Um, but, um, you know, I just, I only see it going, going, uh, increas. , I know your team is
[00:26:44]Bryan Fields: not a plant touching operator, but does it face any cannabis related, uh, issues or stigmas that would surprise or shock
[00:26:51]Scott Grossman: other people to hear? Listen, I think we’ve, we all face the same stigma. You know, cannabis consumers are lazy [00:27:00] or they’re not motivated, or, you know, and, and it, I’m probably biased, but you know, it, it could be further from the truth in the most consumers that I know.
[00:27:12] who use a recreation recreationally or medically, um, are super high performers, , you know, um, and, uh, I, I think that we are living in a world where health and wellness is being closely examined. From everything we put in our body. And I’m not saying that cannabis is the end all be all, and it’s the panacea to longevity.
[00:27:37] But, uh, if you’re drinking five beers at a night and spending $50 and have a thousand calories and waking up with a hangover, the younger generations are, are se seeking alternatives. And, and, and so I think the stigma that was perpetuated over the last 50 plus years. . Um, it’s just a shame and, and, and, and [00:28:00] I’m glad to see that changing a hundred percent.
[00:28:03]Bryan Fields: On other podcasts, I’ve heard you mention Dispensary’s 2.0. Yes. I’d like to know what you mean by that.
[00:28:09]Scott Grossman: Yeah, so at the end of the day, uh, dispensary 2.0 is very similar to what we see in every other type of industry. You walk into a Whole Foods or c Bs, or a Walgreen, , um, you traditionally see 80 or 70 to 90% being branded products and the rest being private label.
[00:28:35] uh, you have shelves where the, uh, the high end or the, the premium is, is right in front of your eyes, and the, and the lower end or the value is on the sh on the bottom end. I’m thinking of cereal, which is a great category to look at. Crazy. Um, dispensary 2.0 just basically means the ability to target a different consumer, a different demographic, and a different [00:29:00] user experience.
[00:29:00] The example that I use is, if I’m. 20 people over my house for a party or a barbecue. I’m probably not serving Don Perone to, to all 20 people. Uh, whereas if I go out, uh, you know, with, with my wife, um, then you know that that purchase may be different. And I think that’s ultimately what I mean by dispensary 2.0.
[00:29:23] And part of that equation is having world class brands like Zigzag, um, being a part of that, that, that, that, that experie. ,
[00:29:33]Bryan Fields: how, how do we get there and how do other brands rise to that world class that you, you shared?
[00:29:39]Scott Grossman: Yeah. So, you know, I would say cannabis 1.0. Uh, and, and this is somewhat hard to hear, I think we just had too many brands.
[00:29:51] Uh, they weren’t delivering a value proposition. They weren’t consistent. They, a lot of ’em were me too brands. Um, and that made it [00:30:00] very hard for brands to stand. , I think it also made it very hard and confusing to the end consumer. Um, and then if you’re an operator or an M MSO or an SS o it also made it very hard to to, to kind of pick the winners versus the potential losers.
[00:30:17] Um, there’s a natural attrition going on. Obviously capital is extremely tight, and that’s not just in cannabis, but we’re seeing it across other startups. . Uh, and so the strong, uh, in my opinion, are getting stronger throughout the value chain, by the way. And, and so if you’re a world-class brand and you’re in your particular state and have proven the ability to expand and penetrate other states and see the user, uh, gravitate towards that, um, I think ultimately that’s, that’s how we get.
[00:30:51] there Is just having the cream rise to the top and having the best operators understand the power of brands and have companies [00:31:00] like Turning Point who are, uh, who can distribute and market and sell those brands. Uh, I think that’s ultimately going to take time. But that’s ultimately how we think the end state looks like.
[00:31:11] How far do you think we are
[00:31:12]Kellan Finney: from, uh, these products just being available in your everyday retail locations? Cannabis products? I know Zacks are already available, but
[00:31:23]Scott Grossman: Oh, yeah. I think we’re a far, far cry from that. Um, I’m having like an
[00:31:30]Kellan Finney: aisle in my, uh, local grocery store of just cannabis products. You think?
