Andrew Modlin is chief operating officer and co-founder of MedMen, a leading cannabis management and investment firm based in Los Angeles with operations and exposure across North America.
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
We are on the cutting edge of mainstreaming marijuana. We look at marijuana as a consumer product and that informs everything we do as a company. When you look at cannabis as a product and not an illicit drug, it changes your entire approach to how it is cultivated, produced and marketed. Quality standards matter, best practices matter, brand reputation matters and you invest and plan for the long term.
MedMen is a cannabis management and investment firm. We offer turnkey services to license holders in the areas of cultivation, extraction, production and retail operations. We currently manage 10 facilities in three states. Our capital side has investments throughout the U.S. and Canada. We started last year with 15 employees, we currently have more than 100 workers.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
About 10 year ago, my business partner Adam Bierman, MedMen’s chief executive, and I were running a branding company in Los Angeles. One day, Adam had a meeting with a local medical marijuana dispensary operator who wanted to hire us. He met with her and learned how much business this tiny dispensary was doing. After the meeting, he called and said “we’re in the wrong business.” And that’s how we jumped into the cannabis industry headfirst. We quickly realized how much demand there was for professional services in this space, so we started a consultancy that evolved into the management model we have today. Last year we launched our first private equity fund. When we started MedMen in 2010, it was two years before Colorado passed the first recreational marijuana measure in the country. Today, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and in November the number of states with legal adult use doubled to eight. I think we made the right move.
Walk us through a normal day.
There is no normal day in our business. We are building an industry from the ground up so every day presents a new set of challenges and opportunities. As MedMen’s chief operating officer, I take great pride in how we execute everything, from growing the highest quality cannabis using the latest in cultivation technology to creating a customer experience that is the standard for the industry. I come to work every day ready to face the challenge and seize the opportunity.
Conviction. You need to have strong faith in your thesis. That doesn’t mean you don’t adapt to changing circumstances, but your aim doesn’t change. We are mainstreaming marijuana, that’s what drives us each step of the way.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
Timing. We are at an inflection point in the evolution of cannabis, as this industry transitions from the legacy era of homegrown enterprises to an institutional phase of professional standards and practices. We are perfectly positioned to effect change. We have the expertise and the capital, and we are proud to be on the leading edge. We have the opportunity to make real and meaningful change not just as an industry, but as a society. That’s why MedMen is very active with the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s leading advocacy group changing laws to end Prohibition.
Do you have any thoughts or concerns about Sean Spicer’s statements indicating the Administration’s intention to crack down on recreational cannabis?
We are not concerned and here’s why. The Administration does not write laws. Congress does. Congress through the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment has already prohibited the Department of Justice from going after legal medical marijuana operations in the 28 states where it’s legal. The amendment has passed every year since being introduced in 2014, and is expected to pass again with the next budget bill. Momentum is building in Congress to ease the federal Prohibition on marijuana, or even end it altogether. There are several bills aimed at protecting adult-use states, including the McClintock-Polis Amendment, which is being vigorously lobbied by our friends at the Marijuana Policy Project. The MPP played a lead role in the passage of Rohrabacher-Farr.
Jeff Sessions himself said recently that despite his own personal objections to marijuana use, he does not expect a wide crackdown. All of this shows that our country’s attitudes toward marijuana are evolving and that the momentum is too strong to be reversed.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
Potential? Since 2010, we’ve been redefining the industry, how it is managed and how it is capitalized. Today, we manage 10 facilities in three states, we deployed tens of millions in investment capital throughout the continent in a little over a year and grew our workforce seven-fold in the same period.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
This is the biggest opportunity since the tech boom of the 1990s. It is the first opportunity of my Millennial generation to be part of something historic. If there is any frustration, it is the normal frustration of never having enough hours in the day to get to where we need to go fast enough.
What would you say to those who are considering investing in your company?
Have the long view. There are a lot of people making bets in this space, we are making investments. If you are looking to make a quick buck and ride into the sunset, we are not the right partner for you.
That’s a very broad question. If you are looking for career opportunities, there is probably no better industry to join. We need lawyers, accountants, logistics experts, marketers, lab technicians, high-tech farmers… I would advise people to do their homework and find a reputable company whose goals align with theirs.
If you are looking to start a business, the days of starting a cannabis business out of your basement are quickly fading away. This is a real industry requiring institutional expertise and big money. You should have a robust business plan, a real understanding of your niche and… this last part is really important, you have to have a thorough understanding of the complex regulatory landscape. With mainstream comes rules and regulations, and if you do not understand how they affect you, then you don’t have a future.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
Authenticity and excellence.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
In the short term, you will see medical marijuana markets continue to blossom in states like New York, Florida and Ohio. In the long term, you cannot ignore the impact California will have on the legal cannabis industry. California already accounts for almost a third of North America’s legal market, and that’s just medical. In 2018, the state will create a proper licensing program for commercial cannabis in what is the world’s sixth largest economy. California will set the trend for the rest of the country, and the world.
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
I am a traditionalist. I prefer to smoke flower the old fashioned way.