THE HIGHWAY PODCAST PRESENTS: CANDID CONVERSATIONS

Heat & Herb X The Highway Weed Podcast Candid Conversations, Candid Conversation, Candid Conversation Podcast, Weed Podcast

Welcome to the first installment of Candid Conversations About Cannabis, where I (David Burgomaster) follow up for a deeper dive with guests from The Highway Podcast

For our inaugural installment I had the privilege of speaking with Janeen Davis of Joint Venture Craft Cannabis and BC Black

David Burgomaster for Heat + Herb = H+H

Janeen Davis = JD

If you haven’t seen Episode One of The Highway Podcast, click here!

CANDID CONVERSATIONS #1 - JVCC & BC BLACK

We began our conversation bonding over our shared love of cats and exchanging our dedicated Instagram accounts of our pets. (@walterbobtail & @mister_mew_international).

We established that we had met previously in my former position with another company and then got into discussing some of the topics at hand. 

H+H:

So, numbers show Joint Venture and BC Black have been on an upwards trajectory. Mike (Bains) pointed out to me there’s been a few months where BC Black as a whole sold the most 3.5g units in BC. 

How does it feel knowing BC Black/Joint Venture have achieved this level of success, especially when you’re competing with cheaper priced, mass produced big “C” cannabis?

JD:

Well, what I would say is, there’s a lot behind that, that people haven’t seen, David. You know, a lot of people don’t see all the steps behind getting a product to market. What has gone into this is actually 10 years of hard work. We have legacy cannabis entrepreneurs who spent years hunting for genetics, and who spent years mastering their craft. Our success has only been because we got to partner with people who understood the industry. Understood that we’re in the premium pricing tier, and the product quality needs to represent that. 

H+H:

You’ve definitely assembled an impressive lineup of cultivators 

JD:

And the feeling that I have for them is just gratitude. Gratitude to our supply partners, that they trusted us to work with us and let us package their products and bring them to market. I feel honored that these legacy entrepreneurs trusted Joint Venture Craft Cannabis and the sales team to help them be successful. So, the feeling I have more than anything is gratitude.

And the second feeling I’d say is relief. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath since October 18, 2018. And recently I felt like I could finally exhale and breathe. There’s been so much work that has gone into this, it was a seven day a week grind since October 17th, 2018. That’s what it took to get here. So, my ultimate feeling was a huge sense of relief, that the micro cultivators that were so brave and so trusting to transition into legalization, are going to succeed, I felt relief and gratitude. 

H+H:

Also, what’s your take on the current state of lobbying within the cannabis industry?  

JD:

Well, David, my take is that we need to show cohesion within every step of the supply chain. Instead of just yelling to get our own needs met – if we become unified and aligned that’s more powerful, because that way, they’re not like, ‘oh, well, we want to do this for micro, but we don’t want to piss off the retailer. We want to do this for a retailer. But we don’t want to piss off the cultivators’. If we’re asking for this stuff together, and I’m throwing support behind your request, you’re throwing support behind my request, we then get into a situation where the request seems more reasonable, and it’s easier to advance.

H+H:

Okay, what do you feel the solution is? More coordination between the different interest organizations working together or the formation of something new? 

JD:

So, in my opinion what we need to do, where I think our lobbying efforts should be pulled together – no association actually has a dedicated person where they’ve raised enough money to pay somebody to work full time to lobby, we need to have an association that can bear say, an $80,000 a year salary. For somebody who’s a full time lobbyist, meeting with every link in the supply chain. 

H+H:

So, you’re saying we need a full time dedicated lobbyist, that represents the interests of the legal industry as a whole? 

JD:

Yes. I’m finding that all the lobbying efforts in the industry are very segmented. For example, the retailers have ACCRES. We have Craft Cannabis of Canada or the BC Craft Farmers Co-op somewhat. The BC Craft Farmers Co-op has kind of been able to involve things together, but it’s still a bit segmented as there’s a lot of pre legal cannabis members there as well. 

H+H:

Who may have different interests than those already operating in the legal cannabis space. 

JD:

Right. So they’re almost too different. There’s two different needs there. And so if we can get one cohesive organization, where everybody paid just enough for a full time lobbyist’s salary– 

H+H:

How do you envision that role working? 

JD:

Well, this person would actually record their efforts daily, and do a bi weekly report to the membership about everything they had done, and for what they’re getting paid to do. I think that kind of thing would create more of an impact. What’s happening right now is we have a bunch of people throwing their time in for free, but we still have to survive, we have to, you know, pay our mortgage and feed our families. So, with that being said, it’s very fractured. 

H+H:

What is the biggest shared interest amongst these groups in your mind? Something they can all throw their weight behind? 

JD:

Alright, well first just the interest of being unified with one voice and the full weight of industry interests behind it. We are stronger together.

There just needs to be an organization that pulls everybody from all aspects of the supply chain. That is the first step, and then maybe if we can get every licensed cannabis company in BC to write a letter to the provincial government requesting that the cannabis file, move from Public Safety to Jobs and Economic Recovery and Innovation, that right there would be the single most meaningful thing I think we can do to grow the regulated cannabis industry. So that it can survive and thrive. It would cause a shift because, right now I feel like we’re throwing pebbles when we need to be throwing bricks.

