To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast

101 From Legacy to Legends with Christine De La Rosa of The People's Ecosystem

May 23, 2022 Shayda Torabi Season 3 Episode 101
To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast
101 From Legacy to Legends with Christine De La Rosa of The People's Ecosystem
Show Notes Transcript

“There are huge tropes around people of color to not look for holistic medicine. And you have to first work through the tropes, the propaganda tropes around people of color and the use of cannabis.” - Christine De La Rosa

Welcome back to the To Be Blunt podcast! In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes Christine De La Rosa, CEO and Co-Founder of The People’s Ecosystem. Christine is a well-respected business leader, advocate, and activist. Everything changed after she was diagnosed with lupus, and she shares she was able to take her life back with the help of cannabis. Now, she’s committed to opening access to medical cannabis for the chronically ill and providing opportunities for minorities in the industry.

[00:01 – 05:40] What the Hell Is Going On With Texas Hemp and Cannabis?

[05:41 – 21:08] Using Medicinal Cannabis for Life-Altering Conditions

[21:09 – 32:48] Creating Social Equity for Women and People of Color

[26:49- 45:42] Challenges in Operating and the Importance of Brand SOPs

[45:43 - 55:25] Executing SOPs and Understanding Licensing

[55:26 – 1:11:14] Democratizing Access to Funding Through Web 3.0


Christine De La Rosa is passionate about the industry that saved her life. At the top of her tech career, she almost died from complications of undiagnosed Lupus. In 2015, she found cannabis as an alternative medicine to treat her lupus. No longer bound to 11 pills a day or monthly infusions, she was inspired by her experience to open The People’s Dispensary in 2016, along with her co-founders to help those who most need access to cannabis. Together, they continue to grow their multi-state supply chain footprint and build a fiercely sought-after national social equity model and enterprise now known as The People’s Ecosystem and its subsidiaries. She is currently the CEO and National Co-Founder of The People's Ecosystem, Founder & Fund Manager of The People’s Group and Founder of CBxShield.


Connect with Christine De La Rosa!

Visit The People’s Ecosystem website and follow them on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

Key Quote:

“You're constantly in a battle for safe banking, you're constantly in a battle to keep your business open. Know that it's difficult and also wildly rewarding.”  - Christine De La Rosa

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Christine De La Rosa  0:00  
What we've learned in the last four years of California being legalized of Michigan being legalized of, you know, Oklahoma, is that you have to have your SOPs if you're going to do brand work, which is what only really the only thing you can do, if you want to be multi state, unless you have just a ton of money to buy licenses in every state, you're really looking at brand work. And a lot of people when they get to brands, they're like, Oh, they're thinking about the supplement. You know, where you can get all of your stuff done in Utah and get it distributed out to wherever you want that cannabis is not like that, because you can't cross state lines. It's state by state. So one of the biggest things is what when you say how am I going to operate in multiple states, you have to start with this is why we always start in California because it has probably the toughest regulation for packaging. Like it's basically like the opposite of New York like if you can make it there you can make it anywhere in the packaging

Announcer  1:03  
you're listening to to be blunt, the 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  1:27  
Hello and welcome back to the to be blunt podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer. And a big thank you to everyone who reached out and tuned into the 100th episode to celebrate with me. I hope you guys know how important your support means to me and the success of the podcast. I really couldn't do it without your support. So thanks for tuning in and hitting play every week. And just super happy super grateful. super honored to be here doing this and on to the next 100 episodes. To kick today's episode off episode 101. I wanted to provide a brief update on what the hell is going on with Texas hemp and cannabis for my Texans. Y'all know things are very slow paced over here in the Lone Star State in terms of cannabis progress, but hey, progress is progress. Right? Most notably, Austin, my hometown officially passed Proposition A, which would decriminalize marijuana and prohibit no knock warrants for the data nerds out there. It passed with an overwhelming 85%. So I think it's sufficient to say Austin is ready for full on legalization. But you and I both know that that isn't necessarily how things really play out and I personally don't think that we're going to see it anytime soon. If I'm also being honest, Austin has been decriminalized effectively my whole adult life. It's not that you couldn't get in trouble. So yes, I understand this initiative, fully legally decriminalizes it. But Austin has always been pretty hands off, especially the last few years when the district attorney essentially told Austin's police department to stop arresting and prosecuting for low level cannabis crimes. So yatta yatta. Now it's officially decriminalized. But from this OG Austinites perspective, that was really never our problem. What I also want to interject is I know everyone is always so blatantly blanket pro legalization. But when things fully legalize, that doesn't always mean open licensure, or that the program will be fair, as we've discussed on this podcast many times before, looking at states like California, where they're still dealing with heavy taxation, six years post recreational legalization doesn't make for an opportunistic market. So all I'm saying is be very clear that while these are steps in the right direction, ultimately how things legalized and what programs get implemented is really what matters. In other news related to Texas hemp, which is my personal backyard since I do operate a licensed CBD business in the state. The verdict is still out on the smokable hemp ban, which is presently in the Texas Supreme Court and if that passes, would outlawed to some extent smoke bubbles in the state of Texas. So pre rolls cartridges, etc. And the fine line would be if they outlaw altogether or if they allow retail, but not manufacturing or vice versa. So time will tell what happens there. And on top of that, we still have the Delta eight banned slash lawsuit that was in the Texas Supreme Court also but it was kicked back to the appellate court. Ultimately, my gut is saying that these things will continue to be tied up in litigation and policy until things can be addressed in the next legislative session. effectively happening one year from June next year in 2023. Not only do we have the Texas hemp bill up for re amendment next year, we have the farm bill up to and I know that's going to stir some stuff up regarding these minor cannabinoids, specifically Delta eight and even have Dr Delta nine. So very interesting time for minor cannabinoids and smokeable is here in Texas. And I'm sure more to come as things progress through. And I will do my best to keep you guys updated on what's happening. And if you have any insight into what's happening here in Texas, I encourage you to reach out and let me know because there's always something brewing in the state. Moving on to today's show, I am joined by the cannabis powerhouse that is Christine De La Rosa. And y'all are in for a super informative episode. I really wanted to have Christine on and tie it into this Texas update as well, because Christine is a Texan, she does split her time between Texas and California. And while she predominantly plays in the legal recreational markets, specifically in California, and now in other states, as they've begun to come online, Texas still has a piece of her heart. And I actually got to meet Christine at South by Southwest this past year in Austin. So it just felt really fitting to kind of you know, tie these things together. And you guys know, I like to, you know, make it make sense. So as far as who she is, and what she's up to the world is having a moment with Christine and it's rightfully so she's impacted and is continuing to impact so much in our industry for the better. And I was looking forward to sitting down with her for discussion on to be blunt to learn more about how she got into the industry. I know she came from the legacy market and then came into the legal market. Once it started to open up in California. She is involved in a lot of technology. So getting into NF Ts and Dow and that's reflective of her background prior to getting in the cannabis industry in the telecommunications industry. She's a big tech nerd. And she is very, very informative when it comes to the topics around social equity, diversity and inclusion, and everything that makes cannabis fair and equal and accessible to everybody and anybody who wants to be part of the industry. So we get into challenges also that she's had to navigate bringing her brand into multiple states and what that entails and looks like she is most notably the CEO and national co founder of The People's ecosystem, a bipoc Cannabis Company fighting for social economic equity, sustainable and conscious cannabis policies. And she is the fund manager of the people's group, which invests in diverse and competitive cannabis companies. She was recently named one of the 22 cannabis leaders who will shape the industry in 2022 and 2021. She was on the list for 10 Women to Watch out for industry luminaries and rising stars. And in 2020, she was one of 35 most influential women in cannabis. As a thought leader and one of the most sought after advisors in the cannabis industry. She also sits on the advisory boards of tetragram Regenesis and cannabis doing good, certainly so much to cover and unpack with Christine on today's episode. So without further ado, please join me by lining one up and let's welcome Christine to the show.

