“We have a lot of work to do to start to reintroduce society as a whole to the idea that cannabis can be a part of our daily life without it being completely monumentally destructive because it never has been, and it never will be.” - Samuel Richard
In this episode, Shayda Torabi is joined by Samuel Richard of Arizona Dispensary Association as they discuss an interesting perspective of cannabis – that it should be boring. Samuel argues that this theme encompasses the effective ways to address the politics and destructive societal views of the plant. Listen as he shares how to get involved towards noteworthy progress through the advocacy.
[00:01 – 10:59] Navigating the Waters of Cannabis Legalization Amidst the Noise
[11:00 – 15:33] The Advocacy of Cannabis Should Be Boring and How to be Involved
[15:34 – 21:34] How We Can Get Involved and Make an Impact as Consumers
[21:35 – 40:18] The Cannabis Landscape in Arizona and the Current Brand Loyalty Stage
[40:19 – 56:22] Taking Action in the Boring Theme Advocacy for Notable Progress
[56:23 – 57:44] Food for Thought: Do you think cannabis should be boring?
Samuel is known for his strategic thinking and development of complex government affairs, communications, and media plans. He approaches every problem with an open mind, patience, and empathy. Samuel has a degree in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is a Fellow of the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, and holds certificates from both Valley Leadership and the Center for Progressive Leadership. Samuel was recently recognized by the Arizona Capitol Times in its inaugural Breakouts Award highlighting “the sharpest political minds in the state,” and has previously been recognized in the Phoenix New Times’ Best of Phoenix as Best Lobbyist and by the Phoenix Business Journal as a member of the 2013 class of Forty under 40.
Connect with Samuel
Visit https://azdispensaries.org/ to see the efforts dedicated to advancing the Arizona cannabis industry through political advocacy, public education, and professionalization.
Shayda Torabi has been called one of the most influential Women in WordPress and now she’s one of the women leading the cannabis reformation conversation building one of Texas’ premier CBD brands. She's currently the CEO and Co-Founder of RESTART CBD, a female-run education first CBD wellness brand. And has formerly held marketing positions at WP Engine and WebDevStudios. Shayda is the host of a podcast for cannabis marketers called To Be Blunt, where she interviews top cannabis brands on their most successful marketing initiatives. When Shayda's not building her cannabiz in Texas, you can find her on the road exploring the best hikes and spots for vegan ice cream. Follow Shayda at @theshaydatorabi
“It's a helpful argument to remind them [the lawmakers] that if they restrict access to cannabis, they're restricting the income to the general fund.” - Samuel Richard
“If someone comes up to you and asks, ‘How can I get involved?’ I think one of the best ways to do that is to just come out as a cannabis consumer.” - Samuel Richard
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Samuel Richard 0:00
that cannabis should be boring, right? Partly because I think that the magic sauce in understanding cannabis is figuring out what makes cannabis different. But also what makes cannabis the exact same as any other industry. Right. And I think that if you are an edible manufacturer, you want a consumer to have the same experience in the backyard of an Airbnb in Scottsdale, as when they go home to Michigan. Right. And that's not different than the Mars company. If you have a bag of m&ms or a Snickers, you know, you don't want the snickers to taste different in Seattle than it does in Miami. Right? So I think that in that way consumer packaged goods are what you might hear in shorthand the CPG world that's what they're looking for.
You're listening to to be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers, where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.
Shayda Torabi 1:23
Hello and welcome back to a new episode of The to be blonde podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer, and today I'm joined by Samuel Richard of the Arizona cannabis dispensary Association. The ATA is the political and legal voice of Arizona's cannabis industry and is dedicated to advancing the Arizona cannabis industry through political advocacy, public education and professionalization. Now, I'm super fascinated every time I get to talk to lobbyists or people who navigate cannabis at a legislative level, because legislature is where laws happen and laws are the foundation for what we legally can and cannot do in our industry. So a little bit more about Samuel. He is the executive director of ADA and has a deep knowledge and passion for the cannabis industry. And I'll echo deep knowledge because he really understands the legislative process and provides a lot of insight into how legalization happened in Arizona, and how he's since navigated politics and policy to help adjust and make recommendations as the regulations continue to unfold in Arizona, and most importantly, what steps we can take to be a part of similar initiatives in our states. During his time working in cannabis advocacy and education. Samuel has dealt with many challenges which he goes into in more depth in today's episodes, but really touches on his efforts fighting for legalization of recreation use in Arizona, as well as managing dozens of dispensaries and promoting educational campaigns throughout the state. So lots to learn from Samuel as we learn how he got involved in politics, what impact him and his organization have had on the business opportunities for businesses operating in the Arizona cannabis industry, and also why he thinks cannabis is boring, and wants policymakers to adopt the same stance. quick thank you to you my listener for tuning in. And joining us for another educational discussion here on the to be blunt podcast. And I also want you to get a little excited because next week is a special for 20 Episode It's going to air on for 18. But I have really great guests representing a very legacy cannabis event that takes place in California every year that are joining me for the podcast. And you do not want to miss that episode. And then just because I can't believe it, but in May I will hit 100 episodes. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your continued support of to be blunt. I'm humbled and honored to be joined by y'all every week to share these important conversations to help shape the future of cannabis. So with that said, let's get straight to the episode. Please join me by lining one up and let's welcome Samuel to the show.