So, I’d like to see that change. We have no transparency on things like excise tax. The excise tax is extremely egregious and too high.

H+H:

On the subject of excise tax, I personally find it very confusing. How it’s levied, collected, and spent. 

JD:

So, we actually have no clue where the excise tax is going. And if you think about excise tax as a revenue generating model for the BC government, they should want it to be sustainable. 

H+H:

Do you think there should be more transparency in what the BC government utilizes these funds for and the justification of how they are spent?

JD:

Absolutely, now I have a few ideas on excise tax that maybe might not be popular with everyone in the supply chain.

H+H:

Let’s hear them

JD:

So, my favorite excise tax model, if I’m taking the best of the worst, is Manitoba and the reason why, we’re only paying the federal portion of the excise tax, the 25 cents to land product in Manitoba. The rest is collected at point of purchase.

H+H:

Why do you prefer that model?

JD:

Well, let’s look at the $1 in BC. So, when the cultivator has to be the one to pay and collect the excise, or the processor with the sales amendment – Joint Venture in this case, we’re landing it at BCLDB with the excise paid. BCLDB has been marking up on top of the excise tax another 15% to retailers, then retailers are marking up that number 30% to 50%, or 100%, who knows, to consumers depending on the store, because they can mark up whatever they want.

So, when you look at that, the reason I prefer the Manitoba model is, if the excise was collected at point of purchase and submitted by the retailer instead, it would not get marked up and inflated throughout the supply chain, making products more affordable overall. Which should increase our sales velocity, and help us gain market share from the illicit market.

H+H:

Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve read that the BC government has collected $100 million from this already, right?

JD:

So where did that money go? And I don’t think we have any answers on that. The government needs to be doing more to help us grow our industry and reduce stigma. 

H+H:

I wholeheartedly agree. There are just so many impediments put in place by the government which stagnate industry growth. Stigma reduction does not seem to be a priority at the moment. 

JD:

While alcohol, conversely, is a very celebrated part of Canadian culture. One thing that may surprise people is how the world views Canada and the alcohol culture here. Throughout the USA, and other places I’ve been to abroad, they consider Canada to have a binge drinking culture. And that’s completely acceptable here. It’s socially acceptable, it’s almost celebrated. And alcohol is a very harmful substance for anybody that’s seen its impact. There’s no safe amount, truly. We’ve seen things in the media recently walking back that one glass of wine a day is good for you. 

H+H (Candid Conversations):

Right, I’ve seen some very recent studies stating there is no safe amount of alcohol for people under 40. 

JD:

And I’m not saying cannabis isn’t without harm, it also causes harm. However, they’ve done nothing to reduce stigma and to educate both on the benefits and the harms. 

H+H:

At the retail level we can’t make any beneficial claims. Which frustrates a lot of customers. 

JD:

It’s been all just marketing the harms, the way the media has embraced it. I think that the government needs to do more in their conversations with the media, that it’s time for the media to stop bringing us sensationalist stories about cannabis edibles, harming children and that sort of thing. So is the government using this money to reduce stigma and help grow our industry? No. And the reason why I think that’s happening is cannabis, in particular in BC, is under the wrong ministry, in the wrong file. 

H+H:

Is the excise tax related to THC percentage at all? Or how does that work? 

JD:

It does when it comes to extracts. For example, say I was to make a slab of shatter, and you’d want to know, what’s the excise tax on this shatter? Well, it’s 1 cent per milligram. So, if I have 790 milligrams, in a gram of shatter, I’m going to be paying $7.90 In excise tax. Isn’t that wild?

H+H:

Yes, it is. I think that a lot of people don’t understand how the taxes work. I don’t think people within the industry, a lot of us on the retail level anyways, always understand the intricacies of the taxes. I mean part of your job is to understand it being directly involved in that part of it. But I think it needs to be demystified a bit for us as well as we are the ones on the frontlines who need to be able to relay the info to customers. It just seems excessive. 

JD:

Well, yeah, and we’re just super grateful to get to do all of this legally, right? But at the end of the day, we were so desperate not to go to jail, not to have our kids taken away by the ministry, not to be marginalized, not to be shamed, that we just accepted this extremely predatory way that the government structured this industry. Basically, what I can say is we just got gangstered. 

H+H:

Gangstered by our own government 

JD:

This is worse than anybody I know, that was extorted for a piece of the profit by organized crime, the government is taking more than they ever did. So it’s wild we just got gangstered by our government. That’s essentially what happened here, a bunch of mom and pop farmers who just wanted to pay for their kids hockey and hockey camp in the summer, and maybe take one vacation in Mexico a year. You know, when you look at how much the provincial distributors and the government is taking, at the end of the day, you know, in the final price per gram of a product, the amount that we’re kicking up to them is like, so incredible, that it’s worse than organized crime.

 

H+H:

It does affect all aspects of the supply chain, and makes it that much harder to compete with the illicit market. 

 

JD:

And unfortunately, you know, when we’re talking about store closures and I don’t want to say the specific numbers, I just think that we have to take into account that this is actually killing the industry. 