Christine De La Rosa  8:12  
My name is Christine. That aside. I am the CEO and co founder of The People's ecosystem. And the ecosystem encompasses a lot of different things. We have a fund called the People's group that invests strictly in bipoc and limited lead cannabis companies. We have the people's ecosystem that houses all of our licensed properties. So delivery, manufacturing, dispensary, cultivation, all of the things. We have the people's cannabis, which also sits under the ecosystem, which is our brand, our THC brands. We have smoke this currently out and we're coming out with a new product line called legacy to legends. In the next quarter, we have the people's wellness, which will be for the first time in New York City at the attain dispensaries, and we're going to be releasing those next week. Super excited. And then finally we have the people's Dao, which is a decentralized autonomous organization, which we'll get into later, when we're talking about it. How I got to cannabis was really through sickness. Prior to that I was a database architect. I traveled all over the world and in the US building architect architecting databases for telecoms. So, architected databases for DTE before they were bought by Verizon before they became Verizon Wireless. What worked all over the country and I just built databases, a lot of the things are still in place. They've been updated, of course since I left but a lot of our legacy databases are there. And I loved my jobs. I really did. I love being a consultant. I love traveling. I love being in new places. And then in 2007 I got a mysterious illness and I didn't know what it was 22 doctors in both Dallas where I was living and California where I moved to didn't know what it was. And so for three years I worked full time I'm for Verizon Wireless building out their LTE network and being sick and not knowing why I was sick and getting sicker and sicker and going to 11 doctors in California, who were like, Yeah, we don't know what's going on until I was driving down one of the highways on Thanksgiving Day, and I had a pulmonary embolism that almost killed me. And so I ended up the hospital for seven days on blood thinners. They didn't know what's going on, they did went to tests. And that was the very first time I heard the word lupus in terms of what that was the illness that I had. So for the next five years, it was a nightmare. I went from being highly mobile, traveling everywhere, jumping on planes, going to vacations and doing all that stuff, to burning through My 401k burning through my savings because I couldn't work anymore. And being mostly confined to my bedroom or in my house, and able to shop for myself really difficult to move around. Because I was in so much pain. By 2012. I had another life threatening thing happened to me. I had pericarditis where my loose thought and my heart was attacking me. So in attactive, is what lupus does, right? It says this really healthy tissue is not healthy, so I'm going to kill it. But it really is healthy and they're killing you. It's killing you. So it wasn't until 2014 2015. I started experimenting with cannabis as an alternative because at that point for five years, I had been on 11 different medications throughout the day of those 11. Five of them are opioids that sat in my medicine cabinet that I took at any given time during the day based on the level of pain, so I can tell you right now Tramadol was nothing like Tramadol was like aspirin. I like who cares about Tylenol, but the Oxycontin, the hydromorphone, the hydrocodone, the fentanyl patches, well, those those are great, right? Except you can't function when you're on those you can't think I went from being able to do really complex things, to having a hard time remembering what two plus two was. So I didn't want to continue to live that life. And I thought I'm taking 11 pills a day, I go to the hospital once a month to get an infusion. What does this look like if I make it to 60? How many pills is that? What have already killed what happens to my liver? What happens to my pancreas like all the things right? So I started searching for an alternative. And I found cannabis took me about nine months. And in the nine months, I was able to get off of all of my lupus medication using a THC CBD regimen that I use much to this day. And I couldn't walk I didn't have to have a cane that was like confined to my house, I was able to go places. And I absolutely could have gone back to being a database architect. Sure, no problem that's always waiting for me even today, but was really angry that I had wasted five years of my life using synthetic medications prescribed by doctors that actually didn't help. And those are my five what they call your five highest earning years. I totally lost those because not only have I been told by propaganda at that point, that cannabis is bad. But that is the stigma for Mexican people like you don't want you know, don't smoke marijuana, or they're gonna think you're a lazy Mexican, or these huge tropes around people of color to not look for holistic medicine. And so I couldn't go back to being a database architect, I actually had to start a cannabis company to make sure that other Latinos and black women who I knew a lot of them in the Bay Area who suffer from lupus because it affects us the most, that they had access to alternative medicine. And you have to first work through the tropes, the propaganda tropes around people of color and the use of cannabis. And that's how I got into the cannabis industry.

Shayda Torabi  13:25  
First off, I can't even begin to understand the extent of what kind of pain you were going through, I have my own experience of how I got into the industry. And it came after me being in a pretty gnarly car accident where I was hit by vehicles a pedestrian, so I got put on the same, you know, mix of opioids, and that was the alternative. I was in my mid 20s. And it was okay, now I'm confronted with chronic pain, what other alternatives do I have? So I really empathize with that life altering, you know, instance, where the only option, at least what is being promoted to you is Western medicine, it is medication, and it's no detriment to doctors, I think they do the best that they can. But I'm currently going through a little bit of what you're you were explaining in terms of trying to go now revisit some doctors to get more answers. And I've gone to at least three or four at this point. And sorry, I can't help you go to the next one. But do you want to medication because I can put you on gabapentin, and I'm like, I don't want to be on Gabapentin. I don't want to be on medication. And so it's the unfortunate reality that a lot of people are experiencing and being able to one find the right provider, but also finding out how to procure that medicine, how to understand how to dose yourself is part of that equation. Right? So I know that you have so much now that you're involved in in the industry from these opportunities for Latina women, but your diversity campaigns that you've been trying to champion in the industry. I'm really fascinated with your background in tech, especially getting into dow Dow Dows I know nothing clearly about web three and NF T's or anything like that. And then obviously running your dispensaries and all the operations that go into all those different facets from the growing and cultivation to the actual product possession and the dispensary side of things. You're operating in multiple states too. So I want to get into a little bit of what that has been like and kind of where you've leaned into setting up a dispensary getting a license and certainly want to get your thoughts on licensing. But before we get into that, I am really curious because you mentioned it, when you're dealing with it from your own personal experience. You're trying to navigate cannabis from pain and trying to find what is the right combination? How did you start to navigate you mentioned took you nine months, and you found a combination of CBD to THC? Was there somebody that was walking you through? Hey, this is the best amount to take from a dosing perspective, this is the best consumption method, I want to get a little bit of understanding for me because you are so impactful in the industry for so many people. And I know that that is a component for people, not necessarily operating a business in the industry, but from that consumer who all of our businesses touches ultimately, you know, the opportunity to consume cannabis legally freely. How did you start to navigate how much to take and what works for you remember,