Unknown Speaker 4:22
I'm Samuel Richard, although you can call me Sam. It's one of those tricks. I know there's a lot of Matt and Matthews and Stephanie and stuffs out there so it's just a little trick to make sure that I know who is selling me something and who actually knows me but you're always calling me Sam. So I am the executive director of the Arizona dispensaries Association. That's the day job but I came to cannabis through a variety of different kind of ways. I had personal experiences dating back to you know, times that statute of limitations are still active so I won't fully get into there but I'm just teasing but the professional ways I'm I have a background in contract law. And politics and policy and association management, and came to cannabis policy through criminal justice reform. And I think this is a little bit of inside baseball. And I'm sure that it'll come out as our conversation continues. But that was one of the reasons why I was really excited to come on board with the ADEA. At the time that we were relaunching prop 207, which was the adult use initiative here, here in Arizona, largely because of how much restorative justice focus there was in the initiative. So not only was there a significant number of social equity licenses, but a large chunk of their revenue is going right back into the communities that are most harmed by the decades long failed drug war.
Shayda Torabi 5:38
That's an amazing background. I'm personally really fascinated because I think, which I share this on the podcast a lot. And so I'll kind of like tee it up for you. You know, as a cannabis consumer, we of course want legalization, like, you know, big bold letters, I want to have access to legal cannabis. And then as a consumer, sometimes we don't really know what that actually means. And as a business owner now, so my listeners know, I own a CBD brand here in Texas. And we've been super fortunate to be a brand that has kind of, you know, navigated the waters, because it's definitely not easy in any market, you know, to be in cannabis, they all have their own, you know, concerns and challenges. But when I transitioned into business ownership, reflecting a brand in this space, I started acknowledging and realizing, wow, legalization is so much bigger, and there's so much more nuanced, and so much more politics dancing inside baseball, that has to be done. And so kind of kick it off, especially with your background, being a lobbyist, I'm sure you still do a ton of that work and advocacy. I mean, it never ends, right. And so I just would love to hear from your perspective kind of abstractly, and then feel free to go deeper into how do cannabis laws come about? What can we as individuals, as well as business owners do to contribute to improving cannabis laws? And feel free to of course, you know, highlight what it's been like in the Arizona cannabis industry as well?
Unknown Speaker 7:05
Absolutely. I'm so much to say on on that topic. And I think one of the things that I'll start with is just something that one of my first mentors are, you know, kind of folks that I looked up to, in my days as a lobbyist. He said, whenever you walk into the Capitol, whether it's the State Capitol in Arizona, the US Capitol, or you know, a number of other places, you can walk into it like you own the place, because you do. Right. And I think that that something about politics, and something about lobbying seems so inaccessible for folks. But the reality is, is that, well, there's a ton of media attention around elected leaders and kind of the noise that comes with that, at the end of the day, it's really helpful to understand that the people who sign up for this job of being an elected leader at any level of government care about making their community a better place, they might do that in a way that's different than yours. And they might have a set of experiences that makes them antithetical to the work that we're doing in cannabis policy. But that doesn't mean that they aren't people. And it doesn't mean that they aren't willing to alter their minds on something like this, you know, in Arizona, you know, we were kind of the center of some of the election audit mess that happened in the wake of the 2020. election. But we overwhelmingly won with the vote on Proposition 207. Right? So I think what what you see is that we were one of the closest margins at the presidential level, but cannabis, overwhelmingly one, right. So what that means to me is that cannabis is not just a bipartisan issue, it's an issue that transcends partisanship. And a part of that is because how, you know, kind of intricately woven cannabis is throughout our society, right? We know, just inherently that this plant has been with us for quite a long time. And, you know, recent archeological digs and other kinds of dating work has been done. And we know that it has been domesticated for at least 12,000 years, as a psychoactive substance, right. But we also have seen things like, you know, hemp woven fabric that are upwards of 30,000 years old. So I think that reminding our lawmakers about things like that, you know, that may be old hat for those of us who are in the industry, or, you know, we rather would talk about, you know, backcrossing F TOS to get back to an Afghani landrace right, but we need to start at square one with some of these lawmakers and really, actually start talking about, you know, things that might be uncomfortable for longtime consumers things like the economic impact of a regulated industry, right. So in Arizona, we just completed our first year of adult use transactions, and we're going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1.4 to $1.5 billion in top line revenue, with about $215 million going back to the people of Arizona through tax revenue. And the reason why, you know, that's important is because lawmakers, you know, are, you know, in charge of setting the budget setting the vision for a state. So they're looking at, at what different industries are contributing to, you know, the the government's bottom line, which is tax revenue, right. So I think when it you know, you have these prohibitionist minded lawmakers who are trying to, you know, restrict the sale of cannabis or make it harder to access and things like that, it's a helpful argument to remind them that if they restrict access to cannabis, they're restricting the income to the general fund of you know, the state of Arizona. So for them, you're not always going to have the ability to have some of the arguments that might feel right, you know, around the campfire in the backyard, right. But I think that, it's always helpful to understand that, you know, having a foot in both worlds, or, you know, just kind of at least coming from kind of a sense of compassion or a sense of understanding, it's helpful. And I'm going on and on here. But I wanted to just say that I was actually at the Capitol earlier this week, testifying. And one of the provisions of the bill that we were opposing, was the idea that, you know, marketing should be allowed at all, in the Arizona market. There's a lawmaker who wanted to ban us from billboards, across the state, any print marketing, there was even a potential provision that would ban cannabis operators from contributing charitably, to any nonprofit in the state. Right. So it kind of really misguided idea. But it was rooted from this thought that because of our friends in the tobacco industry, and the alcohol industry, there's this perception that these kinds of intoxicating substances are advertising to children from an early age. And in my start of my testimony, I said, you know, Hi, I'm Sam, I'm the Executive Director, yada, yada, I'm also the dad to a five year old and a two year old. And, you know, I know how to control the bottles of wine that are in my cabinet, as well as the cannabis that I keep, you know, locked up and out of reach, you know, from from my children, too. So I think just reminding folks that that cannabis isn't special, right? It shouldn't be treated differently than any of the other intoxicating substances that we have access to as adults. And I think it is really special for those of us who are in the industry, and care about consumption of cannabis. But, you know, my overarching goal in my professional life in cannabis is to make cannabis boring. It should not be something that is exciting, as the government has made it since 1937.