 

H+H:

And for the industry to be sustainable as a whole, all aspects of the supply chain need to be profitable. When one is suffering all of them will feel the repercussions. 

 

JD:

Right. A lot of people have asked me, why we don’t do the buy low sell high model at Joint Venture. 

 

H+H:

Can you clarify what you mean by that? 

 

JD:

So a lot of people what they do is they buy the weed, sometimes it’ll be on terms, sometimes 50%, up front, sometimes 50% in 30, 60, 90 days or whatever. But what they do when they do that is they’ll pay like $2.50 a gram or $3 a gram, whereas our cultivators are getting $3.85 gram on average and these type of things. You know, depending on the price of the SKU or the quality it’ll be priced to quality, right, but so we don’t do that buy low, sell high even when Joint Venture would have a bigger margin. And the reason why is if we keep doing that, if we keep taking every penny we can from the cultivator because we have them between a rock and a hard place – They’re not going to be there in a year for us to work with. 

 

H+H:

Protecting your suppliers. 

 

JD:

If they can’t be profitable and can’t sustain their operation, then we just lose a supplier. So when you look at how Joint Venture is approaching the cannabis industry, we’re not taking everything we “quote unquote” can because if we do so we may put our suppliers out of business. But what the government is doing, is taking everything that they “quote unquote” can and as a result, they’re putting that tax revenue stream out of business. Make it make sense to me, you can’t make it make sense. 

 

H+H:

I would say it’s the same at the retail level. So, we can’t talk specifics of price when it comes to retail. And this has led to a lot of customer confusion. 

The easiest way to explain it to them is that private retailers are more like cold beer and wine stores if you are comparing it to alcohol. They all have the same wholesaler, like we do, and curate their menus and set their own markup based on numerous factors.

These markup considerations many times are directly tied to overhead.

Where do you operate? How much is the municipal cannabis license? How many employees do you have? What are your hours? How much do you pay your employees? Benefits? How much is rent? How much sales volume and traffic are you getting? What kind of service and shopping environment are you providing? Is the markup directly related to the shopping experience?

I mean you may just have shareholders owed as a reason. But there are people willing to pay more for things like convenience, or increased customer service, expanded selection, in store technology and so on. The price to operate in different markets and within different business models varies greatly, and consequently so do many markup structures. However, at what point is taking too much? When are you doing a disservice to the brands you sell and the overall industry as a whole? And it works in reverse as well. Taking too little can be just as harmful. 

 

JD:

Yes, because it could harm us from having this supplier and this product available in the future, this revenue stream in the future. Unfortunately, the government hasn’t been taking a similar approach. And if they don’t course correct, what we’re going to see is, yeah, so they’ve made $100 million off excise tax. That’s cool. But if the stores go out of business and cultivators in BC go out of business, how are they going to get these excise revenues in the future? Wouldn’t it have been a better approach to take half of that, and only have 50 million and have it, you know, build –

 

H+H:

A thriving and sustainable industry. 

 

JD:

Rather than take as much as we can at the beginning and see that decline. 

 

H+H:

One thing I am interested in getting your opinion on from the packagers side of things is moisture packs. Most of your cultivars come with a moisture pack. Do you think they’re necessary? Or is that just more of an insurance policy? Is it related to extending shelf life? 

 

JD:

We hate using them, but the thing is, we cannot control anybody else in the supply chain. 

 

H+H (Candid Conversations):

Yeah, I see where you’re going 

 

JD:

So let me give you an example of that. I cannot control that after delivering fresh product to BCLDB, how they store that product, I cannot control the temperature for that or the humidity, I have no control over that. I cannot control how quickly they get it out to retailers. I then have no control of how it’s transported to retailers. And then once it arrives at a retailer, I cannot control if the retailer keeps it in their back room for two weeks before putting it on the shelf. Or if they invest in any budtender education that helps them move the premium priced product, or if it’ll move at all, I can’t control any of those things. 

 

H+H:

Right 

 

JD:

So, the only thing I can control is how we package it at Joint Venture. We can control the packaging SOP, we can control what we’re putting inside, we can control the packaging itself and the moisture pack. So because we cannot control the other aspects of the supply chain, and how quickly they’re going to move our product or how they’re going to treat it. We do this as a precaution. But I would definitely prefer that you didn’t have to. 

 

H+H:

Okay, but you use the nitrogen for some of the packaging, right? Like with the tuna style tins?

 

JD:

I’m gonna be honest with you about nitrogen.

 

H+H:

Okay

 

JD:

So we started with the nitrogen flush tins, but we don’t think it did a better job of preserving the product than just putting a boost pack in and no nitrogen. And what the nitrogen flush does is it reduces the nose as well. and when you look at people pre legal/legacy any of them that did the nitrogen flushed can they also ended up walking away from the nitrogen and just putting a moisture pack in because they thought it did a better job of preserving product quality. 

 

H+H:

I see, because I automatically associate nitrogen with the tuna tins. 

JD:

We used it initially, but another knock against it was that our nitrogen packaging equipment was constantly breaking down. Which meant we were constantly losing production time. We’d have people scheduled for eight hours, who could only work four, it became such a problem that we had to walk away from the nitrogen packaging equipment altogether. Now we’re mostly using mylar. 