Christine De La Rosa  16:11  
this is 2015. And in 2013, there was not a lot of information on the Internet like there is now like now there's so much more than I had access to mostly what you saw was basically YouTube videos of two dudes smoking to do and like laughing hysterically and ripping bombs and that's what you had. So I didn't actually the Internet didn't help me as much there were some like, really random sort of deeply embedded, like information about you know, CBD about the endocannabinoid system, a little bit around terpenes Leafly was coming was pretty in place. So you could look up strains and they kind of told you what they were supposed to do, like, you know, and of course, at that point, we only had medical in California. So they could tell you it was purple punch and it could be granddaddy purple, like you didn't really know right like that, like now you have colas and things like that. And they did have stuff like that like at the time, but nobody at the dispensaries told me that like I had to learn like that was I think the biggest shift that I've seen in the last seven years is that bud tenders are now way more knowledgeable than when I went to my first thing and no shade to the bud tenders. Nobody was teaching them there wasn't the internet like there was just like nothing. So it was really for me trial and error like now I could have done it much faster with with all the technology that we currently have. It was sort of like testing that test. I remember the first time I went into my first legal dispensary. I just bought as much as I could afford. It was flour. It was tincture. It was gummies it was chocolate it was, you know blondes, it was you know, pre rolls, and I just started trying everything. And then I kind of got rid of the things I didn't like so like I was a very heavy cigarette smoker for most of my young adult life. I quit like mostly as a young adult, but I was probably 40 When I quit. So it's been it was for quite some time that I smoked. So I didn't want to smoke flower because it made me want to have a cigarette. But what happened is that when I was quitting smoking, I used vapes, CBD vapes to help quit smoking. So for me, the flower wasn't the thing I wanted to do. It's not that I don't like it. It's just that I have this intense craving, you know, for 28 years of smoking regular cigarettes. Um, I found that tinctures worked really well for me. But the thing I had to sort of figure out was, what do I take during the day? What do I take midday? What do I take in the evening and what I found for myself, was that the THC indica tinctures or gummies worked really well for me to help me go to sleep. When you're somebody who's in constant pain, I remember I would go to sleep and I would sleep but in my my brain was active, right? It was like, Oh, your knee swelling your hips, hurting your foots doing this, you're about to go into a cramp. You never get into restorative sleep. And I think that was the first breakthrough for me to understand that an indica THC would put me down. And that I didn't have that racing thought like I remember being asleep awake, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Into can help me just go into restorative sleep. So that was the first time like, in five years, I was like, I actually slept. And when I woke up the next morning, I felt better because I wasn't exhausted. And then once I got that kind of dialed in, I was able to decide what I wanted to do during the day. And that's where CBD came in pretty heavily for me because I have a tendency to fall. So being high, like super high during the day when I'm moving around is not my best plan. I mean, so I found that doing a pretty substantial amount of CBD like 40 to 60 milligrams a day at the beginning of my day kind of floated me through doing a light sativa so we're not talking like 72% thc like I really always hate when the industry like that's like something to hang your hat on and it's like that's something to hang your hat on for like 2% of the population that wanted to have somebody 4% THC but the rest of us we are people that have a bunch of different needs. So some people need high sativa no shame I did not I wanted to light sativa in the afternoon to help me get up over the hump, if I had it was experiencing any pain I could up my dosage but for the most part the last seven years I've been on 40 to 60 milligrams of CBD in the morning if I needed a light sativa in the afternoon and then a heavy indica in the evening via a tincture or gummy and it was just trial and error.

Shayda Torabi  20:20  
It is it is so much trial and error and to kind of you know, bridge a gap and kind of create some context for the listeners to you know, they know I'm in Texas. I know you're in Texas, but you also split your time in California and you mentioned kind of starting discovering what you were feeling from a pain perspective happened in Texas and then you're transferring into California where it's clearly much more open to cannabis and especially as the years have progressed it's become even more saturated from a cannabis perspective. So here we don't have choice. I mean CBD yes you now see the introduction and the education which I think hemp has provided to the industry at large minor cannabinoids and being able to explore Okay, do I want to CBG CBD or a CBN CBD and maybe a little bit of THC but I'm really curious. Okay, so you are discovering cannabis is helping you. You're living predominantly in California at least splitting your time California is legalizing during this process you're getting in the industry. How do you start to even begin to tackle address create put into motion? Okay, I'm launching a business did it start with cultivation first? Did it start with dispensing first? How did you start to approach the this works for me, I've now found relief with this product. I know that there are other people who identify with me and they would also love to use this product and not be shamed and have easy access to it and a variety of products and be educated on the journey of trialing and airing things. How do you start kind of getting in the industry?

Christine De La Rosa  21:50  
We started in the legacy market so I didn't even start legally I started in the legacy illegal black, illicit, whatever they're calling it today. We always call it the legacy market because in California and especially in Oakland, where I'm from or where I was living at the time, there was a municipal a measure on the books called measure Z. Basically what Austin just did right now, right Austin just recently in case you don't know Hey, Austin, has has decriminalized cannabis, right. So in Oakland, they said, Hey, we're not going to arrest you. If you have cannabis. Like we're just not going to do it. This was back in 2013 2014. And then they said, you can sell to each other if you're part of a collective. So we were a collective. And we started in the back in a closet, you can literally go to the About page on the website, and you'll see me in the closet that started out as a dispensary. And what we did is we grew our own in our backyard. And the reason I did it was because over those five years that I was just really sick. I belong to groups about chronic illness and depression, lupus and how to live with it. Like I belong to all these groups. And all the people in those groups were taking very similar things like when you said GABA couldn't I was like, Yeah, I know that one. gabapentin, Lyrica, prednisone, like, I've been on all of those. And I thought most of these women who are black and brown don't feel comfortable going into a dispensary where they don't see themselves representative. And that was very true at that time. And also they don't know like, it's just it seems scary. It's so scary to them. So I thought we're just going to open up, we had a retail shop, I'm like, we'll just open up a little dispensary in the back. We'll have three strains. That's how we started with three strains that we had grown in the backyard, and we'll just help people we'll sell it to them, you know, for very low cost. And then, you know, teach them how to figure this out so that they feel comfortable and they can go into a medical dispensary. And immediately immediately, well, I thought we would have like maybe 50 to 60 people that I knew personally that would come in. We have 4500 people that signed up within the first three months. And so we moved the dispensary to a 300 square foot facility. And what was cool about California at the time, was everything that you could find in a medical dispensary I had on my shelves because they would sell to the collectives. And so if you had this type of vape at this at the store, I have the same vape and have the same thing. And I had better weed because I was going directly to the farms and picking the weed myself, like I remember many times driving in the middle of the night, couple hours. And I would go into this house. And there just be all of these pounds laid out and I'd go through all of them looking at the crystals I mean hundreds of pounds and pick the ones I thought would sell really well in our dispensary. We come back with 28 pounds in the back of the car and then spend the rest of the night packaging them so that we would be have it ready by the time we were open at nine. And so that's kind of how I got into it was very much in a thinking of how we're going to help people and then realizing if there's 4500 People that in the last three months feel like they would prefer to come to this little place. There's obviously a need for what we're doing and what were we doing well, we were people of color. We were women. We were LGBTQ we were veterans they saw themselves reflected and that's when we began the transition in 2018 to the legal market. It's been tough. It's been tough.