Shayda Torabi 12:35
I think that is so powerful, and so encouraging. And I just relate to it to so many degrees, because, yes, it's how do you normalize this? And how do you remove the hype and the stigma that certainly been created around this plant, and it's obviously reflected in so many different facets of the industry. And it also just goes to show, you know, as these industries and markets continue to establish themselves, it's almost like, I don't feel like we'll ever really have like, made it, you know, there's always going to be something else that someone's going to come and bring up and attack. And I think, you know, not looking at it necessarily like an attack, but really as an opportunity to educate and to advocate is really, I think, where I'm sure you've found success and just creating that voice and that narrative of positivity, like, Hey, why, if I can have this in my house, why can't I have this as well, and let's have a conversation, as you know, adults instead of kind of turning it into this game that has really been exploiting, I think, the heart of the cannabis industry. And it is really unfortunate that, you know, I think as business owners and people who are like cannabis fanatics, again, kind of putting that hat on as me as a consumer, it's like, now just want it to be legal. And then you kind of start realizing, okay, well, maybe this law is not in line with what I would want, but maybe there's some understanding of why they're introducing that law. And so certainly, Texas is navigating equally interesting cannabis laws. I mean, we don't have full medical or recreation yet, but you start to see and realize, I think, too, especially this podcast, like, oh, my gosh, you know, we're not the only ones dealing with this. And so what I'm gleaning from what you're saying, and what I'm excited to continue to learn from you is just how do you navigate that and have those conversations, right? And so kind of a follow up a little bit, you know, where my brain is going to try to understand, you know, you represent this organization, there is obviously so many moving pieces, so many different businesses that you're representing, but at like a foundational level, how do you stay on top of the ever changing landscape of regulations and kind of what are some of your best practices or tips to staying educated yourself? Staying knowledgeable like do you go to the capitol and you like, make sure you like shake everybody's hands so they know who you are? Like, what are some of those tactics that you've employed, to get yourself to be more comfortable because I think that's something personally as well as I know, listeners again, We're trying to change and impact laws where we can. And for me, I just recently started getting involved. So now I sit on a board here in Texas, and we're very similarly structured, where we're a nonprofit, we're advocacy, we're education, I just started getting involved to be able to go to the Capitol, I shouldn't say justice has been going on for the past two years. But, you know, going to the capitalist scary, figuring out how I'm gonna go and talk is scary, and figuring out who I'm talking to, and what points I need to reflect. Because when you get into, you know, the actual legislation, it can be very overwhelming. And a question I get to from our customers, rather, like the community is, well, how do I get involved? And I'm always like, Well, yeah, it's not just the business owners. It's also the community. And so again, that was a lot to say, how do you start to navigate and make headway with those relationships to actually impact change that you see in legislation?
Unknown Speaker 15:53
Yeah. So you know, I think that there's, there's so much to unpack there in some really, really good ways. But I think, you know, one thing that I would encourage your listeners to consider is the fact that that just like my goal is to make cannabis boring, I think that the idea is to make being involved in the legislative process and the regulatory process, boring as well, or at least not nearly as intimidating. And I think that, you know, when you're talking about going to Austin, or in our case, Phoenix, or, you know, in any other states, wherever that capital may be, right, it can be an overwhelming prospect, because, you know, in the cannabis world, of course, where there is professionalism, and folks show up, day in day out, but I would venture to say that not everybody wears a suit, or, you know, really nice business professional clothing on their way into the dispensary, or on the way into any number of plant touching operations. In fact, there's a stigma maybe that suits are bad in cannabis, right. So I think that just all these little details of having to kind of, you know, from soup to nuts to get down to the Capitol can be overwhelming. But at the end of the day, again, I always go back to the idea that those folks are there, because they want to make their community a better place. So we should talk about the ways that cannabis does make community the better place, right, so whether it's a medical diagnosis or or an over the counter treatment, right, like cannabis has helped people in significant ways for medicinal and therapeutic uses. So reminding folks that that's a real thing is very, very effective and very helpful. The other thing in terms of if someone comes up to you and asks, How can I get involved? I think one of the best ways to do that is to just come out as a cannabis consumer, right? I think there is this belief in any social policy, that when you're working on kind of making things a little bit more progressive, or equitable, or whatever word you want to use there, you sometimes kind of bump up against this idea that you're one of the only ones out there. Right. And I think that, you know, Arizona is not the largest state in the Union by any stretch of the imagination. We've surprised a lot of people coming out of the gates with nearly a $1.5 billion industry, right? And I think that you when you start to make those connections that like, you don't get to that level of top line revenue, without a significant number of people really wanting to be a part of that market. Right? So maybe it's not me, but maybe it's my neighbor, or maybe it's my child, or maybe it's, you know, my husband's best friend, or my wife's girlfriend who made a New Year's resolution to ditch the Chardonnay and, you know, go for edibles instead. Right. So I think that maybe there's just I think, normalizing it, right, coming out as a consumer, and kind of just being open about that. Right. I think, you know, it is not strange for someone to say, you know, I'm getting off of work, I'd really like to have a beer, I'd really like to have a glass of wine. Why isn't it without social stigma? To be able to say, All right, well, I'm done with work. I'm gonna go, you know, lineup A J, or I'm gonna grab, you know, a can of my favorite cans, seltzer or something like that. Right? Like, I think that those types of things are not common because we don't say them without kind of little wink and a nod, right? It's really difficult to do that. And I think one of the things have been just like zoom all the way out here. I think that cannabis generally is like a textbook example of how effective propaganda can be right like we have dealt with nearly a century of anti cannabis propaganda in the US alone. But you know, if we know that cannabis is used ceremonially and recreationally and domestically for more than 10,000 years, there's a reason why it isn't in the history books. So I think that the propaganda both the pro active negativity as well as the silence of the positivity I think it made for a very toxic combination. And we have a lot of work to do to start to reintroduce society as a whole, to the idea that cannabis can be a part of our daily life without it being completely monumentally destructive, because it never has been. And it never will be.