 

H+H:

That brings me to another question. What considerations go into choosing the right packaging for each cultivator? 

 

JD:

So what a lot of people don’t know about the Joint Venture model is that our cultivators actually can pick from different packaging options and pick which one they want to use. That being said, they’re gonna make a lot less money with some options. And the cultivators tend to choose mylar because it keeps more money in their jeans. And in an industry with such a high excise burden, with such low profitability for cannabis cultivators, it’s understandable that a lot of them do choose that extra margin because it could literally double it. 

Glass jars are great, but the cost to ship them, the environmental impact, the fact that there’s a lot of gaslighting around them being recyclable depending on how they’re painted or the color of the glass. To be honest we actually think that the most environmentally friendly packaging is to have a lower cost to ship. We are moving cannabis all across Canada, and with mylar – it ticks all the boxes and let’s be really honest with each other, prelegal how many online stores were actually packaging in glass? They weren’t, they packaged in mylar.

 

H+H:

Yeah, besides the savings on each unit, just the savings in shipping charges alone would add up. On the retailer side of things, for storage the boxes with the glass jars have to be that much bigger to protect the glass too, right? Glass is heavier, but some people may not know, in shipping you pay by whatever is higher – actual weight or dimensional weight. I ran a shipping and receiving department for a decade so I can appreciate those considerations. Do you think that consumer perception leans in some ways to associating glass with premium, whether the contents actually are? 

 

JD:

I think it can and I would say for people that are doing like a “quote unquote” brand play – that’s probably a very important factor. For us though, we are not focusing on brand recognition or building the brand, because our focus is not BC Black – we are not taking credit for the product quality. We are not taking accolades for what’s inside. The credit in BC Black is going entirely to the cultivators that have risked their entire family’s financial future to transition into legalization. And they are now getting the credit for the product that they produce. 

This isn’t about us, we really don’t matter. They matter. They’re the ones that agonize over the plant for 10 weeks. Made sure their equipment wasn’t failing. Burped it, cured it – did everything. What it takes, and the level of attention and care to produce this product that everybody’s enjoying now means that we don’t really focus on the branding, we focus on the cultivator, we focus on telling their story. So for us, we actually haven’t put a tremendous amount of consideration into packaging or branding, because the focus for us is really telling the cultivators’ stories. And part of that, is us as a group trying to reduce stigma from our past, and cannabis and the industry in general by getting these stories out and making our marketing more around the cultivators and their sacrifices and triumphs than our brand.

 

H+H:

Yeah, I see. I think that it’s important to give recognition to the cultivator. As a retailer, and as a customer ultimately, I want to be able to make informed choices about the cannabis I buy. With a lot of these brands now, you see them contracting their grows and sending out clones or cuttings to several different facilities. And no matter who grows something, you could give them the same cutting, but they all have their own way of doing things. And they make these choices, even these small choices along the way that influence the final product. From the types of nutrients, to the lights, to the very medium they grow in, these choices affect the end product without question. It’s not that some will be bad, sometimes it’s preference.

 

JD:

So this is important. At Joint Venture we try to have as much transparency as humanly possible, and arm you with all the information we can provide. When I’m speaking to retailers, especially when doing a product knowledge session, what I say is, somebody could try something in organic living soil or LSO as we called it in the pre legal market and they can say, ‘okay, I don’t like it. It burns too black for me,’ or ‘it’s too salt and pepper. Everything in BC Black is shit.’ 

 

H+H:

Without trying anything else 

 

JD:

But then what they’re doing is they’re saying 26 other cultivators with their tech, 26 other methodologies, and 26 other master growers can be shit. Take me for example  – I only like LSO cannabis from two different cultivators. Only two, there’s not anybody else that does it, where I haven’t found it subpar. Personally, my favorite weed that I prefer to smoke is grown in a soilless medium. I prefer anything grown in grodan or rock wool. And I prefer stuff fed with salt rather than a different nutrient line. Everybody has their preference. 

 

H+H:

Interesting, why do you prefer that? 

 

JD:

I have horrible allergies. And I also react to a lot of different things. And for some reason I react to cannabis that’s not grown in a soilless facility. I still smoke it. I still love to get high on it. But I have a little bit of an allergic reaction, you know, it gets me going, my nose runs and whatever.

Yeah, my eyes get itchy when I smoke something grown in an LSO facility. It’s a lot easier for me and I just found it a better experience to avoid it. I find it smoother on my throat and a better experience when it is grown in a soilless medium. So I think for each individual cannabis user, the more information we can arm them with, the more they know the more they can make a choice better suited for their particular biology. Every human has different biology and different production methods and different terpene profiles and different genetics. 

 

H+H:

We all have different endocannabinoid systems. Everybody’s a little bit unique. Working in retail you encounter that a lot. We all fall on a spectrum. It’s really nice for customers when they can connect with a budtender or a consultant that has a similar endocannabinoid system to them. When they tend to react in a similar way their recommendations are that much more on point.

I’ve seen a lot of really good rapports develop between customers and consultants who were able to bond in that way. Certain people are just wired differently. I know people that would react to what most people will call an indica that’s commonly very sedative like and whatnot. And they would instead be very alert from it. Or they would feel a sativa type feeling, or what’s commonly associated with sativas anyways. 