Shayda Torabi  25:02  
I can't even imagine that transition because of what I'm privy to now and kind of the 2020 2022 kind of era especially when you look at California I think to most people, it is the land of opportunity in terms of cannabis and it has you know, it's the best weed has gad cush. And so it's it's exciting to be a part of California cannabis. But I think people don't fully realize cannabis in general, right has all these hurdles, California cannabis has its own hurdles. And then for minorities getting into the industry is even more challenging. And so I am a little curious, what was the experience like transitioning from legacy to legal because my understanding is any assumption, right? I always try to, you know, reference things for the listeners to kind of recall from previous episodes just for my own journey, so I'm in Austin, I own a CBD brand. The assumption is, oh, Shayda when Texas legalizes you're gonna get a license to sell marijuana. And I know better. I know that that's not how it goes. And I know, that's what my state's going to do to legalize, I can be hopeful I can do everything I can do to be in line to be a good candidate for a license. But you look at Florida, their limited licensure and their medical only versus Oklahoma open free for all and I just, you know, I'm wrestling with Okay, well, what does that actually mean, for me opportunities, small business, you know, homegrown Texas gal to actually have an illegal market. So I can't imagine coming from legacy to go into the legal side of things that it was, yeah, come on, Christine. And CO like, let's roll out a carpet. You've been doing this, you're helping your community. Here's a license. So I love to hear from you. What was that journey of navigating licensing, and then also just to kind of plant a seed with you. And I don't want to butcher this. I know, you talk a lot about open markets are more equitable than markets with a social equity component. And I think that's an interesting conversation too, right? Because I think the states when they legalize, and you're getting into getting licensing, they think, Oh, well, if I have this social, equitable or social equity, sorry, license opportunity that's checking the box for minorities and other people who, you know, fit into that category to have an opportunity. But we know that's not the reality of what's actually happening in the States. So did you find that California was just difficult in general, because it was California getting a license? Or did you find there were other issues being a minority in the scheme of you know, all these larger people with deep pockets trying to operate legally in the industry?

Christine De La Rosa  27:43  
I'm gonna tell you, California is a hellscape. For anybody, whether you're a big company or a small company, it is just hell right now. It is just such a broken system on so many levels. I mean, I know that we just signed a letter to the governor asking, like, right now people are paying 40 45% taxes on their cannabis. And then you're like, why is two thirds of the market still in the underground market? Because nobody can afford your damn weed. Right? It was a hellscape. I mean, it's been tough. Like we've had to pivot several times, it when you have a little limited license state and you have social equity, as part of that limited license state, what ends up happening is that you create the Hunger Games for people of color. So instead of everybody being able to apply, get a license, figure out their money, and you know, this is just regular things. And I get what they were saying, like, we want people of color formerly incarcerated to be at the front of the line, except none of those people have been in the front of line for any of the states. So at some point, you have to say this isn't working. This is not working when you have an open state, like an Oklahoma, which I know people who aren't, but they at least have opportunity, right unity. So we have applied in several states where we haven't received the license because it was a lottery or because there's a lawsuit like because every one of these things have failed, the government has totally failed, and actually you doing social equity. So we went to New Mexico, and I was like, I really want to get a license in New Mexico. And 45 days later, we had a vertical license for $1,000. And I had been saying it but to actually experience it was really difficult because I've been saying like the barrier to entry for people of color, remove those barriers, and then we will be in that system. And what they've done is created just a bunch of barriers. You can look to Illinois, right where there's been now two years, we've been waiting for licenses and open dispensaries, while the original multi state operators and state operators that existed in medical have made over $2 billion. And none of that has gone to anybody of color or a woman. So it's been tough. And so that's why I really advocate like why are you policing me? Like why are you policing people of color? And that seems very odd. And so we when we look to like New York, right? In New York, they did this thing where they're like if you're an investor, you can only invest in three companies. That is a social equity company. That's what you can invest But if you want to invest in one of the current mros, you can invest in online of them. Why are we letting people be like, you can invest as much as you want over here. But for people who actually don't have access to capital and need capital, you can only invest in three, even if you wanted to invest in 20. And so we keep seeing this where they keep hiding behind social equity and saying, oh, you know, we're gonna use social equity. But really, for me, social equity means stopping us from being in the industry,

Shayda Torabi  30:24  
it's really uncomfortable to start peeling back the curtain and realizing how things have, quote, unquote, legalized, right. Again, I think that perception of opportunity or the perception of Oh, the states have these social equitable programs and looking at states like New York that has the perception of, and I guess, like, the kind of question tied into it as the perception is New York is a great program, right? For social equity. But the reality is, it's confined, so maybe it's okay, well, you can invest, but you're limited compared to if it's a non social equitable company. Are there any states that are doing it, right? Slash? How do you actually make change? Like, yes, New Mexico seems to be a good candidate, from what we can tell so far in terms that no social

Christine De La Rosa  31:12  
equity, and they made the barrier for people of color low, right, they said, You don't have to pay $50,000 to get a vertical license, you can pay $1,000. And then it's up to you, you might be holding that vertical, and never be able to realize the profitability because you don't have access to capital. But at least you got the ticket. You don't I'm saying like before, like, when we applied in LA, it was they were in litigation for two and a half years, people were holding on to their properties. People were like, you know, and there's a few that are open now. But there's there was 300 licenses that were for dispensaries in LA. And I think I can count on two hands, how many have actually opened? It's very

Shayda Torabi  31:53  
sad, again, when you realize what the opportunity perception is, and then what the opportunity reality is, and how it's actually impacting the industry and who's able to participate. And I appreciate and acknowledge your point, too. It's not everybody who has a ticket, which is the reality of an open market is going to succeed. You know, do you have good marketing? Do you have good quality products? Are you in a location that is relative, you know, popular to who is coming to be your customer, XYZ are all these inputs, so great, maybe you have the license, but you're not doing anything with it. But to not even be able to have access to an opportunity to have your hat in the ring and to contribute to trying to grow something. That's where it's really gut wrenching. And I think it's demystifying this. Again, legalization of cannabis is like legalization of cannabis for who, who is actually going to have an opportunity to participate in it. So you've mentioned a couple of states that you've applied or are doing business in, can you just outline all the states that you are currently operating in, and then I'll follow up from there, because I'm just curious, because it's different. Every state

Christine De La Rosa  33:00  
is different for every state. So we operate in California, we just got our licenses in New Mexico. So we'll start our operations there probably in August. And then we have a dispensary consumption of manufacturing and the delivery and distribution. So we have five licenses. And so that will start operating there. We also now we're going to be in New York as a brand. So not as an operational company, but as a brand. And that's really exciting because there's not much we can do right now. You can't do any white label in New York. So everything is around hemp, CBD, and that's fine. But to be in the market is also very important. We have stuff in Michigan going on right now, which we really love that state. And hopefully to close a couple of deals there. So we're super excited to sleeper state. I mean, well, it's the third largest, you know, really, it's a big, it's going to be a big state. I just love it do some work in Oregon, we had a dispensary in Oregon, we sold it in 2021 to reinvest it into the business to start the brand part of it. So the brand side of of the people's ecosystem, we have a couple of deals that are brewing also in California for a quick acquisition. And so that's kind of where we operate. Right now, I don't have a plan to go into New York City because I think it's just a very long time. Like, I will be super surprised if there's subseries from this round or open in three years. So for me, that's like something that I want to wait for. I have high hopes for Texas, which I know is just a fool's mission, but I just feel like I feel like I didn't seen some movement. Like when I'm in my ear, I don't know you probably have your hair to the ground to that there might be some movement, but whether or not there'll be some movement for actual licensing of dispensaries. It's really you know, to get to be seen, um, but we do we do CBD work here. And in Texas. We have a CBD line that we sell, you know, online, we have a couple of stores that's carrying it. So we just kind of I think what we're doing what everybody who's not an MSO which for people who don't know what that is. It's a multi state operator. There's large companies. I think we're waiting to see how everything shakes.