[00:31:37]Scott Grossman: yeah. I mean, we, we have a patchwork of states all with their own rules. Every state is its own market. We have infrastructure in every. . Um, if you’re an operator and, you know, poured millions of dollars to build that, uh, you’re clearly gonna be reluctant to have, uh, cannabis be sold in, you know, in a, in a 7-Eleven.
[00:31:59] Yeah. Uh, on [00:32:00] the flip side, if you’re a 7-Eleven, you, you want to get those products in the store because your customers are, are going elsewhere. Um, you know, I don’t necessarily know. My sense is federal legalization will have a huge impact. ultimately what that looks like, but I had clearly have no idea when or or when that could happen.
[00:32:20] One of my, if you do, let me know, .
[00:32:22]Bryan Fields: That’d be same. We’ll edit that part out. So we just gave, who does ? One of my, my favorite things to do is when a friend of mine, uh, shows me a product they purchased from a regional dispensary, I always like to ask them, why did you buy that product? Right? Solely because I’m curious, just like you were saying, Scott, like how does someone select first time, which brand to take?
[00:32:42] And two responses are overwhelmingly their favors. One, the budtender recommended. . Yep. Second one. I like the packaging. Yep. And it, it just blows my mind. Those are the two fundamental choices when people are making choices because it’s so difficult for brands to put on this incredible product and know [00:33:00] literally random choice based on color, association of packaging and a bud tender recommendation.
[00:33:04] So, I mean, how do brands overcome those challenges?
[00:33:08]Scott Grossman: Yeah, it’s hard. I don’t have that. I don’t have a magic bullet. I would also put on that list is TC concentration. , which is just a shame because, um, you know, we don’t buy alcohol that way. Maybe when we were younger and stupid, we bought ever queer because of that, you know, a bang for your buck.
[00:33:26] But, you know, anyone who’s been consuming cannabis and is passionate about it knows that t h c percentage means nothing. Um, clearly the terpene content and the way it’s handled and grown and what type of substrate it’s grown in and how it’s cured, it matters. , um, you know, there there’s this whole concept of power users.
[00:33:48] Uh, power users are exactly what you think it means. It’s, it’s, it’s those consumers who are, I wouldn’t call ’em connoisseurs, but more regulars and they’re call it 30, 20 to 30% of the [00:34:00] market, but they buy a lot more. And so that’s, that’s, hes to be more on the focus on quality. Um, now every state’s different, right?
[00:34:09] So a quality product in California. again, my humble opinion is, is still light years ahead of most states. Um, and so I think over time that that does shake out. But to your point, I think for a brand to really resonate, it has to be consistent. , it has to be priced effectively and, and, and, and the consumer feels like they’re getting value for it.
[00:34:33] Um, but it, also has to be innovative. And, and, and to your point, it has to look different and it has to speak to that consumer. Um, so all the above, not easy, but ultimately I think, you know, there are few brands that have been able to do some of that. Um, you know, not to pick on names, but I think Cookies has done a really good.
[00:34:55] You know, couple of hash companies like 710 um, you know, jungle [00:35:00] Boys on the flower side. There are a few companies that have really been able to demonstrate a particular brand ethos and a consistency of product to back it up. And ultimately it just takes reps and time to, build brand equity and, and customer awareness.
[00:35:17]Bryan Fields: on Sativa, hybrid, and indica.
[00:35:21]Scott Grossman: You know, it’s, I think everything at this point’s a hybrid. You know, when I’m, I’m aging myself, but I’m, I’m 45 years old and the sativa indica conversation really didn’t exist, uh, you know, 10 years ago. It’s a relatively new phenomenon. , I think everything at this point is, is, is, is hybridized and has a, a blend of each.
[00:35:45] I personally, you know, I, I’m not, I don’t enjoy sativa leaning heavy strains. Um, it’s just not the effect that I, that I, I’m looking for. I tend to use it for sleep and for relaxation and, um, [00:36:00] uh, so I understand the nomenclature. I understand that you have to. put something on the shelf that speaks to a, again, a different experience.
