Playing the Long Game: Interview with Greg GametCannabisTech’s Rob Neely was able to speak with cannabis entrepreneur Greg Gamet about the ins and outs of today's cannabis industry. In 2017, Greg was awarded the Cannabis Industry Compliance Executive of the Year and currently serves as Chief Cannabis Officer at Gold Flora, located in Desert Hot Springs, California. Join us, as we discuss Greg's path to where he is today, and where he sees the cannabis industry headed.
How it all started (and how to start yourself)
Having been in the industry for almost a decade now, Gamet has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to not only navigating around the industry but how to break into it. Gamet urges those considering starting up a cannabis industry to be in the know, and for those that aren't, to hire someone in the know. Hiring a knowledgeable consultant can assist in the navigation of how to enter the industry, which typically comes with fees, applications, and permits. Cannabis is a long-term investment and taking what steps one needs to initially to protect that investment will pay off that much more. Gamet also urges people to write their business plan in pencil. “The only certainty in the industry,” Gamet states. “is that tomorrow is a different day, with a different set of rules and regulations that are ever-changing."
Gamet has always been a fan of cannabis. Having self-medicated in his 20’s, before legalization, he found that it provided relief for his arthritis, as provided a clear path socially. However, when entering the legal cannabis space in Colorado in 2009 with Dank, he found that the most significant challenge was the social aspect of cannabis. As one of the first medical and recreational dispensaries in Colorado, Gamet explains that the initial barrier of entry was barely existent, as there were not many rules and regulations initially and it was affordable monetarily. The real challenge Gamet initially faced was social; acceptance and knowledge of cannabis were not as present in society as it is today.
In 2014, when recreational hit in Colorado, Gamet entered the packaging industry as well. It was at this time themarket was starting to see packaging requirements, and child-resistant packaging became a strict regulation. Kush Bottles, initially formed in California, was the chief supplier of packaging needs for Gamet. The inquiries about and demand for Kush packaging eventually got to the point that Gamet began ordering pallets of it to sell to local dispensaries in need. When space next to his dispensary became available, he swallowed it up in hopes to start a Kush distributorship in Colorado. After inviting Kush Bottle owners to Colorado to see the space, Gamet began Kush Bottles Colorado. At the time, the Colorado location was doing more business than the California location, and it wasn't long before Kush purchased the Colorado location and went public.
As for that need and business heading back towards California, Gamet believes that the demand will head back west. . The days of the “garage” grower and selling to dispensaries out of a backpack are numbered, if not gone already, as Gamet warns. As an operator in the compliant-sphere, providing tested and clean product to consumers is the requirement, the old business model is no longer viable.
Gamet’s next business venture was starting Denver Consulting Group. What initially started as a way to increase sales at Kush quickly turned into a consulting group providing services to businesses across the country. When Gamet was selling for Kush, businesses began reaching out asking about packaging and labeling requirements, so Kush hosted a class to teach people. It quickly turned into calls from companies all over the country, asking packaging questions, but also for help with applications. The company was born rapidly, and their first client, Midwest Compassion Center went on to be awarded a dispensary license in IL after receiving one of the highest scores in the state. They were also beta-testing technologies for the industry – for Metrc, MMJ Menu and other technologies that were helping companies maintain compliance for their state.
Canna Score is a software development company that was created to provide compliance assessment with state regulations and, as Gamet explains, was created before its time. Gamet finds the most vital importance in compliance, and always seeks to be a compliant company first, that can then sell marijuana. Canna Score is a compliance-scoring service that after auditing a dispensary will produce a score, much like a FICA score. Although it has been on the shelf for a bit, regulations are now tightening, and compliance requirements are on the rise; thus the relevance for Canna Score is re-emerging. The mentality is changing and must continue to evolve in states like California, where it ran for many years without rules and regulations. “It is a tough culture to learn overnight,” Gamet states from personal experience, “and a lot easier to start compliant from day one, rather than try to teach it later on.”
Gamet is currently Chief Cannabis Officer at Gold Flora, which is a company that produces premium cannabis products and edibles. Gold Flora will be fully-integrated, and already has a dispensary being built in Long Beach, California. The facility itself will be 620,000 square feet, with part operating and part for lease to companies that have managed compliant companies within the cannabis industry.
When asked about the ongoing challenges in the cannabis industry, and the repeating themes that Gamet finds most frustrating, “snake oil” guys are at the top of his list. These people are the ones selling services to make money rather than a change in the industry. Another concern, more industry-wide than personally, is the question of big companies, such as big alcohol or tobacco, entering the industry. Gamet is a supporter of the craft producer and predicts pushback on the big companies. Being overtaxed is a major concern as well, the more cannabis companies are taxed, the more it affects the consumer, and Gamet states that “…over-taxation could ruin the momentum…” of the current industry.
For those seeking to invest in the industry, seeking out profitability and a strong leadership team is the best tactic. Gamet urges listeners to “Know the team you are investing in and make sure they have operated compliantly in other industries." Cannabis is not a short-term play or a get-rich scheme, but a long-term investment.