Shayda Torabi  35:00  
Wow, that's a fair position. And you certainly have your hands full trying to navigate all these different aspects of not just one state going from cultivation to manufacturing to sales, which are to your point from New Mexico different licenses. I know different states have different structures for their licenses. And like we're talking about Oklahoma, Florida, they are vertical integration required versus states like New Mexico, where you could just be a cultivator. Or you could just be a retail operator. My follow up to that is a little bit more too, because I think what I try to extract out of my guess is the understanding of so you want to work in cannabis. It's like, okay, well, what does that actually look like? So again, your glamourizing, California, or projecting Texas opening up, but the realities of actually taking the steps forward to open these doors of opportunity of business? What state has been, let's say, the most surprising to you in terms of operating? Maybe it's Michigan, I'm just curious what maybe we don't know about some of these states that you've had to learn by actually being a part of it from a marketing from a business perspective, because there are different rules of packaging state to state. So how does that impact your business as the people's ecosystem, but that in New York has probably a different packaging and label than Michigan than New Mexico. So what has been the most surprising state navigating and kind of some of these, you know, other aspects of what's operating and all these states? That's a lot.

Christine De La Rosa  36:37  
It is, I think the biggest thing we've learned the hard way, and this is what I'd tell anybody, and this is specifically who people are going to do brands, because I tell people this all the time, what we've learned in the last four years of California being legalized of Michigan being legalized of you know, Oklahoma, is that you have to have your SOPs if you're going to do brand work, which is what only really the only thing you can do. If you want to be multistate, unless you have just a ton of money to buy licenses in every state, you're really looking at brand work. And a lot of people when they get to brands are like, Oh, they're thinking about the supplement, you know, where you can get all of your stuff done in Utah and get it distributed out to wherever you want that cannabis is not like that, because you can't cross state lines. It's state by state. So one of the biggest things is what when you say how am I going to operate in multiple states, you have to start with this is why we always start in California, because it has probably the toughest regulation for packaging. Like it's basically like the opposite of New York. Like if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere in the packaging, because that is the thing that will cause you the most issue is the packaging. I can't tell you when we were doing packaging in Oregon, we would send out the packaging and the the I think it was called the OCC would send it back and be like, here's this one little dot that you cannot put on there. And you're like, you're gonna send this whole thing back to be redesigned and redone for one little dot they were like, yes, yes, we are. So I think SOPs are really important and having people on your team that understand the minutia. And this is where it gets expensive, right? If you have the same packaging, the packaging that you have on a Johnson Johnson over here, and California is the same packaging you're going to have in Texas as the same packaging, no comes becomes expensive, because you have two people who understand inherently what that state's gonna need. And so one things I would tell people, if you're wanting to get into cannabis, understand the amount of regulation that you're going to have to understand or somebody on the team is going to have to understand and understand that if you don't have that compliance person, you're gonna waste a lot of money redoing stuff, because I did I mean, I didn't know I had to get somebody that knew that kind of minutia. So that's like, the biggest thing I will tell you, if you're trying to get prepared for licensing, like you want to have a cultivation, that I'm going to tell you, you better be at every state right meeting, you need to be in the process, because in California, much like actually, Oregon, we were like, Okay, you're gonna tell us what the regulations are. And then we're just gonna follow the regulation. And then we're gonna get a license. That was a feeling back in 2018. And we really quickly found out that we had been regulated out of the market, the ease to be able to get a license had been regulated out. And so now we were stuck in this really difficult place, trying to figure out how to get a license. So I would tell people it is to me, it's worth it. Like it's been seven years of struggle, and we still struggle, like it's not done, but I think we're better at it now. And so I want to encourage people to be in the cannabis industry, especially women, especially people of color. And I also want to be like, let people know it's such a huge undertaking, and I've opened to restaurants, I've had art galleries like we've gone through some shit and like, you know, it's been tough but nothing prepared me for the cannabis industry. Like everything you could do as a regular business you cannot do as a cannabis industry. So people are like, Oh, I can just go do that. I mean, I remember thinking like, I'll just get a line of credit because I've got lines of credit for my restaurants before they're like, you think you're gonna get a line of credit? No, you're not. No, you're not enough. So just to be aware of all that, but that's the thing. Like, you have to figure out your banking. We have like three banks. We have one on the East Coast, one of the West Coast, one that one in the Midwest, so that we're always in there, Canada's thinking like they know we do cannabis. But you never know what the whim of the FDIC, the whim of the banking institution can be like, yeah, no, we have square square shut us down a million times, even though they advertise that they do CBD. Ain't that the truth? Yeah. So you're constantly in a battle for safe banking, you're constantly in a battle to keep your business open. And so know that it's difficult and also wildly rewarding. I love it. Like, I wake up every morning, and I'm like, have my three screens and I'm like, is this video game? It's a lot of fun. And also, we get to smoke weed. So like, what's wrong with that? That's awesome. No,

Shayda Torabi  40:57  
it is, it's fun to be able to work in an industry that you are like, directly, especially like as a business a consumer of and knowing that what you're doing is helping bring more people into the fold, bring more people into the opportunity of consuming business, just kind of paving the way and helping normalize and professionalized at the same time is very rewarding. But all those pain points are unfortunately very real and felt across not only you know, myself and my personal experiences, but I know the listeners because we're all navigating it from different perspectives, right? But the reality is, these are the challenges of operating in the cannabis industry. And I'm always shocked at every state to sit I learned something new from every guest. I'm like, Oh, I didn't know that you had to do that in New York. That's crazy.

Christine De La Rosa  41:43  
And you have your own CBD brand. And one of the things I love is that when you create your brand, when you create your product, you're creating it very personally, like when I create a product, you know, I one of the first beverages we came out with is five milligrams, it's a little shot. And people were like, oh, people do 50 milligrams, 100 milligrams, two, they do. And I'm like, Yes. And there's not a beverage that I can drink. Because as a patient, I'm looking for fast acting pain relief, and I want something where I can continue my day. So even though yes, I'm sure there's a whole group of people that want 100 milligrams in a shot, I don't. So I'm gonna make the products that I want cuz I know that there's a group of people out there enough to sustain this product line that also want to have that kind of elevated experience. This is what I love about especially in cannabis and also CBD and hemp. You're creating the products you wish you could have had when you were feeling really bad.

Shayda Torabi  42:35  
Absolutely. I think that's also where we see the most change and impact happening in the industry is not just creating products for the sake of i don't know i do i do as much as I like Oklahoma for their open market. It's so crazy to me some of these milligrams and then they say it's for medical and I'm like I just don't know who needs 10,000 milligrams of THC that person's you know, not functioning then at that point, they're just super sedated. Which if that's what they want to be, you know, no skin off my back, but trying to to your point, if that's their brand, that's their business, but what brand are you creating? And you know, what products do you want to see and who is that customer that you're trying to deliver for?