[00:36:10] Um, but I think at this point, to say something is pure sativa or pure indica is, is a little bit of a misnomer. How do you
[00:36:16]Bryan Fields: think consumers will purchase products in
[00:36:18]Scott Grossman: the future then? In terms of, of strain, is that, was that meaning? Yeah, like
[00:36:23]Bryan Fields: right now it seems like to be the leading indicator. I bought this indica because the budtender recommended it because I was looking for, uh, something like this.
[00:36:30] How do you think consumers will purchase products in the future? Something differently, or do you think it’ll be sativa, indica and hybrid will
[00:36:35]Scott Grossman: stay. It’s a good question. I don’t necessarily know if I have a great answer to that. I think most people who go to the bud tender are looking for a particular experience, right?
[00:36:46] I have a lot of pain, can you help with this? Or, I can’t sleep. Can you help with that? Um, and so my suspicion is certainly over the next call at three to 10 years is that we’ll still be using that dialogue. [00:37:00] Um, my hope and expectation. As we do more work on the cannabinoids and as well as, uh, the terpenes, we’ll have a better ability to dial in the particular experience that the consumer’s looking for.
[00:37:16] Um, and, and that’s probably the next chess move. It’s just having more information, uh, on what terpenes do to us. Um, more information on the minor cannabinoids, uh, to to, to, again, to address a certain experie. That’s my hope. And, and we’re starting to see that, you know, you’re definitely seeing, uh, couple of things, couple brands are just moving away from the sativa hybrid and, and saying, this is for sleep or relaxation, or energy or workout.
[00:37:46] And so it’s definitely more of an experience based type of product. On the other hand, we’re also starting to see, uh, just an increased emphasis on what actually is inside this strain. [00:38:00] So the best, you know, uh, on the super high quality side, uh, you know, I think genetic integrity is becoming way more important.
[00:38:11] You know, how did we actually create the strain this. This was in an F two C that was pollinated. And, and going back to the original, I think people, particularly on the power user side and the high quality side, really wanna know exactly what’s inside the strain. Um, but also you’re also seeing people saying, you know what?
[00:38:30] I just want to get a good night’s sleep. I don’t care what’s in it. Uh, if it works, fantastic. And so I think all the above, which is challenging because you have to kind of satisfy all those consumers. But I think all the above is, is likely gonna. Yeah, I agree.
[00:38:46]Kellan Finney: I agree. I, I will say one thing. Uh, there is an organization out California, they’re manufacturing or they’re trying to put together what are called terpene tags.
[00:38:54] I do it, um, I, Hey, I was gonna bite my tongue, but I was like, I have
[00:38:58]Bryan Fields: to, you gonna send, you gotta send an [00:39:00] invoice to Dr. Abrams. I know. I need a,
[00:39:02]Kellan Finney: the podcast, advertising podcast. Yeah. I was like, I literally was
[00:39:06]Scott Grossman: debating, mentioning
[00:39:07]Kellan Finney: it or not. Cause . No, but they’re doing good work. Um, they ran a huge study on.
[00:39:12] Several terpenes and, uh, how individuals respond to those strains based on the terpenes they correlated it. Um, and they’re putting together a product called terpene tags that is supposed to address everything you just said, Scott, right? Like these are the terpenes that are present that cause this effect.
[00:39:28] So when you go and purchase, uh, a plant, or some flower, at least you have some science that you can stand on instead of Joe in his closet grew this from these two strains that he was told that were this, and now it’s an indica, right? Yeah. So it’s, it’s a step in the right direction. But I do think that that’s the next, uh, move for, for the power users.
[00:39:51] But I also think it’s really important for mass. , right? For more of these, like other consumers that are, are curious, right? If they’re [00:40:00] able to be like, okay, there is some scientific reasoning to why this product helps me sleep, they, they’re gonna be more willing to try it than kind of these anecdotal stories that they’re hearing, in my
[00:40:13]Scott Grossman: opinion, at least.