Shayda Torabi 20:18
I think that point on the propaganda is what has fascinated me, I think the most with a background in marketing, I'm sometimes, you know, the biggest person being marketed to and it's almost like, I'm conscious of it. It's like, I know, this is an ad, I'm about to click, but like, it's so good, I'm going to engage with it anyways. And then when you realize, again, being from originally a consumer to now transitioning into the industry, and I'm, you know, digging into all the history and the culture of everything, and it's, whoa, this is just a big media smear campaign on a plant that really didn't deserve it. And now we've got to normalize it. And so I thought that that, you know, sometimes I think, too, it doesn't need to be the most radical idea to change the direction of things, right. And so I appreciated that just highlighting, you know, just coming out and saying, You're a cannabis consumer and reflecting that to your peers and people that are in your circle of influence. And that definitely, you know, resonates with my ethos and my business's ethos, where we try to just tell people to be more comfortable being confident about their cannabis consumption. And so I can understand how that is absolutely a factor in helping you champion and advocate at the level that you're doing to transition into now, specifically, the organization, what is the breadth of the organization? How long has the organization been operating? Really, what was the intention of launching it and kind of what is the like the makeup of it, because it's specific to retail dispensaries. And so that's a very obviously big chunk of who is operating in the cannabis industry. But it's, you know, not necessarily the cultivators or the manufacturers, it's the dispensaries on that forefront. So I'd love to learn a little bit more about
Unknown Speaker 22:03
that. Yeah, so and it's actually the name is a bit limiting, because we actually are a vertically licensed state here in Arizona, we're also a limited license state. So once our social equity licenses are awarded, we'll have about 169 licenses in the market. But every function that we're used to being in the industry is kind of nested up under those licenses. So each license has the ability to have an onsite cultivation, and offsite cultivation, processing facility, as well as a manufacturing kitchen. And in Arizona, we have no restrictions on canopy size from our licensing. So that decision is really only up to the local jurisdiction when it comes to zoning, and things like that. So we have, you know, a 2500 square foot indoor cultivation, all the way up to 60 acres in rural Arizona, that are under glass for cultivation. So it's really kind of the whole gamut. The difference between our vertical licensed market and maybe a place like Florida, which maybe some of your listeners are are used to, is that we don't have talked about Florida law in Florida, as you probably do talk about and are aware of, there's a requirement for the verticality of the product as well. But in Arizona, we have a very healthy and active wholesale market, as well as more operators than just the license holders through either licensing deals or subleasing for individuals to come in and operate themselves. So I'll just give you a handful of examples. I know that your listeners can't see me, but I'm wearing a ball cap from 1906, a great brand from Denver and the Colorado area they just launched here in Arizona, they did that through a sub leasing arrangement. So we have regional and national brands from connected cannabis and alien labs to groups like sizi. And you know, as I mentioned it no six can all sort of like it's out there. It's an Arizona, and I think that's, you know, we're able to kind of balance that wholesale as well as the vertical license. So all that is context, which is probably way too much context, but that's no, I
Shayda Torabi 24:12
appreciate it, because I don't think I really understood that nuance of Arizona Actually, I didn't realize it was vertical integration, only for licensing, but it sounds like it is a little bit more open than some states where their vertical integration is very, very limited. And I'm curious before you get into it too. Why do you think it maybe it's like you know, low hanging fruit answer but why do you think all these brands from the West Coast or really Colorado like these legacy kind of markets have put their eyes on Arizona like other than it being kind of central United States it's obviously very amicable weather people like to travel there, but like why do you think Arizona for this you know, incoming have so many words because I don't see some of those same brands in Colorado yet and you You'd think that they'd be in Colorado?