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. I want to circle back around you're talking about SOPs, and it's a hugely important topic, I topic that I think is relevant to cannabis I hear you know, from certain businesses, they implement it, you know, especially the businesses who I think have learned the hard way and are like, Oh, I really do need to implement SOPs, but it's not fully adopted in our industry. And so I love when people bring it up, because I do think it's an important topic, but the extension of that where I think you talk a lot about and so I want to make sure to highlight it and also get some understanding from you is the hiring the implementation of okay, so you have SOPs, who's going to implement the SOPs? How do you hire people to be an extension of you not only in let's say your brand is growing in California and you can't do everything in that one state but now you're multi state operating, how are you hiring and what does that makeup look like at your company? I know you We have a lot of different diversity included and represented, which I think is important and very wonderful to have represented at such a high level in the cannabis industry to be talked about and reflected because it's not. The reality is it's not right. But we're changing that you're changing that you're helping to champion that. But so how do you find these people? How do you bring them in? Are they a part of your main team? Does your main team operate in California and New Mexico and Michigan? Do you have separate teams that are isolated in perhaps an isolated like that, but they live in Michigan and you're activating them and you're hiring them? Just how do you approach hiring and diversity and then executing on these SOPs to deliver on the brand value that is, you know, what you're building.

Christine De La Rosa  45:41  
So we have a management company that manages all of our assets, right? And so the main group of people belong to that management group. And then as we need additional employees or additional partners, then that still goes under the management. So they're part of whatever, like, if they're doing manufacturing, they're part of the manufacturing group. And so what we do first with the SOPs is we have to be I always told this to people, before you hire a single person, you need to find the manufacturer in the state you want to go to, you need to fly out there, you need to sit with their team, you need to show them the SOPs, you need to figure out are they the right manufacturer for you, they may or may not be. If they're not, then you need to find the next manufacturer, because there's no need to hire anybody to execute SOPs. If you haven't found the manufacturer and the distributor in that state that you're going to be using to create your product line. Once you identify your manufacturer. And you sign contracts. Very important. I cannot tell you how many people I've seen the word partnership, no, everything has to be in writing, it has to be really super clear, like so clear. Like, you know, I want point two, five milliliters of this particular thing in each of the whatever I'm doing, I need exactly this amount of this isolette in this chocolate, and the chocolate has to be this type of chocolate that you get from the supplier. It literally has to be that precise. Once you signed the contract with that manufacturer and distributor to manufacture your products to spec, you then need to have them do samples from the SOP. Because sometimes I know you know this, sometimes when you're writing something, the way a person reads it is different. And so you come back and you're like, oh my god, like you're using this terrible chocolate. Well, you said chocolate, but we just wouldn't got some Hershey chocolate. No, we don't want to use Hershey's chocolate, you know what I mean? So you want to have that sense of like, can they get it done? Do we have all the tweaks out so that they know, once you have that, then you bring in people in your team. And you can do it in two different ways. We've done it in two different ways we can do contract. And then if they because if we're going from state to state, I don't need everybody in the state, right. And we decided that that's going to be a big state for us, then we will hire you know w TOS to manage that territory. But there's a lot of pieces that happen before you get to that person, right, all of these things that you have to do to ensure that you're setting them up for success. Like that's the other thing about hiring I think is super important. A lot of times I've seen in this industry, but it also in other industries, we hired this person, you know, they didn't work out, they weren't part of the team that didn't embed well with the other folks, when in fact, they were not set up to succeed, because there were all these other things that they didn't know they were gonna have to do. And I've made that mistake as a founder, where I've hired somebody, I'm like, yes, you're the people. And then I'm like, go and do it. And they're like, there's no SOPs, there's no, you know, framework around what my expectation is. And I think because in the cannabis industry, we move so fast, we just sort of hire people to like, try it. And we can't do that we have to be really considered so that people have good experiences with your company.

Shayda Torabi  48:48  
How do you handle the SOP part of it? Are you writing it to your point iterating on it, you're getting a sample back, for example, and it's Hey, that's not what I asked for. So are you actively involved in writing these SOPs? Is it a team thing?

Christine De La Rosa  49:05  
I have folks, I have folks that have that write the SOPs. What we do for our company is we start in California and we get the SOP together because we are here. And we can easily drive to our manufacturers, right? It's not over the phone. It's not over zoom. I'm like, oh, there's a problem with this. You hopped in the car you drive. And the person that really does that, for us is my co founder Charlene todai. Because she actually is an Oakland full time I split my time. And so she's the one that will hop into her car and be like, she'll be out for cosa be like, Hey, let me try this. This doesn't seem right. She'll go up to the farms and be like, Okay, this is what we're looking for. So I think it's important to have somebody on the ground that can physically go to the facilities when you're having an issue because sometimes the issue is so small, and it seems big because you're far away. Like sometimes we've been in play so I'm like, oh my god, this is terrible. And then Charlie will drive out there like it's not terrible. We got it fixed up. No worry about it, you know, and so I think that we are she is very hands on As, as Melanie Davis, who's the CFO, the Chief of Operations, because she has to, she's the one on, you know, managing operations and sales teams, like all the people that make it happen, you know. And so I think that we are very hands on at the beginning, because you have to be it's your company, you have to be hands on. Like, there's no shortcut there. Yeah. And nobody as you know, nobody will care about your product more than you will.

Shayda Torabi  50:22  
You mentioned something earlier that I just wanted to reiterate, because I thought that is so important to share again, right? And it goes in line with what you're just saying, nobody's gonna care more than you care. And you were talking about back when you were first starting and driving to the farms and picking the flower up yourself and packaging and being ready first thing the next morning, I do think the industry gets glamorized to, oh, you're selling weed I can sell weed to like, this is super easy. And nobody wants to actually put the work in or roll their sleeves up, or try and learn as things are maybe you know, failing, because there's going to be failures. And I just think that it's so refreshing to hear the honesty, which is what I always appreciate with my podcast is like cut the shit like, let's just talk as blunt as we can, right? Because we believe in the industry and we believe in the power of this plant. And if we can't succeed as a community, then who has opportunity to participate in it. And so I really believe the rising tide lifts all boats, but then it starts with Well, how am I in control of myself? My business, my operation, when I'm passing off to a consumer, I talk a lot about to on the podcast, we sell consumer packaged goods, keyword consumer, someone is consuming this product. So yes, what is the experience? What is the effect? How am I being marketed to how am I being educated. And so that's on the consumer side. And then obviously, to to your other point, how your employees are empowered and educated and trained through SOPs or through just like general hiring processes and empowered to operate on behalf of your business. It is more difficult. I mean, personally speaking, too, we've had those same experiences, you know, we've hired people that, oh, you're really good at X, Y, or Z, but I'm running 1000 miles now we're in I didn't do the best job actually expressing my expectations to you. And then it's getting lost in translation. And sometimes it's not a fit. Sometimes that person, you know, moves on sometimes that person can be coached. But it's hard when again, cannabis is seen as so cool, because we are in weed and it is fun. And it does help us feel better at the end of the day. But it's also a business at the end of the day. So how do you run and operate a business with all these daggers being thrown at you? So

Christine De La Rosa  52:42  
have you ever gotten to the carnival where there's things moving, and then you have to throw? Like, that's what it feels like when you're the cannabis industry, you're moving and darts are being thrown at you and you're trying to dodge them? Yeah. And sometimes you get it. And sometimes it's a NIC and sometimes it's a bloody mess. But that is such a good analogy. And it's it's like to be in the cannabis industry like seriously. And it's not that I'm trying to, like discourage people from joining, I just want them to understand the weight of what you're doing. And like, what that what the level of commitment you have to have. And one of the things I always tell people, like we have an accelerator going on right now with the founders, as I tell them, there's going to be a million times you're going to want to quit, like literally me and surely we've had midnight cause we're like, can we continue to do this, we're so tired, you know. So just stick with it. The next day comes and maybe the sun's not shining, but it's not raining. And so like, that's really an important thing. Like, we want to tell you, I don't want anybody to be as surprised as I was about how difficult this was going to be. But in the same breath, I want to make sure that they know to me, and hopefully to them, it's worth it.