[00:40:14] I, I agree. Certainly on the medical side, right? Yes. Um, if, if you’re thinking about replacing Ambien with a gum, , you’re certainly gonna wanna know, you know, how they, how they stack up against each other. Um, so I’m all in favor of that. I’m all in favor of also genetic integrity. Um, it’s no secret that as you continue to stress these, these, these mothers and, and the clones, the, in the, the integrity of the plant just kind of breaks down.
[00:40:44] And so those, um, you know, those growers who, uh, you know, have. , uh, a passion for trying to create strains that are fresh and new. Um, just tend to be [00:41:00] healthier and, you know, tend to be more potent. Um, and, and so, uh, those are very encouraging signs. Is there a specific,
[00:41:09]Kellan Finney: so like stabilizing crops sounds like something the tobacco industry has probably already they.
[00:41:14] Probably tackled that obstacle a hundred plus years ago. Correct. So is there something that Turning Point can look back in their history and be like, okay, we watched this kind of thing play out when they were trying to stabilize different, uh, tobacco strains. Right. Is there something like that that you guys are looking at historically or is that just
[00:41:31]Scott Grossman: kind of, uh, Not, not specifically what I’m focused on.
[00:41:35] Um, I, I think that what’s going on in, in, crop steering now with sensors, um, is, is fascinating to me. Um, and, and, and ultimately there’s a, you know, decades of AgTech that’s at the industry’s disposal, um, to apply to this plant, right? And at the end of the day, it’s an agricultural product. [00:42:00] Um, , you know, testing and trying to understand, you know, how, how the, the pH content of these plants is changing.
[00:42:08] Um, all that’s happening in real time, literally. And, um, uh, you know, I think that’s, that’s certainly, uh, you know, obvious in hindsight, but also very exciting because I think it’s allowing the grower to really dial in, um, what they’re trying to achieve and, and ultimately you’re trying to get higher yield and higher.
[00:42:28] quality Um, and so, uh, with respect to tobacco, I don’t have the informa, I don’t necessarily know, and I certainly can find out for you what they’ve done. Um, you know, that product is, is, is a little bit more refined, right? It’s, it’s one tobacco plan and they break it down. And, and so it’s a little bit of a different, um, uh, it’s not necessarily apples and oranges, but I think the, the, the same philosophy would.
[00:42:57]Bryan Fields: I think pulling from the AgTech space is, is so [00:43:00] critical and we’ve seen a big shift in how that works. And I think for some it’s kind of been shocking and others, they’re kind of, uh, un unaware of that this, all this technology exists. But think about it, all these other industries that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years utilize the same principles.
[00:43:15] We can apply that technology internally and have massive benefits, probably pretty easily.
[00:43:20]Scott Grossman: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I think some of the things that we’re seeing is, is, is. Amazing, right? I mean, we’re, we’re seeing grows now. Just literally have, you know, five plants in a row now, now are three and producing, you know, better quality and more yield, uh, light technology, soil technology, feed technology, um, all of this stuff is, is.
[00:43:47] Again, some of it’s off the shelf and just hasn’t been applied in this industry and just given the growth in the industry and the number of people that are now in it, it’s becoming a legitimate industry and that’s only natural to have. and apply [00:44:00] things that already exist, whether it’s for tomatoes or blueberries or, or, or raspberries, and apply to this.
[00:44:05] Um, so that’s all exciting, but there’s also new stuff that we’ve have yet to, to pioneer and, and apply it specifically to this industry. I’m sp, I’m speaking specifically to, uh, the curing side and the trim side. , you know, how we’re creating manufactured products, whether it’s a pre-roll or a gummy. Um, you know, the, all that innovation is kind of happening in real time.
[00:44:29] And, and again, it kind of speaks to just staying on top of it and having your finger on the pulse. What’s the future roadmap For me or for the company? Uh, , either or. Yeah, listen, I mean, I think the industry is clearly going through a tumultuous time. Um, I think when we got hit with inflation, really in Q2 of last year, uh, combined with price compression now across the [00:45:00] country, it just became a very challenging, uh, environment for operator.