Unknown Speaker 25:02
Yeah. So there's a variety of reasons. And some, I should say most are just my own speculation, right. But I think that if you look at a market like Oklahoma, where anybody can go in, you're gonna see fewer folks who are well established, go into a market like that, because in a market that's open like that being a first mover isn't necessarily the recipe to being a best mover. Right? So I think you're going to see some of these more established brands or, or retail operations, kind of let a market like Oklahoma kind of settle in before you start seeing the m&a activity speed up, right where you have seen the m&a activity over the course of the last 12 to 18 months, really kind of speed up and in Colorado, and even California in these like huge, large markets. But the kind of the publicly traded or the big name MSOs have really targeted those limited license states, in large part because there's a better kind of case to be made to be able to make that type of investment. Right. So that's one piece there. But I think the more important and the more relevant answer to your question is really focused around what you even hinted at in the framing of your question. Arizona has visitors eight months out of the year, right? We have gorgeous weather. And it's counter cyclical, right as I have a dear friend who just sent me a video of him shoveling his his driveway this morning in Detroit. And you know, Michigan as a adult use market says Arizona, why don't you just come in and spend the winter with me here here in Phoenix. And, you know, we can go to things like the Phoenix Open, which is like one of the best parties in the professional golf circuit, you we're going to be hosting the Superbowl next year, right. And hopefully, the Cardinals can do a little bit better next season, we'll see if we can manage that. But you know, so so we have that great weather, we have a lot of reasons why people come in fact, pre pandemic, we had 45 million people spend at least one night in a hotel in Arizona, that did not reside in Arizona. So you know, it's a heavy Well, traffic thing. But that also leads into this idea, as you see a market approaching federal legalization. And prior to that, at least federal adoption, you're going to see a lot of region ality in brands. Because, you know, if you live in Phoenix, you're going to find yourself in Las Vegas, in LA in Albuquerque, in Denver quite often. And if you are a brand, it's, you know, very positive, to be able to be recognizable in each of those markets as you go around. And even if you don't travel to those different places, there's a lot of studies on you know, individuals moving, if you grew up in Oakland, and you are moving to a different city, you're likely not moving all the way across the country, right? You might, you know, be born in in Oakland, but you're gonna grow up in Denver, something like that, right? So it's kind of that regional movement there. And you might even see a kind of a stark example or kind of a fun metaphor is the difference between parties and Carl's Jr. Right. So same menu, same folks, right, same quality of food, you can expect that. But the way that that happened through mergers throughout their corporate history on one side of the country, it's Carl's Jr. and on the other side of the country, it's Hardee's because they wanted it to be recognizable to folks, depending on on where they were, right? So it's Kroger's and one section of the country and its fries, in another section of the country, a lot of people in the West no Bud Light. But if you're in the south, it's Bush, right? That you, you can find Bush ways here, then you can find Bud Light if you're in the right parts of the south, right. So I think that that kind of originality is what you're starting to see as well. So it might not even be like somebody setting up operations in a market regionally, but it's, you know, white labeling or some type of licensing deal.
Shayda Torabi 29:04
No, that was really fascinating, too, just because I think it's so interesting, what's available from a licensing perspective, why it can capital investment MSO versus obviously like a sole proprietor or something like that. And so I think it's just an interesting observation that when you brought up you know, just the introduction of some of these brands into Arizona, it's like, wow, I didn't really realize that that those more national or West Coast brands were coming into the market and trying to kind of claim a claim a stake in what's going on in Arizona, but I didn't want to go back to
Unknown Speaker 29:41
well, so was this is your one of the things that that all leads into, is this idea that cannabis should be boring, right? Partly because I think that the magic sauce in understanding cannabis is figuring out what makes cannabis Front. But also what makes cannabis the exact same as any other industry, right. And I think that if you are an edible manufacturer, you want a consumer to have the same experience in the backyard of an Airbnb in Scottsdale, as when they go home to Michigan. Right. And that's not different than the Mars company. If you have a bag of m&ms or a Snickers, you know, you don't want the snickers to taste different in Seattle than it does in Miami. Right. So I think that in that way, consumer packaged goods are what you might hear in shorthand, the CPG world, that's what they're looking for, they're looking for a consistency of quality and consistency of marketing, a consistency of kind of the overall experience from soup to nuts, no matter where you're at. We are not yet there in cannabis. But it is largely because we have the barriers that the federal prohibition puts in front of us. As soon as those walls come down, that will happen. And that's why you're seeing a lot of this activity, not just from the MSOs. But the brands to try and make sure that they're across the country, or at least across the region as much as possible. So they can continue to hold on to that market share. And they're a little bit more recognizable. Because the one thing that's different from CPG than cannabis that right now is that there's almost zero brand loyalty from a consumer standpoint, right a consumer might know what category they like they like pre rolls are they like edibles or they like seltzers. But the and the research has has kind of confirmed this to date that on average, that consumer is going to walk in and they will purchase what is on sale or what is most attractive from a price point that it does not matter when it comes to brand loyalty at this stage of cannabis.
Shayda Torabi 31:57
Hello, just want to take a quick moment to thank my sponsor and full disclosure, my company restart CBD, restart CBD is a brand that I built with my sister. So we are family owned and women owned, we do operate a brick and mortar in Austin. So if you ever find yourself in Central Texas, we'd love for you to come say hi. But we also ship nationwide and we carry a wide range of CBD products, we really care about this plant, we really care about educating our customers, this show would not be possible without their support. So please go check us out at restart cbd.com and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks. And let's go back to the show. Very interesting, I think. Yeah, there's I was interviewing somebody a couple of months ago now but it's always kind of stuck with me, you know, today's cannabis brands don't even know what you know, tomorrow's consumers are going to be expecting of them. And it's just kind of this continuous evolution. And, and certainly I think the regulation and licensing is kind of the foundation for which all of this opportunity is really built on and and so I appreciate all of that that was really informative and really helpful. For me, selfishly I have these questions in my head and it's like I got an expert, let me ask them to pick their brain. But I do want to go back to you know, the Arizona dispensary Association and understanding what that entity is and how it kind of operates in plays and perhaps influences in the Arizona cannabis market and industry.
Unknown Speaker 33:33
Yeah, so we were kind of founded alongside the program. So the voters of Arizona instituted a medical program in 2010, a governor at the time sued its implement implementation. So the first licenses actually weren't awarded until a little bit through the year 2012. And the first transaction happened December 8 of 2012. But the seeds of the dispensary Association were really planted in that 2010 2011 mindset. And it was a handful of those initial license owners that got together, we have since grown after a period of fino hunting, to love to use, you know, all sorts of cultivation metaphors whenever possible, because I think that that really speaks to that world, right? I mean, from a policy standpoint, you're doing that type of work, right. But in any case, so we we had a pretty painful and significant loss as a cannabis community in 2016. at the ballot box, there was an effort to go recreational in 2016. And we lost by just two and a half percentage points. And there was kind of a period of of kind of a little bit of a lull, right we had to dust ourselves off a little bit and we went full steam ahead in the 2020 election cycle. And we won with a 20% margin. So really, really excited about that result. nearly 2 million people voted Yes on Proposition 207 and Arizona, which and I will hold on to this for record as long as I can. That is the most votes for any single issue or candidate in the history of Arizona. And we come from a place of some pretty popular politicians like the late Senator John McCain, or the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Right. So like, a lot of people have done really, really well on the ballot here in Arizona. But nobody or no issue has done better than cannabis. So really, really excited about that. That's remarkable.
Shayda Torabi 35:28
Yeah, is like and I don't really understand the nuances of Arizona. So if you could, just really quickly, how does cannabis come on the ballot? Is it brought by a representative? Is it a bill that is filed? Is it something that someone can get enough signatures and like right onto the ballot for people to vote on? Because in Texas, we're a two year legislation state, we have to wait every two years. And we cannot at least up until this point, for my knowledge, no individual like city can legalize because it has to happen on the state level. And you can't just like vote it in for people who can't write it in and get enough signatures but like now it's on the ballot, everybody go vote. So we're a little bit more rooted. And I think, Paul, let's see waiting for the next step for us to step up to the plate. So I'm just curious, what is that like navigating from Arizona's perspective?
Unknown Speaker 36:17
Yeah, well, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. Because I love to nerd out about this. But so the quick answer to your question is that we went through the citizen initiative process. So any individual, as long as there you meet a signature threshold, via petition, can send a question to the ballot. But the roots of that are actually so Arizona didn't become a state until 1912. So we were one of the last two states in the contiguous United States to become a state where state 48 and our state constitution was actually sent back to us by President Taft, he refused to sign it. Because we had two things in our in our charter one was the recall of judges, and the other and any elected official, but particularly judges he didn't like. And the other one that caused a lot of consternation was the citizen initiative process where any individual or group of individuals could bring a question to the ballot. And one of the fun things is actually the first our first election as a state, including a ballot initiative brought by the people of Arizona to provide women's suffrage. So nearly a decade before the constitutional amendment, Arizona did that through the initiative process. So this has been a part of the Arizona kind of policymaking rhythms since our initial foundings. And in fact, one of the other interesting things that I like to point out with this is we actually had and passed a medical marijuana initiative in the same year that California did. So cannabis policy has been talked about at the ballot box for 25 years now, I guess, 26 years in the State of Arizona. What happened though, is that our legislature has always been more socially conservative than the people of Arizona at large. So the first thing that the legislature did after the vote in 1996, was referred the question back to the people with a bunch of propaganda, and then in the program was invalidated at the time. So we didn't actually have a medical program until 2012, as I mentioned, but the people of Arizona said yes to medical marijuana in 1996. So the seeds of today's success, really have their roots back in policy that's 25 years old. And so really kind of excited about kind of the culmination of where we're at right? And again, and I think that's why this cultivation metaphors really work, right? When you're, when you're kind of finding, you know, the right cut of a gorilla glue or something, you know, it takes a while to kind of hunt that down. And I think we really found our rhythm here in Arizona, right, we have, we have the mix of locally, kind of driven and locally owned operators, as well as a healthy mix of of the multi state operators that really kind of bring a sense of professionalism and weight to the market, that we frankly wouldn't get the attention that we do without their participation in the market. Because if you look at us on the map, Arizona is literally living in the shadows of the two most mature cannabis markets in the world in California and Colorado, and prior to legalization. That's where most of our cannabis came from, in the illicit market. Right. And I think one of the things that you're seeing with Colorado's declining revenue related to cannabis is its neighboring states. Finally, coming online, right in Nevada is there Arizona is there, Utah has a medical program, New Mexico is up and running. And so as all of these states kind of draw the revenue back into them in a way kind of repatriating that revenue, I think you're gonna see some of those more established markets kind of level off. And that's not a bad thing, because we don't necessarily want to have people feel like they have to travel a long distance to do something that should have been legal, you know, from from day one. So we're working on that normalization that continued professionalization. And that's really day in day out what we do at the the association is we're here to protect and advance the regulated cannabis ecosystem. In Arizona.
Shayda Torabi 40:19
Yeah, if you could just, you know, say a little bit louder. For those Texans who are patiently waiting to have some laws changed. We could use some of the encouragement. But no, this is all been very insightful. And I, I just, you know, it's just such a joy to get to connect on these conversations, because we really haven't seen what is possible. And like you were articulating, you know, the the duration for which the state of Arizona has really had to go through endure kind of, you know, attempt fail attempt again, and it's just kind of part of that process. But earlier, you mentioned that you were testifying at the Capitol. And so in line with what, you know, the organization does, I'm curious on like, a day to day basis, or really like as members who are part of your organization, what is that look like in practice? Or is it testifying? Is it signing letters? Is it positive propaganda? Like, how do you get involved in the community? Is it more just for the industry? What did the consumers think of it? And kind of what is that, you know, like for people who are part of the organization to actually be in action? In advocacy?