Shayda Torabi  53:46  
They were prepared. That's the best way of putting it right. It's Yes, this is difficult, but you can try again tomorrow, and it's gonna be okay, I try to remind my team for better or worse, you know, there are certain aspects where we are extensions of doctors, especially when we are dealing with products people are consuming, but I tell them, you know, we're not doctors, nobody's dying. At the end of the day, it's okay, if things didn't get done, or something didn't go the way we planned. But yeah, I share that same, you know, empathy of it is hard. And sometimes you want to throw the towel in, I think especially here in Texas, the game and when is it coming is like I don't know. And I'm not really confident, but then at the same time because of some of the conversations that I'm privy to. And I certainly try to share as much as I can on the podcast just being realistic about the reality of things. Will I even get a license and so you have to kind of, you know, adjust expectations from that regard to have what is what is possible and probable given where I live and what opportunities I have access to. I want to ask you another question you were talking about brand versus like operations. If I can rephrase that. I'm curious in some of these states that you're just a brand are you licensing your brand to these manufacturers to create like do you actually have a lot Since in every state you're operating, because I think that was a big surprising AHA to me, just through the podcast, realizing, I talked, I interviewed this one gentleman from they're actually called possible. They're like a farm in California and their whole shtick is you do not need to own a license, all you got to do is bring them the brand idea, have the go to market strategy have the sales team kind of figured out, and they will cultivate, process and manufacture you it's predominantly smokeable. Or as I say, it's exclusively smokeable. They're not doing edibles or anything, but then they will distribute your pre rolls. And then you can be a brand in California without touching a license, which I think is really important to highlight because again, I think people assume that they have to get a license to operate in the industry. And that's not true. So do you have a license for all the states you're operating in? And if not, is it a brand licensing deal, not so much a license right operation, but kind of how is that set up for you in any insight, you have to that?

Christine De La Rosa  55:57  
I think you have to really, just because I know that there's probably new listeners or listeners who are trying to figure out how to get into the industry, I think the thing that you have to consider is there are physical licenses, right to physical licenses, that you have to have to grow, to manufacture, to distribute and to dispense, you cannot do any of those things without a license. But here's what you can do without a license at all, no license in any state. And we can look to one a brands for that kind of footprint, thanks to Nancy, right, where she doesn't own a single license. But what she did is went into partnerships with manufacturers in the states that she wanted to go in, she had really good SOPs, and she's like, let's put together a contract. And I don't know what her contracts are, like, I'll tell you some of the ones that we've done, we've done some jayvees, which are joint ventures, we have done some licensing deals, and to make sure that that's how a license to grow. That's actually a contract where you're saying I'm gonna license my brand to you the manufacturer, and then you're gonna pay me a percentage of whatever, you know, we decided to contract. The other one that I liked a lot, and I like it a lot is royalty royalties. For me, I like those actually better than licensing licensing is kind of like, I'm gonna pay you a flat rate, I'm going to create this thing for you, I'm gonna go sell it, you know, and if it's good, it's good. If not, we'll just stop, we won't do it anymore. Royalties allows the brands to participate in the success of their brand, because they're getting a piece of every single thing that is sold, as opposed to licensing, it's kind of just a license, like, let's just say the license is 100,000, right, I'm gonna pay you $100,000 To use your like to use your brand to use your idea to use your IP or intellectual property or royalty is like, if I sell this $10 pre roll, and the net revenue for that is $5, you're gonna get 60%, I'm gonna get 40%. And I like those revenue shares, I feel like they're more equitable. The licensing agreements are necessarily, and I've looked at places like it's the morally brand who sold their name, and now they don't have any control over their name, you always want to have control over your brand. And Licensing can make sure that you don't have that if it's written just the right way. So I think that, so for me, we don't have to have licenses in every state in order to do any of the brand stuff. But if I want to have a dispensary, I have to have a license for sure. So like in California, we have delivery licenses as well. And so what we do in the delivery is that we use our own delivery service delivered direct to consumer, right, but you don't have to have that you can have a deal with a manufacturer, that manufacturer can put your stuff on the menu, and then sell it to the dispensaries and you actually never touch the plant. You're literally just that license agreement, super helpful to clarify. And there's so many ways so many ways, the way that you can sell cannabis in this in the United States, it's just about getting good lawyers and good accountants.

Shayda Torabi  58:44  
This is true for sure more to like explore, I just think it's so fascinating and fun to highlight these ways, certainly being I think more brought up when people have gone through it themselves and kind of learned the hard way through some of these bad deals. So that's how you kind of get to good deals, and also influencing perhaps other industries that have other deal structures that we just didn't know were possible in the cannabis industry. And so again, I think it's important to highlight these because even those of us and I point to myself being in the industry, to some extent, certainly not in a legal operating aspect of the industry, but talking to a lot of people who are and I'm like, Oh, how are these people operating? And then you ask and it's Oh, it's this deal, or it's that deal? And I don't have a license or I didn't get a license. It's like oh, okay, that's cool, or that sucks. And that's how you start to build out what is possible right? So I appreciate you sharing that final question. I want to turn to tech just a little bit because I know that you're a part of that conversation. I know your history comes from the tech side of the you know world helping install these nice LTE, the towers. You've been part of the tech world and selling all these LTE towers transitioning now into the web 3.0 Dows NF T's. I can imagine why you were inspired to get back into tech especially from a cannabis perspective because that's what you're comfortable with surprisingly, I come from tech, but I was not that techie in that side. So for me, NF T's goes over my head. But South Bay was a really good experience. Because they were, yes, so many NFT pop ups and conversations and panels and people that I got a really good Crash Course and it but I still haven't dabbled in it myself. But it is up and coming whether you want to participate or not. And so from your perspective, what was the importance of leaning into NF Ts? What is a Dao in conjunction to an NF? T? And what do you see as the future of that technology's implication, providing a pathway for cannabis businesses, entrepreneurs, founders opportunities?