[00:45:06] Um, at the same time, we’re seeing continuing to consumer adoption, continued state expansion. Um, what’s unclear right now is that it seems that we’re in a much more challenging macro environment outside of cannabis. Cost to capital is higher. . You know, we, we talk a lot about internally what’s going on in the regional banks.
[00:45:31] The ability to get, uh, access to capital is hard earned. So all those pressures on traditional companies, uh, is only going to make it that much harder for cannabis companies. Um, I think the roadmap is continuing to do what we’re doing with respect to turning point. We’re head. , we’re very much focused on trying to get our products that people love and have love for 150 years in more hands and more stores.
[00:45:59] So we’re gonna [00:46:00] continue to do what we do well. Um, and in terms of the roadmap of the industry, I think it’s just too early to tell. I think we’re gonna see, again, the strong getting stronger balance sheet over income statement, um, and hopefully getting some. on the hill to enable these companies to, to really thrive and grow again.
[00:46:21] Um, but in the getting to that point is, is a little uncertain. And I think asking anyone that question, who has a crystal ball, uh, it it’s, it’s suspicious because it could go in a lot of different ways. When you
[00:46:37]Bryan Fields: got started in the cannabis journey, what did you get? Right? And most importantly, what did you get wrong?
[00:46:43]Scott Grossman: What did I get right? I got right that it would be a state led issue. I got right that the, the pressure on bordering states to accelerate the adoption, uh, in their own state would increase. I got right that [00:47:00] this would cross the aisle between red and blue. and I got right that the industry would start to become more normal and start eating, uh, a bunch of established businesses.
[00:47:12] Lunch. Um, what I got wrong, I don’t think the price compression anyone under of that. Um, I think that’s been way deeper than, than most have, uh, anticipated. Um, I also thought that access to capital. And the, and the ability for more institutional investors as well as other strategics. I thought at this point we’d have more at the table and we don’t.
[00:47:43] Um, that’s probably how I would answer that question. Before we do predictions,
[00:47:48]Bryan Fields: we ask all of our guests, if you could sum up your experience in a main takeaway or lesson learned to pass onto the next generation, what would it be?
[00:47:55]Scott Grossman: Oof. Um, I would say take care of yourself. , [00:48:00] uh, I think we spend a lot of time, everyone’s hustling and trying to, to, to be their best, but I, I don’t think we spend enough time about, uh, you know, what you need to do in order to be prepared, uh, for that journey.
[00:48:15] So whether it’s meditation or working out and eating right, um, all I would definitely say that if. 30 years old and you’re not working out two to three times a week, um, I think you’re gonna get lacked. So that would be a, probably a different answer than you’re used to, but I definitely think that’s something I’m super passionate about and, and I like to pass along towards the younger generations with respect to work.
[00:48:43] Uh, you know, at the end of the day, this is a relationship driven business. Um, it’s really. and reputation matters enormously. And so what I would say is do what you say you’re gonna do. And if you can’t or [00:49:00] something’s changed, just be super transparent and just try to foster relationships wherever you go.
[00:49:07] And if there’s nothing to do with that particular party, Uh, you know, don’t, don’t burn that bridge because you never know when that person’s gonna emerge in a different role. You never know when that company’s gonna be an opportunity down the road. And so I just try to hi, uh, you know, hold myself with enormously high integrity and respect for anyone across the aisle, and just try and be a good partner.
[00:49:32] And if I can’t help them directly, try and try and find someone who can. That’s
[00:49:36]Bryan Fields: really well said. All right. Prediction. Oh God. Scott is the easy one. Scott, do you think the cannabis and tobacco industry will become one macro industry and eventually merge? If so, when? If not,
[00:49:50]Scott Grossman: why not? Like, become the same industry?
[00:49:54] So like, uh, an ultra Marlborough selling cannabis or, yeah. [00:50:00] Um, I think it’s gonna be a hybrid. I definitely think they’re going to be standalone, very large, successful cannabis only c. . Um, I definitely see a world where I’m hedging a little bit clearly. That’s great. Uh, I definitely see a world where cannabis becomes part of a broader portfolio, whether that’s big food, pig, tobacco, uh, big pharma, and we’ve already seen that.
[00:50:23] So I don’t think I’m going on a ledge with that. But to, to say that the tobacco industry is gonna become cannabis, i, I don’t think it’s. You didn’t like Boris
[00:50:33]Bryan Fields: Jordan’s, uh, statement on
[00:50:34]Scott Grossman: that? What did he say? I think he said
[00:50:36]Bryan Fields: the moment, uh, legalization happens that tobacco companies will become cannabis companies,
[00:50:42]Scott Grossman: I think it’ll be part of the portfolio.
[00:50:43] A as it should, as it should be. Uh, yeah. I mean, I think, you know, what’s not necessarily always appreciated is, you know, a lot of these businesses are enormously. . So if you’re a big tobacco selling into a [00:51:00] C store, you have very valuable shelf space. You have very valuable distribution and relationships.
[00:51:06] And so to add a product that people now want as opposed to things that people don’t want, i e combustible cigarettes, uh, just makes a lot of sense. Um, similarly, if you’re distributing alcohol or you’re a bud house and you’re, you know, and, and you’re making that pit stop, it just makes a lot of sense. . Um, so I definitely think that they’re synergistic and, and, and some cases cannibalizes what they’re doing now, but in, and in many cases, at least in our case, it just expands the opportunity that’s in front of you.
[00:51:39] Yeah, Kevin?
[00:51:41]Kellan Finney: Uh, I am going to, I think they merge and my reasoning is, uh, partially too. I think, uh, we were talking before Scott jumped on and. back in my college days, um, , uh, I, I was thinking about how to describe the story back in my [00:52:00] college days. Um, part of the tradition or routine when me and my buddies got together to, uh, consume cannabis was, uh, we were talking about zigzags, right?
[00:52:10] And instead of zigzags, we were using, uh, blunt wraps, right? Which are tobacco based. And so, Uh, I know that spliffs are really big in Europe, right? I know a lot of friends that consume splices on a regular basis. I think that. in probably 10 plus years. It, it’ll be more than 10 years probably. But I’m gonna say in 10 years that you’ll be able to go to a store and purchase a, a pre-roll that has both tobacco leaf and cannabis leaf in it.
[00:52:39] You’ll be able to go purchase, uh, a pre-rolled the blunt with an actual tobacco, uh, blunt or tobacco leaf, I guess you could say, right? Is the best way to say that. So I do think they’re gonna merge. I don’t think. Tobacco companies will be cannabis companies. Maybe one or two might rebrand if they have a, a poor public image right [00:53:00] now and they want to just kind of wipe that public image and then rebrand as a cannabis company to raise money or, or play some, uh, some game like that.
[00:53:07] But, uh, that’s, that’s my kind of opinion on the matter. I think that they’ve been together for a while and now they’re kind of come out of the closet and let everyone know that they had bit there together officially. But it won’t happen
[00:53:18]Scott Grossman: for 10. I think that’s fair. I think, I think timing, going back to what I got wrong, I think timing in this industry is just impossible.
[00:53:26] Super hard to predict. Um, but I think what you just mentioned is there’s definitely a, a, an end state that looks like that for sure. All right, so since Kellen said
[00:53:36]Bryan Fields: yes and you took the hybrid approach, I will say no. , , I don’t think that they’ll ever be able to become one, because I think that tobacco has, uh, a solid reputation with DC and I think that while we can all agree that the people who make decisions probably don’t know what’s best for, for the people who are making them.
[00:53:54] There’ll be a hard stance against not allowing tobacco to be involved in certain areas while we’ve seen the overlap. But I [00:54:00] think they’ll, they’ll put a line in this hand and they’ll say, okay, with legalization, X can happen and they’ll try to keep tobacco on the side in order to prevent big tobacco from coming in and kind of.
[00:54:10] Leading the industry. Whether or not I think that’s best is different, but I don’t think, given how we’ve laid things out today, that the industry will eventually become one. I do think, like you guys said, that the certain tobacco companies will add that into their portfolio, but I think they’ll have to have different assets separately in some creative accounting and nice business form in order to keep them separate, but also together.