Unknown Speaker 41:34
Yeah. So a great series of questions, as always, you mean a lot to think about and a lot to respond to. So I'll first just say kind of where we're at in in the overall ecosystem. So our purported existence really is focused on plant touching operators, whether that's license owners, or what we internally call an affiliate member, someone who leases the ability to operate off of one of those existing licenses, the kind of more culture focused consumption focused group is an amazing partner, we work very closely with them. And that's, they're called Mita. So they have monthly mixers. They're usually consumption events. And it's very kind of brand forward and brand heavy, it's an opportunity to kind of introduce a new product or a new product line into kind of, you know, the most avid consumers in the market. So Mita is a great partner in that, but we're kind of the, you know, the boring, stuffy group, if you will, right. But then the boring is a theme, right?
Shayda Torabi 42:33
But boring is good. And we're learning that boring is good, right? That's right. They want to be boring. We
Unknown Speaker 42:37
want to be normal, that everything needs to be exciting, right? Like, it's okay, that that cannabis is just a thing that you do on a Tuesday night, right? Like, it doesn't need to be a thing. But anyway, sorry, I'm going all the way back there. But so so our focus is to use the metaphor of the three legged stool. The first leg is really all about the rules and statutes as they are regulatory compliance, right? That's, that's really, that's the main focus of our work, is helping operators maintain compliance, you know, excel in those ways, because we're here, only at the kind of behest of the people of Arizona that said, yes, we want a regulated cannabis ecosystem. So we have a responsibility to maintain public health and safety for both consumers, but also non consumers, right, our largest single set of stakeholders are non consumers. And I think that that's a truism that successful regulated programs understand, and it's a challenge for those who don't put that front and center that even when you have full adoption of cannabis, you're looking at maybe 12 to 15% of your overall adult population. Right. So that is not in terms of regular consumption, right. So maybe somebody does once in a blue moon or whatever, but your largest set of stakeholders are going to be people who don't care about what you do, right. So we want to continue to make sure that they don't care about what we do, by maintaining compliance and excellence in terms of public health and safety. Right, the second leg of that stool is being a little bit more active in creating those rules, or at least opposing rules that would be harmful from our perception to the industry as it stands. So that was what brought me to the Capitol earlier this week, because there was a prohibitionist mindset that brought this, you know, piece of legislation to the Capitol. So I was, you know, trying to educate lawmakers on why it's a bad idea to do that. And then the third leg of the stool is kind of what we're doing here. Right, educating the public writ large about the Arizona market and about regulated cannabis specifically. So through the work of the association will be launching later this spring. an overarching effort that will remind people that regulated cannabis is open for Business, we're legal for you whether you know what, whether for your mom, for your aunt for, you know, your, you know, adult children, we're here we're open for business. And we want to make sure that people know that the grand cannabis state is here for them. So those are kind of the three legs of the stool, right? Regulatory compliance, legislative advocacy, and that kind of public education.
Shayda Torabi 45:25
Ya know, that's super helpful to understand. Because again, I think kind of, you know, where we really started this conversation was understanding, you know, how I remember watching, I was like, how does a bill become a law, you know, those like little like, videos, educational cartoons. And so with that same kind of mindset of understanding, again, how do we progress cannabis as an industry and realizing that it really does start with some of this boring stuff, quote, unquote. And it really starts with how do we as individuals who consume the plant, normalize it to make it more comfortable for people who like your highlighting as well? Don't consume it, it's not ham legalizing it? So I can shove cannabis down everybody's throats, it's how do we just bring it into this thing that nobody really questions, if you want to go have a drink, or you want to go have a joint, it doesn't matter. We just want to have it. And so knowing that the politics and advocacy is so important, but also so I think just like mystifying, it's, it's hard sometimes to start to think how can I even navigate to go make change. And so getting that, you know, purview from your perspective of how Arizona has gone through these different stages, and ultimately, how your organization gets to be that consistent drumbeat of information for people to kind of, you know, participate in those levels, which, again, in my opinion, really is where it opens up for the brands and the consumption and the parties and the marketing. It's like, you can't have that if the law like, that's crazy to me, that someone which again, I add to the conversation, I understand where they're coming from when they don't want you to market cannabis. But to me, it's like, oh, how, you know, you cut my arm off, you tie my other hand behind my back, you've stuck me in, you know, this is 10 feet deep water, and now you're telling me to go swim as fast as I can. It's like, okay, well, how am I supposed to communicate this if these things are being taken away from me? And and again, it's not that every state is going through that particular same legislation. But what what can we learn from each other? Like, as your state goes to that, it's like, I'm listening. And I'm like, wow, you know, well, next time I hear what Texas is navigating, like, how am I going to appear, show up be and be involved in? Like, what are those conversations that I'm having, but to kind of like wrap to the, you know, final question, although I feel like I could honestly keep talking to you all day, just because you're very hard. I appreciate it. It's good to talk to people who are so passionate and also, you know, like the stewardship of giving back to the industry. It's, it requires people like you, so I appreciate what you're doing for that market. I'm in for cannabis in general. But I'm curious, from your perspective, given everything that we've kind of addressed and shared around Arizona's cannabis market. And I thought it was interesting point when you brought up you know, Colorado's like, budget, finances, not budget, but their finances, the success of cannabis is kind of declining. And it's because you have other states going online. What what is the future of cannabis look like, from your perspective from Arizona, or your organization? Or just like National? I love speculation. So I'm just, you know, curious what that looks like from what you've been exposed to. And we think
Unknown Speaker 48:49
I love that. The other thing that I want to just address one thing that you said, and then I'll answer your question. So I don't think that Arizona coming online or Nevada coming online is the only reason why Colorado's but my bold prediction, in a sense is that once you get to a level of maturity, price action is actually on a downward trend. Right. So those those $50 eights are now $40 A's, and pretty soon, there'll be $30, eights. And that's just a function. You know, it isn't necessarily that the amount of cannabis is is declining in Colorado, but as price action goes down, your tax revenues gonna go down as well just just through that. So some of it is that people are kind of no longer traveling to Colorado or California to make their purchases and then bringing it back home because they can do it in their home state. Some of it is just downward price action. And that's actually kind of a good lead into the answer of where I'm at. I am have the kind of corner of the world there's a handful of schools of thought in terms of what the future looks like for cannabis. But I'm in the agricultural product camp. I think that upon federal legalisation we will be treated as, and no different than any other commodity crop, what what we do in the finished product is going to be completely different than what we do at the beginning of that supply chain. And I think a lot of that has to do with the industrial uses of the male plant. I'm wearing a hemp shirt today, European car manufacturers use hemp fibers in the fabric of their safety mechanisms in the collision pieces of their cars, right hempcrete is coming up in a big way. Right? And yes, of course, there was the Farm Bill. But until the entire plant is without stigma, you're not going to see large agricultural companies come in. So we're in Arizona, where it was the home of harvest, health and recreation, which was recently purchased by Trulieve. And one of my bold predictions is I think that that will be among the final cannabis to cannabis, mergers and acquisitions. I think that the next banner headline that we're gonna see in cannabis is a non cannabis, mega corporation buying their way into cannabis. So whether that's Amazon picking up a series of third party logistics companies like Costco or green lane, or, you know, a brand house like Procter and Gamble, starting to get into, you know, the idea of maybe they bring on Willie's reserve, or you know what, some of these kind of larger, more commercial, commercially recognized and understood brands, but I think that the corollary of being boring and mundane is the fact that we're going to permeate every section of society, right. The only reason why we are separated from society right now is a failed drug policy. Right? I think that once federal legalization comes, the cannabis industry will start to not look like a cannabis industry. Cannabis will be a function of the other people that are already happening, right. So Monsanto will get in on the cultivation side, you're going to have you know, tobacco companies that are going to pivot to start to offer a joint in, you know, what looks like a pack of Marlboros, right. And then you're going to have, you know, the Mars Corporation and other big confectionery companies start to get into all the edibles, right. But I think that you're gonna stop seeing cannabis industry things, and it will just be a subheading of whatever Corporation they're a part of. I also think if I can be a little bit positive, in addition to, you know, painting kind of a stark picture for those of us who have been around for a while, much like in, you know, kind of craft wine or craft cocktails, or, you know, the alcohol industry, you're always going to have the big players, right, as in 2019, which is the year that we have the most recent data for 73% of all beer sales went to three companies.
Unknown Speaker 53:06
But that doesn't mean that there aren't really good options out there in terms of craft beer, right, there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 6500 Federal brewery permits that are out there. So that delta between three companies that are responsible for 73% of the market, and you know, the 6500 that, that make up the rest, I don't think that choice is ever gonna go away. I don't think that the ability to access quality cannabis is going to go away. In fact, I think that as long as we do it relatively soon, the Federal legalization will be the best thing that has ever happened to the craft growers in Humboldt County in Southern Oregon. Because finally, the people who want Humboldt County flower or Southern Oregon flower, who now reside in Virginia, or Florida, or Tennessee, can have access to that. And that will be a huge boon to those craft cultivators, are there going to be the large players that make up a significant piece of the market? Absolutely. But for longtime consumers, folks that chase after craft, and I'm proud to call myself among them, that is always going to be available. But I think what we're seeing is the window closing of those craft cultivators being able to hold on until we get to interstate commerce and federal legalization. So I think that regardless of what happens in the 2022 midterm elections, I think that we are going to see meaningful cannabis policy move at the federal level, but before too much longer. I don't think it'll be a full scale legalization. But I think what you're starting to see is a new phrase that I made up in for myself. It was good that I'm calling federal adoption, right? So you're seeing, you know, agencies and these national infrastructures start to say we're not waiting for legalization right, we're gonna we're gonna start to adopt the the idea that were illegal. And I don't want to make this connection in any type of inappropriate or kind of, I should say misappropriated type of way. But in a way, I think you can see parallels between the movement for marriage equality to cannabis, in the sense that it was like marriage equality was not equal. There was not equity in the idea of marriage for a very, very long time. And then all of a sudden, it changed, right, like in the period of, of like five years, we went from a handful of cities, legalizing right from Iowa City. And then now it's the whole nation. Right. And I think that you were seeing a similar path when it comes to cannabis. So very different policy areas, very different movements behind them. But I think what you're seeing is the increased kind of adoption. And the federal government might be the last set of institutional agencies that actually accept that cannabis is here to stay. But we're all getting there. And you're seeing that right. Employers are no longer testing. Right. Many of them, many localities and states are coming on board. I think it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 87% of the US population has access to Kent legal cannabis. Right. So I think that we're getting there
Shayda Torabi 56:28
do you think cannabis is boring? Do you agree with Samuels perspective of why it should be? I wouldn't say cannabis is boring. But I understand why when especially when you step back and look at how silly it is to treat this plant this way compared to other industries that one could argue have a more drastic impact on our health and wellness. We should treat cannabis just like anything else. Love people have access to it and a big portion of that comes through education. So again, and as always, thank you so much for keeping a blood with me and educating yourself by joining me for this episode. I will be back with a new one next Monday. So please stay tuned and check us out and encourage you to keep championing cannabis in your community. Thanks again. Y'all. See you later. Bye.
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