 

JD:

Well, that’s awesome. I totally agree that it can be really beneficial. 

 

H+H:

Besides methodology and of course who the growers are, what are some other ways you’re providing transparency? 

 

JD:

What we really try to do is tell the growers’ story, talking about their experience, how they acquired their genetics. We have a very unique business model. 

 

H+H:

In what way? 

 

JD:

Very few of our cultivators use nurseries, we require them to clear any nursery genetic purchase with us first so we can make sure that that’s something that we can get sell-through on. 

 

H+H:

Can you explain selling though? 

 

JD:

Okay, so we don’t want anybody bringing in saturated genetics from a nursery that are already saturated in the retail market and therefore harder to sell through. Right, because old weed is bad weed. So, in order to keep moving fresh products through the supply chain, it is so important to have new fresh drops coming online every six months to a year. 

H+H:

Why do you think that is? 

 

JD:

Because as soon as you have great success with something and look at Triangle Kush, Black Kettle Farms as an example. We had incredible success with this SKU. Surfer Mike, their Master Grower, has perfected his Triangle Kush, he pheno-hunted it out of I don’t know how many seed packs, and came out with a winning phenotype. He put it into production pre legal, moved it into the legal market, and had great success because Triangle Kush is a very potent cultivar. So, it’s reputation for high potency, enabled it to sell through, and then because of our success with it now we’re seeing a lot of other companies coming out –

 

H+H:

With copycats

 

JD:

Black Triangle, G13 Triangle Kush or they’re coming out with a Triangle Kush of their own, which may or may not be genuine. I don’t know if they actually popped seeds and pheno hunted it like Mike, or they got it from somewhere else, or if it’s all just renamed Black Triangle. Yeah, not really sure. But I do know that because of their success there’s a target on their back, and you’ll have others try and grow it or name something similar to it. As a result, we may have to focus more on the Frosted Kush Cake, which was an absolutely incredible offering. And I have to say one of the best cultivars I’ve had the pleasure of selling. 

 

H+H:

How helpful is it for you to be getting unfiltered feedback from retailers as to why things may or may not sell through? 

 

JD:

So, I think that it’s really important to arm retailers and bud tenders with all the knowledge and transparency, but also to be having the conversations with them around ‘how was it for you selling this product? Are you seeing things stagnate? Do people still like it? What do they like? What don’t they like? In what ways can we improve?’ So any feedback I get from a retailer like Mike from Heat + Herb, and I just want to say a little bit about Mike. 

 

H+H (Candid Conversations):

We’ll allow it (laughing) 

 

JD:

Mike cares about this industry. If he has a problem with product quality. Mike doesn’t go on social media and put the company on blast. He reaches out and says, ‘Hey, buddy, I encountered this. It’s not great. What can we do? I need to give you a heads up because I know you care, and I know you’d like to take care of it.’  His approach and collaboration with suppliers is going to increase transparency. 

 

H+H:

And that’s the thing. It truly is a collaboration. The cannabis industry, ultimately, is all about people, relationships, and trust. 

 

JD:

You know, sometimes I have retail partners call me and I know what they like, I know what moves in their store because we have over 50 SKUs in BC. And they’ll say ‘Janeen, what do you think I should bring in?’ And I’ll answer, ‘Okay, you liked this, you liked that, bring in this, this, and this.’ That level of trust and also stores sharing feedback will help producers increase their transparency overall. That type of feedback is important to get our supply chain more integrated.

 

H+H:

When I first started in the legal industry a guy I worked with called it the Shiskaberry effect. According to him when legalization first started one brand had a Shishkaberry that got popular, and then all of a sudden everybody had a Shiskaberry. It briefly became a really popular strain, and then it was gone, right? I barely see anybody doing that one anymore. So they come and go.

But, is there a danger in using these names as well? It feels like no one really owns the names at least, especially some legacy cultivars. A cultivar can have its reputation ruined in the legal rec market fairly fast if enough pubco biomass producers jump on the bandwagon. When people try a certain strain, from a particular producer, they get a certain perception of it. And it can make them less likely to try it from someone else if you know what I mean?

There’s a lot of attempts to game the system. You’ve got brands that seem to take a legacy cultivar and then rebrand it something else just to try to get it to move as well. Because like you were saying it’s tough for the BCLDB when they’re purchasing if they already have all these options for Triangle Kush, or any given cultivar. They’re gonna say, ‘well, we already have X amount, we’re not going to purchase anymore.’ 

 

JD:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So yeah, I don’t know. How can we solve that? What’s your opinion?

 

H+H:

It is like a double edged sword in a way because I was thinking about this as maybe something like Master Kush Ultra, right? The version of Master Kush Ultra that Smoker Farms has is unique to them at this point, right? He’s been developing that for something like 15-20 years, and what he produces is going to be of a certain level. And if someone else tried to put that out, it’s not going to be the same thing. I mean, a different craft producer might be able to do something well, but it will be different.

I know on the legal market Simply Bare has their own version now, and regardless of phenotype, just the difference in growing medium will guarantee some observable differences. As we discussed earlier, it’s a rock wool vs living soil comparison. No matter what you do, whether you have an all time classic cultivar or you’ve done an extensive pheno-hunt to get your genetics or maybe you have an in-house breeding program creating genetics unique for you – no matter what you do, people copy success. Personally, I’ve learned to prioritize consistent producers over the cultivar itself, but that being said unique genetics can be what gets certain brands noticed. For example Pineapple Buds, they’re on the BC Black roster right? 

 

JD:

Yes, they are.

 

H+H:

They are going to be featured in episode 4 of The Highway podcast. I won’t spoil it here, but they chose unique genetics that were very on brand for them, and with a lot of foresight and intent. And that’s an interesting way to go about it too, because they’ve named themselves Pineapple Buds. And so they’re sort of sticking to that theme, right? To the point where any tropical-type named bud, I am comparing it to what they produce as a standard for that type of weed.

 

JD:

That’s actually really interesting. 

 

H+H:

I do the same thing with gassy strains and Smoker Farms’ Master Kush Ultra. It set a standard for BC Gas with me. 

 

JD:

Love it! 

 

H+H:

So, getting back to the importance of unique genetics, genetics theft does happen. Without getting into names or time periods – have you encountered this issue with any of your suppliers, and how did you or would you hypothetically deal with it?

 

JD:

Okay, so yes. It has happened before where a supplier stole genetics from a prelegal shop without my knowledge. We severed ties, as I could no longer in good conscience sell their weed. 

I need to be very careful about how I speak about this, but also very direct and firm. When you come from legacy – my problem, David is, I know where I come from. And I really come from here. If you ask around, you’ll meet people that know me from before, and when you’re legacy you have a code to follow. I can’t pick and choose when I subscribe to these values, I have to carry them through. We have a Code of Conduct around these things, and so if I were to knowingly break that code – I’m not welcome to sit at their tables anymore. Sometimes my old school values keep me from opportunities in legalization, but there are  just certain roads I won’t take. 

H+H:

So, how do rights to genetics actually work then? Is there a way to conclusively prove when genetics have been stolen? 

 

JD:

You gotta do a podcast or a call with Ryan Lee from Chimera.

 

H+H:

I follow him on Twitter.

 

JD:

Look, he’s one of the smartest dudes I’ve met. Honestly, he’s so knowledgeable. He’s one of my favorite follows. I learn from him constantly. And what he explained to me is that there is a way to genetically fingerprint your plants through SEGRA. 

 

H+H:

And through that you can compare two cuts? 

 

JD:

Exactly, I can send them both for genetic fingerprinting proving that the genetics were stolen cuts from a pre legal shop, and this other supplier is trying to claim legacy.

 

H+H:

So, how do people protect that stuff? By law, can you patent your genetics or? 

 

JD:

You can, but with SEGRA you can out a thief for their shitty behaviour and prove that it came from your shop and an employee diverted it. Sort of out them in the industry. Just kind of is what it is. 

 

H+H:

It’s just wild though, because it takes so much effort to develop these cultivars and strains over time. It’s so much work and yeah to have it stolen. That’s like, it’s stealing someone’s soul. So, what’s the proper way to acquire genetics then when a micro is starting out? Are they only able to register a certain amount of genetics or how does that work?

 

JD:

When a micro is first starting out, they can bring in whatever they want. They can import 1000 different genetics. Okay. but they can only do it at the beginning. We’re hoping that changes.

 

H+H:

Speaking of new, are there any new cultivators you’re working with coming to market soon? I think I saw Pure Fire out of Penticton. I am in Summerland so I am excited to sell some of their gear in our Summerland store. Love promoting local bud. Anyone else maybe that is in the process but a ways out still? 

 

JD:

Yes, actually and If you guys ever wanted to do a legacy to legal, say like legacy pioneers transitioning into micro cultivators and do a podcast around that – There’s two in Nelson these guys in my opinion, in my opinion, now everybody has their own effing opinion, are the best two growers I’ve met in my life in cannabis. 

 

H+H:

Oh wow. Coming from you, that’s some pretty high praise

 

JD:

One is named Jeremy, the other is Adam. They are at the top of their game. They win every Cannabis Cup they enter. We’ll see what happens in the KARMA cup year but they’re BADASS. Just the level of detail that they have and how much they care. 

 

H+H:

Yeah, that’d be great. Would love to get a look at their facilities and share their stories. 

 

JD:

Alright, let’s move to, if you want to talk about how I grade weed, 

 

H+H:

In the email I had sent you in advance I had asked if it might be useful to literally print a grade on the package. 

 

JD:

Well, we use the legacy grading system. Meaning we price dubs like dubs, 

trips like trips and our quads like quads. We grade it and we price it to the quality. And we also feel that that’s a good thing that we do.

 

H+H:

That’s the indicator then, you don’t even really need to put a grade on there saying that this is quad, it’s been priced as a quad. So it’s kind of built into how you do things. And do you have a budget brand already, is that what High Maintenance is or what is High Maintenance?

 

JD:

Yeah, so High Maintenance is not budget but it’s more like, I like to think of it as “accessible craft” 

 

H+H:

As a marketer I really like that.

JD:

Right? So, you will see different pricing come through High Maintenance and they also have a black and white label, a reserve type label under High Maintenance. 

 

H+H:

Okay, so how does it work, or what determines what goes where? 

 

JD:

So, High Maintenance purchases wholesale. The payment terms from that brand, go ahead and put this in because nobody discloses this stuff. 

 

H+H:

My first exclusive! 

 

JD:

For High Maintenance, how it works is once a sample of the product has been approved, and a price has been negotiated, then we pay the cultivator 100% of the negotiated price. As soon as the product has been QA cleared by our QA team – that’s our payment terms on the brand. Nobody talks about this stuff. Normally BC Black is on a paid-when-paid. So basically the cultivator costs are here, and we cover our labor, our excise and our packaging, and then we all get paid at the same time. 

 

H+H:

Interesting. And for High Maintenance do you know who the cultivator is for that stuff? Or does it say?

 

JD:

If a retailer asks we’ll tell them, and it’s usually in our marketing material, but some of the cultivators may not want for us to say, the reason why is because it might not be their best work. 

 

H+H:

Because their best work is going to go into BC Black

 

JD:

Exactly, if it’s not good enough to be in the premium tier that they’re usually priced at, then it might get wholesaled behind High Maintenance. Does that make sense?

 

H+H:

Yeah, but it’s still – 

 

JD:

Going to be excellent quality and can just be aesthetics. Maybe the bud size wasn’t there? Maybe whatever happened, right? Yeah. But it’s still gonna be a great smoke, it just might not have it all, you know? 

 

H+H (Candid Conversations):

So, there just may be one aspect of it that’s not up to whatever standard they have set internally. And so it didn’t make the grade and they don’t want to put their name on it. Because they don’t want people to think that that’s their best work, even though it maybe be better than what another producer is capable of

 

JD:

Right, so in those cases we might buy that wholesale into High Maintenance, just to keep that cultivator whole, and make sure that they can continue to move what they’re growing. So I think that’s really important. 

 

H+H:

Okay, so another reason might be they didn’t hit the potency or terps they were aiming for? 

 

JD:

Again, any of those reasons could be why it would go there. You know, or it could be a new genetic, they were trying and it’s just not something they ever want to run again, any of those things could be true.

 

H+H:

Like, it was a test batch of something they were doing a test run of.

 

JD:

Yeah, so if you see a cultivator that has been a part of BC Black end up in High Maintenance, those things would be true. However, High Maintenance is busily looking for ongoing supply relationships with incredible cultivators throughout Canada. And it isn’t all just going to be okay, it’s premium, but it’s just not good enough to sell at X price, we’re gonna sell it at X MSRP. It might not be that, it also could just be somebody that has products that they want to move and we buy it, it could be anything. But if you see a cultivator that’s usually in their own brand or BC Black in High Maintenance, it would probably be just because it didn’t hit the quality metrics they were aiming for. 

 

H+H:

And does that happen often, even with more experienced growers? 

 

JD:

That’s gonna happen with everyone. And the one thing about the legal market that I find very frustrating, David, is – Say in the pre-legal market that I grew Apples & Banana Gelato. 

 

H+H:

Okay 

 

JD:

And one time I grow it, and it’s a quad – it has it all. It’s my first crop in my facility, everything’s clean, it’s awesome, brand new lights, boom boom bam. It’s a quad, I keep growing it. Now we’re six months down the road, one of my workers has a small grow tent in their garage. Oh, my lord, they brought in a plant disease, and after dealing with that this crop of Apples & Banana Gelato looks like a trip. 

 

H+H:

So what do you do? 

 

JD:

Well, unlike in the legacy market, I cannot reduce this SKU price, and then increase it later. I also cannot have a low price SKU from a producer that normally produces low trips, that then produces a one off quad pack, and then increase the price of that SKU just for that pack. 

 

H+H:

Because of government regulations 

 

JD: 

They literally don’t let me do that. And so because of that, it puts me in a situation where, you know, we have to be more creative in moving the supply around from our producers when those things are true. So if I have a producer, that’s a premium producer and then one crop goes to shit and it’s dubs maybe it’s just aesthetic as long as it isn’t the metrics on the COA, we can put that to pre roll, right? 

 

H+H:

From a consumer’s perspective that’s what I assume. Show buds get packed, smalls or aesthetically lacking buds go to prerolls. 

 

JD:

Yeah, but if they produce a trip and they usually grow quads they just can’t put it in that quad SKU, so they may decide to actually wholesale that across the country, rather than putting it in the brand with their name. So those are all the kinds of considerations that go into managing a large supplier or supply chain with many supply partners, it’s making sure that you’re not only telling their story and getting them a positive reputation, but maintaining that reputation, by making sure that price and quality match value. 

 

H+H:

And that they always have an outlet for the different qualities that may arise. Are there any other options? I mean, I immediately think of extracts, but from my experience, when I’m talking to knowledgeable people about it, they say that if you put fire in, you get fire out, right? Like if you’re putting in good stuff, you’re gonna get good things out of it. But if you’re putting in like, you know, not the best type of produced product, then you’re not going to end up with as good of an end result. But I guess it depends on the extract or whatever the concentrate you’re trying to make, right?

 

JD:

Yeah exactly

 

H+H:

Recently there has been quite a bit of discussion on the subject of living wages within the cannabis industry, specifically on the retail side of things. On your side of the business how common is it to be paid a living wage?

 

JD:

I’ll tell you exactly how I pay because I do not feel like I need to have any secrets. So I pay $25 an hour, they get to set their own schedule, work from wherever they want. And that’s what they get. Okay, so some people would work part time, some people would work full time. I’m probably the only boss in Canada where people could be like, I don’t feel like working today. I’m not showing up and they still get to show up tomorrow. So, is my wage high? No, I’d say I’m right in the middle.

 

H+H:

I think it’s great that you have a sales team of women. It’s unique in the industry and I think it’s important for women to be given opportunities in an industry, which can be very male dominated. Are there any women that you look up to within the industry that you word consider mentors or are inspired by?

 

JD:

When I need to speak to somebody, and this is someone that I consider the Matriarch of Canadian Cannabis – Remo is the name of a nutrient line, but Remo’s wife, Sandra Colasanti is just an incredible women’s advocate, but also knows how to hold her own in male dominated spaces without going into them just being offended, she’s able to turn things into teachable moments. Does that make sense? 

 

H+H:

Sure

 

JD:

Because we can be constantly offended all the time.You know what I’m saying? It’s more about ‘how do we hold our own in a male dominated space?’ And Sandra Colasanti, not only has she done that, well, she’s done it for years and she’s mentored other women. 

 

H+H:

I’ll definitely give her a follow on social media. 

 

JD:

Kelly Coulter, who also is a part of NORML and also a part of Craft Cannabis Association of Canada. Kelly Coulter has also done incredible things to try to bring women in our community together. 

 

H+H:

I will also be adding her to my follows. 

 

JD:

I also would say Nanette Tully from Okanna Craft, she has started not one but two micros and a nursery with her son Travis Tully. She basically built a family business to be passed on to her son who’s a second generation cultivator and she’s had other businesses in Kelowna. She absolutely is a fierce advocate not only for her industry but for women in the industry.

So, I think they all deserve a mention. When I don’t know what to do or where to go or encounter a situation where I’m concerned for another woman’s career or safety or you know not sure what to do  or when I’ve encountered something that was very offensive – I would say I would call Kelly, I would call Sandra, Nanette, or call Andrea Dobbs – these women are who I look to for guidance and support. 

 

H+H:

Andrea Dobbs from Village Bloomery? 

 

JD:

Yes 

 

H+H:

I haven’t met her, but I follow her on Twitter and really admire and respect her. She’s a great advocate for women’s and indigenous rights. 

 

JD:

Yeah she’s great 

 

H+H:

You’ve worked with some indigenous cultivators like Living Cannabis and Pineapple Buds yourself. The government has made at least the appearance of trying to work with the indigenous communities to help transition illicit cultivators into the legal market, but from your perspective coming from the legacy market, what other communities deserve attention? 

 

JD:

I have deep ties to indigenous communities from a young age and support anyone trying to transition into the legal space, but why are we not trying to reduce stigma in Chinese, Vietnamese and East Indian communities as well? As well? Where is the effort to get those illicit cultivators to transition into legalization because right now they have 40% of the market share in BC in the illicit market. And there’s been no effort to transition those communities. 

 

H+H:

Right, and there’s huge cultural stigma in many of them. Part of it is education, and there needs to be an investment in reaching them.

 

JD:

Yes! What about that 40% of them languishing in the illicit market and not transitioning into legalization? If we’re really looking at building a diverse and inclusive industry, we also need to pay attention to these other marginalized communities that have such severe stigma, that they’re scared to take their pre legal operation legal, because then their names are gonna be on it. And their Grandma might find out what they do, and we need to do a better job of working on that.

 

H+H (Candid Conversations):

I agree with you 100%. I’m happy to see the government continue working with indigenous communities in the legal cannabis space, but would like to see that expanded to these other marginalized communities as well. So, that would be a really positive way to show our excise dollars in action. Well, that about wraps it up on my end. I want to thank you for your time. It was a pleasure speaking with you Janeen, and I’d love to do a follow up in the future to touch on some more issues like COA gaming and lab shopping. 

 

JD:

My pleasure! And it’s not the cultivators fault, everybody needs to figure it out with the lab. Yep. And I’ll prove it to you, but until then! 

Heat & Herb X The Highway Weed Podcast Candid Conversations, Candid Conversation, Candid Conversation Podcast, Weed Podcast

Once again, thank you for tuning into episode one of Candid Conversations! As always, keep your eyes open for more Candid Conversation episodes and weed podcast episodes! Remember, The Highway Podcast is on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and of course, on the Heat and Herb Website!

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Janeen Davis

Twitter: @ms_janeen_davis 

Instagram: @maryjane.een

Mr Mew International

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David Burgomaster

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Instagram: @ogrub 

Walter & Juniper

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Mike Bains

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Ryan Lee – Chimera Genetics

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Sandra Colasanti

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Instagram: @sandracolasanti

 

Kelly Coulter

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Instagram: @kelly.coulter.773

 

Nanette Tully 

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Instagram: @bottomlineshawca

 

Andrea Dobbs

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Instagram: @village_bloomer




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