[00:54:31]Scott Grossman: Yeah, that’s also fair. That’s hence my hybrid approach. .
[00:54:36]Bryan Fields: Yeah. Well you may, you left me with no choice. So Scott bar listers, they wanna get in touch and they wanna learn more about Turning Point brands. Where can they
[00:54:44]Scott Grossman: find you? Yeah, sure. Uh, turning point.com. Uh, or, you know, uh, that’s the best way to find out a little bit more about our company.
[00:54:54] zigzag.com is our, our B2C site. You could also find us on Amazon. Obviously look [00:55:00] at us throughout the entire. Uh, network, uh, with me specifically, uh, I tend to be pretty active on Twitter. It’s, uh, SRG 44 4, I believe. Or maybe one more four. But there’s only one SRG 4 44. That’s me. Um, and please reach out. Uh, happy to talk to anyone and learn about what people are doing, and it’s exciting.
[00:55:22] And again, to the extent that I can help, I’d be happy to, to
[00:55:26]Bryan Fields: talk. Awesome. This was fun. We’ll get open the shots. Thanks for taking the.
[00:55:30]Scott Grossman: You bet. Thanks for inviting me guys.
This April edition highlights the steady progress of the cannabis industry, which has been driven by innovation and collaboration. Even though market dynamics continue to undervalue significant operators, the ongoing legalization trend moves the industry forward. In states like New York, businesses and researchers are starting to work together to create cutting-edge products and services that cater to a diverse consumer base, laying the foundation for a stable market. This edition recognizes the measured growth and resilience of the cannabis industry, urging us to embrace opportunities and contribute to its ongoing development.
Kellen Finney, Eighth Revolution
Editors’ Note: This is an excerpt from our Monthly Playbook. If you would like to read the full monthly playbook and join the thousands of others you can sign up below.
I’m not here to scare you, but it’s time someone speaks about what can happen if we continue on this current path. In the cannabis industry, the rules feel as if they are constantly changing. While being in as many states as possible used to be the metric for success, the industry is now facing a new metric: survival. The cannabis industry faces challenges that could potentially result in the collapse of many businesses. These are established businesses and well-known operators. And no, it’s not just operators that were bad managers of capital or others that couldn’t build a sustainable business model. These are businesses that are sustainable and successful by usual evaluation standards but face a variable that is impossible to account for: a chain reaction of broken links.
If a chain breaks, it could have a trickle-down effect altering even the most established players who are not struggling. Luck is about to play a significant role in determining which companies will survive, and here’s why.
The cannabis industry is a complex web of interconnected players, from growers and manufacturers to distributors and retailers. The success of any one company depends on various factors, including product market fit, successful acquisition and delivery of products and services, and, most importantly, payment for their efforts.
When one link in the chain breaks down, it can significantly impact the rest of the industry. For example, suppose a major distributor goes bankrupt. In that case, it could cause a ripple effect throughout the industry, resulting in manufacturers and retailers being left without a reliable source of products or compensation for their efforts. This is just a simple example to demonstrate the wider impact of one company’s failure.
This is particularly concerning for many reasons. The most critical one is that this industry lacks access to capital. Access to capital is usually a safety net to handle turbulence, such as a vendor defaulting on payment. This is even more concerning for companies with viable business models and consistent revenue. These companies may have done everything right to build their business and generate profits, but if the industry chains break down, they could still be at risk of going under.
Still not convinced? Look at this headline.
According to MJBizDaily:
“Track-and-trace software provider Metrc is threatening to shut down the accounts of more than 100 Michigan cannabis companies over missed monthly payments, creating turmoil in the roughly $2 billion market.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s break down this example further. (By the way, our episode with Michael Johnson, CEO of Metrc, is live, and it’s a great one, so go check it out. Now, back to our example.) Operators decide to not pay Metrc. Metrc shuts off access. Companies can’t sell products. Metrc can’t afford to operate its track-and-trace software. Other companies that are not involved in this immediate issue experience a trickle-down effect, being hurt or disrupted by these efforts. This is just one example of a massive problem that is brewing and will, unfortunately, erupt somewhere.
Silicon Valley Bank is a potential example. For those who are unfamiliar with this, it’s worth a quick Google search to understand the implications of how when one company makes a mistake or has an issue, several others in the chain are affected. Causalities are an unfortunate reality, and no, it’s not just related to the tech and start-up industry.
One of the biggest challenges facing the cannabis industry is financial. Due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, many banks are reluctant to work with cannabis companies. This makes it difficult for companies to secure loans and investments, resulting in high fees and limited access to financial services.
The industry, money-wise, is broken, with many companies struggling to generate consistent revenue and maintain profitability. This is partly due to the earliness of the market, the unique legal status of cannabis, and banking issues. The variability and fluctuations, as we have seen in the pricing of cannabis, lead to countless unknowns. Today, you can sell your product with a margin. Tomorrow, you may need to sell it at a loss. How do companies make sound financial decisions when the most critical aspects of their business are fluctuating and unknown?
In a highly competitive market, companies must make strategic choices about everything from product offerings to distribution channels to which vendors they have to pay first. These decisions, while self-serving, have an ongoing ripple effect on the chain. Smaller operators in the cannabis industry are particularly vulnerable to these challenges. They often need resources to make payroll, and without financial backing, it may make it difficult for them to survive any speed bumps.
The state of the cannabis industry is concerning, with many companies facing financial challenges and uncertainty. Even the most well-off companies are potentially at risk of a domino effect. Survival depends on preserving capital and overcoming the challenges the industry chains face.
The impact of industry chain failures can be felt at every level of the industry. Growers who have invested heavily in their crops may not get paid for their crops. Manufacturers who have built a successful brand could be left without payment for their products.
Retailers who have established a loyal customer base could be left with less product on their shelves.
The cannabis industry is unfair, and luck plays a significant role in determining which companies will survive. As the industry continues evolving, companies must remain agile and be prepared for potential industry chain failures. “Success” is now “survival.”
Editors’ Note: This is an excerpt from our Monthly Playbook. If you would like to read the full monthly playbook and join the thousands of others you can sign up below.
On consumers switching from alcohol to cannabis beverages
The need for an alcohol substitute that gives you a little buzz and doesn’t make you hungover? That’s a universal need, and it extends far beyond traditional cannabis consumption patterns. It’s for people who have never consumed cannabis before; it’s a great way for somebody to try cannabis for the first time and not have a bad time.
The misnomer of total cannabis beverage market size
Cannabis industry pundits often think about the universe as people buying cannabis from dispensaries today, and if you’re looking at the data, yeah, 50% of the drinks being sold on a dollar basis […] are 100mg THC shots. I think it’s because we’re early. The people walking the dispensary floor are much more likely to need 100mg of THC at an approachable price point.
But, we have always looked at the universe as just like people on the earth, and we’re trying to figure out if you stop ten people on the street in New York City, and you said, “Do you wanna drink less booze?” Eight out of ten would say yes. And if you stopped the same ten people on the street, or you asked them a follow-up question and said, “Are you a cannabis user?” More than 50% of them would say no.
Separating low-dose and high-dose products
Cannabis needs to have a split where the lower dosage products that are not as dangerous are more broadly accessible. Unfortunately, the first wave of that split was CBD versus THC. But that’s like saying LaCroix and Whiteclaw are like two sides of the same coin; like, one has booze, one does not. […] It’s not about the absence or presence of THC that makes something safe—it’s the potency.
Luke Anderson, Co-Founder at Cann
So, I think potency-based regulations […] like what we’re seeing with the Delta-9 stuff in Minnesota, Texas, New York—I think that should be just like a sweeping national regulation, and it shouldn’t be limited to deriving from hemp.
It should be based on the scientific architecture of the product.
Editors’ Note: This is an excerpt from our Monthly Playbook. If you would like to read the full monthly playbook and join the thousands of others you can sign up below.