Christine De La Rosa  1:00:44  
Yeah. I mean, I think the thing for me with web three is access to capital, like, period stop. Right before, when we look at I think I saw this somebody mentioned this, Mango sold his painting for pennies on the dollar. And then years later, it sold for $15 million. He never saw or his estate never saw any part of that money, right? Because he had sold it to a buyer that buyer sold it. One of the things I come from an artist background, I have a BFA in photography and painting, and I have a Master's of humanities. So we're very much interested on how we treat our artists or musicians or creatives, right. And so when I first heard of NFT, a couple years ago, I was like, This is amazing, because the actual artists can continue to make money as it's sold, right? And I was very intrigued by that. I also didn't really understand that just because I'm like, it's a gift, like I can make a gift in my sleep. Like why is that important? So I read and I wasn't quite understanding. But then when they started to come out with like the Dow's the decentralized autonomous organizations, I started to see that this was a way in which we could democratize access to capital. And as a person of color as a woman, which is really hard to get to capital. In the traditional sense, this seemed like a really great alternative. Because right now, in this country, you have to have a net worth of $1.1 million, not including your primary household, in order to be considered an accredited investor that can invest outside of a mutual fund outside of the 401k. Well, we know that 99% of the people in this country would not be an accredited investor. So that means that only a few people have access to create even bigger wealth, the Dow's because they're on the blockchain, and the blockchain acts as the ledger that a bank would everything is public, you can see it, you open up the access to put capital into Dows to many more people accredited or non accredited, right. And there's some things around that, like for our now that we're doing, what we're thinking about is like how do we get capital to people who need it the most who have successful ideas, but what we've seen in the industry in California is that you can lose a ton of money. And if you're a white guy, another white guy will still write you a check. If you're a woman, and you have amazing, impeccable financials, you show growth, you show income, you most likely will not get the money that you're asking for. So how do we democratize this so that it's not just a few people deciding who gets to have a big a big company who gets to have a good company that says I have a autonomous company, right? And what we've seen a lot, and I've seen this a lot, is when we went into the pandemic, I will tell you this, I've never admitted this to anybody. But my niece was on musicali and she used to go and do songs and do all that which turned into Tik Tok. Right. And so I had a musicali account, so I could see her her music Kelly's right. One day, I looked at my phone, and there was this thing called tick tock, and I was like, What is this, but when the pandemic hit, I was bored like everybody else. And I was watching tick tock. And what I noticed was, we were moving into this new era, right, this new era of where you can use technology to sell your wares directly to your consumer. And so right now, if you wanted to raise capital for your company, for instance, right, you wanted to raise that capital, you would have to spend about 15 to $50,000 to get your documents in place to get to the money that you need to get investments. You have to put money out in the debt and your instincts are marketing, but in a dowel situation. Everything is in the metaverse, so you don't really have to have a $250.03 fold card. Everything is happening in this universe. It's much cheaper, maybe more time intensive, but it's more accessible to most people, as opposed to investment into companies is really highly inaccessible. And right now, the SEC is thinking about changing the accreditation rules to be that you have to have $2.2 million dollars to be able to invest in a company that that is just a company that you're investing in that's not through a fund or not through a 401k so you can see that capital squeezing out so we got to find other ways to get capital.

Shayda Torabi  1:04:59  
Well, especially like you're saying, for minorities or women, especially who already have a hard time getting capital, it's kind of to use the words of doubt was decentralized, right. So it's decentralizing the access to these things that can empower somebody to create, built and you know, operate and scale a business. So super fascinating. I feel like the boat has not left the shore, or the dock per se, right. Like, I still feel like we're in the early stages of it. So I sometimes are in the very late, I need to, like do more understanding of NF T's and Dows. Like be involved. But I think this is a good, you know, encouragement. I know for the listeners, at least, because I know I'm not the only person who's like, what the hell and I see you always posting and tagging and talking about and I'm like, one day, I'm going to understand what Christina's talking about and posting and sharing, you know,

Christine De La Rosa  1:05:51  
that's what we did with our NFT. We didn't create an NFT for collectibles. We can you know, you can create a lot of different entities, we created a membership NFT. Yes, so you can get the NFT. And you can go into the educational platform, so that we can teach you what how is everything connected? How do you How does this work? How do I invest in the Dow and the Dow invest in small businesses, we teach all of that on the education platform, before you ever go into the Dow, because we want you to understand exactly what you're getting into. We want to have that conversation with you. And like a lot of people will just open Dows and be like, you know, give me all your money and I want to spend it on some stuff. And then we don't want to be that right? We want to be able to say, Hey, we are going to be doing this exact thing. This is how it's going to work. And if you don't understand it, let's do it again. So that you understand it so that maybe one day you create your own doll and we're a footprint on how you might create a better doubt. Because we're the as you said, the Infancy worth the beginning. Things are going to change and like the you know, I'm gonna date myself but you know, Atari is not what gaming is today. And I really feel like we're in the Atari phase of the metaverse.

Shayda Torabi  1:07:01  
It is it is just scratching the surface. I mean, I was even listening I think meta I saw an influencer friend he went to they were having a meme event at Mehta, its location in New York and they were showing a clip of the lady from meta who's talking about, oh, the metaverse and she's like, I don't really know what's happening, because it's going to change in the next you know, three weeks, three months, three years. And so just thought it was interesting perspective coming from somebody who works there in it on it to kind of, you know, admit, it's evolving. And we're learning as we go, which is the exciting part. The Dow that you're operating is cannabis specific, right, so you're trying to encourage cannabis funding and access to opportunity. Got it.

Christine De La Rosa  1:07:45  
We have about 20 companies already in our deal flow that are waiting to be invested in. These were people that didn't meet the investment thesis for the fund the regular VC fund. But these are really good companies. And they don't need a lot of capital, meaning they don't need $50 million in capital. We're talking like ancillary business, CBD businesses, technology businesses that could do with 750 or 1 million. And imagine, we've vetted these we've done we've gone through their data rooms, we've done all this, imagine if you were somebody in Idaho, or in Wyoming or in and you're like, I really wish I could invest in cannabis. I don't know how to do that, that you could come into the platform, learn how to do it, get into the Dow, and then your money is making you money. Right, your money's invested in an asset backed physical thing. So like the first thing in the deal, flow is a real estate real estate's easy to understand, you know, you buy the real estate, you rent the real estate, you get paid every quarter your dividend, that's a real easy way to understand it. So going in with something that's really easy. For as a first investment of the Dow will help people go through it and feel comfortable before they do with big investments that are going to be five 710 years out.

Shayda Torabi  1:08:51  
My brain is like yes, yes, yes, Christina. I'm learning. I'm soaking it up. I'm also confused, but I'm excited. So I'm excited to continue to follow along and learn more as it opens up for you and your team as you're embarking on this journey. final final question, what is the future of cannabis look like to you?

Christine De La Rosa  1:09:12  
To me, the future of cannabis looks like a lot of different types of brands. Because, you know, cannabis is so subjective, and so specific to people. And it's such a huge market, that I think that we have to have more products than what we have available to us now. We have to have a you know, a plethora, there's just so many opportunities for all different markets, medical market and recreational market 18 to 25 year olds 60 to 85 year olds, you know, like, there's so many types of people that need this medicine, but we don't not have the brands to support it at this time. And that's because we are not a CPG we're not CPG market, right? Yeah. Because of the the barrier to entry. We're not federally legal right. So for me the board thinking when I'm thinking about ahead, I'm thinking what's going to survive right We see all this m&a happening, mergers and acquisitions when federal legalization happens it's going to be a flood of money that's coming in. So people are going to buy up all the licenses the big companies will buy up all the licenses, Pfizer Constellation Brands Altria, what will remain will be the brands when that huge m&a happens, because the brands are the authentic voice of the culture and of the industry. If I go to a store and I see no shade to currently by securely friend, or I see jungle boys, Brad, I'm going to pick jungle boys. Now some people will pick the other brand, but what I'm saying is that that the brands stay when everybody's doing mergers and acquisitions. And if you're a small company, you should be really looking at strengthening your brand.

Announcer  1:10:48  
I love this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda torabi.com/to be blind for more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi