There’s so much need out in the world. But what are those that relate to cannabis? Join Tony Frischknecht and Jamie Pearson in this impressive talk about women’s honest and passionate leadership to execute change most uniquely. Jamie L. Pearson, president and CEO of Bhang Inc., shares about product innovation, social responsibility and her goal-driven passion in leading the cannabis industry and making a great impact on people’s lives. She elaborates on her collaborative approach to the national campaign project she’s been working on that would create a huge difference in the quality of people’s lives, especially those suffering unjustly.
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Women Leadership In The Cannabis Industry: Making A Difference With Jamie Pearson
I am bringing somebody back here. We spoke before, and there was quite a shift that was happening. One of the biggest parts is what we’re seeing is the expansion of women running companies, not only companies but cannabis companies. I brought this person on because she is moving. She has a lot of stuff that’s happening in her world, but also, we’re going to bring some new things that we’ll catch up on and also new things that they’re working on as business evolves in cannabis. I talked to everybody and to her about how in dog years, in cannabis one year goes by, and it’s like 5 to 7 years.
Who I have is rare. She is a second-generation cannabis executive. She has decades of experience in global operations, deal structuring, and negotiation as a former multinational real estate entrepreneur and investor. She is fluent in German and English, Jamie is responsible for Bhang’s capital market initiatives, national and international expansion, and overall corporate management. She leads the company’s diverse executive team in the development and execution of Bhang’s strategic plan. Please help me welcome President and CEO, Jamie L. Pearson. Jamie, thanks so much for being on the show. How are you?
I’m great. Thanks for having me back.
I love following what people are doing, especially with Bhang. You guys have been around for over a decade now and you’ve been working with them for a little while, for a small portion of that, but you’re also seeing some massive changes, especially with the opening of Mexico and nationalizing legalization in Canada. We were talking about that in our last episode in 2020. What’s moving your focus? What are you focused on right now? As a CEO, you’ve got a lot of things happening, but where are you looking at right now for Bhang and what’s your focus?
I get asked that question a lot and, as you mentioned, there are things happening in the world of cannabis that is exciting, like Mexico announcing legalization. That’s going to be a huge market and we’ve got our Founder and former CEO, Scott Van Rixel is doing some work down there. We are excited about the Northeast. New York legalized and that’s going to be a game-changer. The legalization of cannabis recreationally in New York is going to be the first domino that falls in what I expect will be the race to national legalization. I have my eye to New York and I am meeting with Senator Diane Savino. I’m slated to meet with Kirsten Gillibrand and looking at doing some work in the area of developing policy as a thought leader and as a female leader in cannabis.
I’m definitely putting my time with the people that are making policy because we have a history now of things that were done right and wrong and a lot of lessons that we can learn from that. One of the things that I’m working on is putting my time where it may not necessarily be moving Bhang specifically forward, but it allows Bhang to move forward very quickly when the legislative landscape is set correctly. Those legislative hurdles stop us from making progress. When I realize I can’t have it both ways, I can’t complain about how wrong they’re getting it, and then not use my knowledge and my position to help them get it right. I’ve decided and made a commitment that I’ll get more involved in that area of the world. That’s one of the things that I’m doing.
Those are major points, especially engaging your company and creating that landscape for them to launch off and be successful. New York, what a huge deal. Virginia and Mississippi, there are so many good things that are happening in Maryland. In Massachusetts, it’s starting to culminate there. Big things are happening there, too. With Bhang, when you’re going in as an edibles company, what is your strategy for going into a place like New York? Are you trying to solely work on edibles for the big players that are there? How does that work? How do you get into that market?
I’ll back up. A couple of years ago, we signed a deal with Trulieve in Florida. It took Florida until the end of 2020 to get edibles legal because you weren’t able to buy them in Florida until 2020. We had a contract in place and we were patiently waiting for the right to manufacture and sell our products in the state of Florida. In the meantime, Trulieve made an expansion into Massachusetts and we’re expanding with them into Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. We have some other states on the docket that we’re in discussions with them about, but Pennsylvania, for example, doesn’t have edibles. Learning from that, where I think, “Great. We know that New York is legal, I would like to see Trulieve enter the New York market. I’m sure they would like to be there as well.”
I have connections in that state, both in the political sphere, in the legacy market, and in the legal market. There’s an organization run by the Peckham sisters and their mother in New York. We have all three of those bases covered in New York. I’m in talks with Trulieve like, “How can I help you come into that scene?” I don’t have a bird’s eye view or an insider’s view into how they enter markets because they hold all that very close to the vest as they should. I’ve availed myself to them as a resource and making some connections for them where I can because Bhang does better if they do better. If they can bring us into the state, my shareholders win. Those are the things that I’m doing. It’s looking at that market as an obvious no-brainer, we need to be there. What is the easiest way for us to get there? We’ve already got a great partnership with that company, and they’re going to go in and kill the game. That’s where I want to be with.The legalization of recreational cannabis in New York is going to be the first domino that falls in what will be a race to national legalization. Click To Tweet
They’re one of the top three MSLs right now, and they pretty much are controlling Florida. They’re looking to expand.
In talking to the Etain group, the Peckham family that got into New York when there were only five licenses granted, that gave me a big insight into how New York functions, but it is a different game now. There’s an organization, a lifestyle brand called the Happy Munkey that’s in New York and everybody in the industry knows about them. They threw a 420 launch party on Wall Street. It’s such an amazing change to go from prohibition to legalization and to be part of that. It’s crazy.
We’re getting entrenched into Wall Street. It’s got to be pretty mind-blowing.
I was walking through a Colorado facility and the CEO of that facility was showing me all the different stuff they had and I said, “Do you ever sometimes think about what we’re doing right now?” It’s crazy.
It’s hard to digest it where we were back years ago when legalization happened in Colorado in 2012. I thought about it the other day. I was like, “It’s been years.” I look at some of the stuff that companies are doing, and I almost have to pinch myself and go, “Do you remember how we were fighting to be able to help those patients and some of the hurting people out there?” It’s quickly shifted, especially here in Colorado. It’s not about having this plant legal now. It’s about how we can make our communities better. It’s opening and renewing my eyes again, like, “Where were we at?” Looking towards the future and stuff that Bhang is doing. When we last talked, you had gone IPO a few months prior to you becoming CEO, and there has been a lot of shifts in Canada. We are on a national scale. Let’s talk a little bit about international. What’s Canada and Mexico? Pick which one you want to start with. I don’t think it matters.
I can start in Canada. We’re three of the top ten in Canada for the first probably six months of operation in Canada. We were number 1 and 2, not just chocolate but of edibles. We’re still, I believe, that we were the number two edible in Manitoba last month. We’re definitely having and enjoying success in Canada. We’re selling a lot of chocolate in Canada, which is really gratifying to be years later to be not only still relevant, but leading the charge.
We’re doing a bunch of product innovations. We are working with one of the top ten product innovation firms in the country. We can bring the cannabis skillset to the table, but we wanted to do product innovation in a way that was socially responsible. We’re doing our product innovation with an eye to both the environment, but also what one of the most important things that happened during this year of COVID of 2020 when the world watched George Floyd be killed by an officer. Even though the whole world has seen that we have a problem in this country with racism, the interesting thing that happened with that is that we had an alignment finally of people understanding that cannabis companies are making millions of dollars every year.
We still have 30,000 people sitting in prison for cannabis possession, not that they committed armed robbery and they had cannabis or were dealing cocaine or heroin. These are people that got caught having a joint or having a couple of ounces of weed, and they possessed it and they were using the plant to feel better, which we know a lot of people use the plant to feel better, and they’re sitting in prison. It’s one of those things that I feel passionate about. I feel like it’s a moral responsibility to the leadership of the cannabis industry to do something about it. A lot of the bigger companies are doing something about it and getting involved. We’re putting together a big collaboration with the Last Prisoner Project. They are helping people get out of prison and expunge records because it isn’t enough to get out of prison. You get out and you’ve got a record.
They got to get a job.
There’s a number of agencies out there doing great work in that area of social justice and in prison reform. That’s an area that we feel strongly about because we can jump on the Save the Panda bandwagon. There’s so much need out in the world, but the one that relates to cannabis has to do with the way that police have systematically targeted black and brown people. We know that the statistics are astronomical. I don’t want to get the statistic wrong, but 30% to 40% more likely to be pulled over, and have the police say, “I smelled something or whatever it is,” but then we’ve got all these people sitting in prison. We need to get them out and back being with their families and productive members of society. That’s one of the things I’m excited about that Bhang is working on with the Last Prisoner Project.
The other thing we’re doing that I’m excited about is that we have a partnership and a collaboration with the Soul Assassins. If you watched the movie LA Originals on Netflix, which is the documentary about the rise of Estevan Oriol, photographer, and Mister Cartoon, tattoo artists and fine artists, there’s a loose collective of Los Angeles street artists, graffiti artists, and Cypress Hill and Soul Assassins. We have had a partnership with DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill for a long time and he brought the Soul Assassins to the table.
We have got done doing two takeovers at Dr. Greenthumb Dispensary and they brought CholoFit Creeper, and they brought the low riders and the LA Original Tacos Truck. We’re doing this collaboration with the Soul Assassins as a concerted effort to give back to the budtenders. We see the budtenders both as frontline workers in the COVID situation because the reality is cannabis was deemed essential and rightly so. Imagine if all of the people who use cannabis and cannabis has been legal in California for over two decades, if those people who use cannabis for sleep, pain, anxiety, and depression started going to the physicians, hospitals, and emergency rooms when we already had attacks on all of those medical systems. We did not need drug seekers going into the medical system when there was already this pressure from COVID.
Deeming cannabis essential, both kept people working and with their plant medicine. We see the budtenders having been frontline workers in a legitimate way and we want to give back to them. The Soul Assassins collaboration was something that we did together with Muggs about how we love up on those budtenders who are out there knowing more about cannabinoids and cannabinoid therapy and recognizing that they have a hard job. People walk in and go, “What’s good?” You want to give them good advice because if they run off and have a bad experience, they won’t come back. There are a lot of great dispensaries out there with amazing training programs. We found that the collaboration with Soul Assassins was a way for us to give back to the budtenders.
Our brand is definitely beloved and OG but what we’re known for is having accurate dosing end to end, every bar, whether you eat this segment or that segment, you’re going to get an accurate dose. We were and still are one of the only companies to get that right, where if you want to know exactly what is going to happen to you. It’s hard to accurately dose when you’re smoking a joint or you’re smoking out of a pipe, or even a vape pen to know how big that hit was or how much THC you’re ingesting. With a perfectly dosed square of chocolate, you can get it right every single time. We’ve had that advantage and not to mention the fact that our chocolate tastes like chocolate, and not like a weed. There are great cannabis companies out there making great edibles, but I will tell you not being biased, but being knowledgeable, Bhang has the best products in the market.
There are very few. I’ve been around the industry for over a decade and I’ve migrated to micro-dosing. There are only a few that I take. I had to try a lot of different ones. However, there are very few that don’t taste like grass or weed or whatever the old school.
It’s that bitter after taste. We don’t have a bitter aftertaste either.
I want to ask you a couple of questions about being deemed essential because Canada is a different market. We didn’t see that happen up there. What were the different challenges that you saw that happened in Canada and didn’t happen in the US with your product?
Canada did very similar legislation, and it was province to province for a while, but the cannabis industry stayed open there as well. Massachusetts and Nevada shut it down for a while, but eventually, everyone went to curbside, which was something. When you’re used to seeing 700 patients a day in a store or 1,000 patients a day in a store to go to curbside delivery only, not every dispensary had a place where a car could pull up and deliver at the curb. It gave dispensaries a lot of challenges, and while cannabis sales increased and edible sales increased, there was this reluctance to smoke because COVID is hitting people in the lungs. We saw edibles increasing quite a bit. The ability to provide cannabis to consumers was definitely impacted by that curbside delivery only, which that’s what happened in Canada. The sheer number of people that they could deliver products to was reduced by virtue of the regulations. They are in lockdown again.Deals tend to fall on your lap when people know you’re going to handle them with respect, be trustworthy, and honor their wishes. Click To Tweet
They’ve had it rough, a lot harder than we’ve had it. With that said, Canada had brought on edibles not very long ago. All of a sudden, you have to hit these brakes again.
We launched in Canada early in 2020. We’re looking forward to some normalcy. I’m hoping the Canadians will get their vaccination shit together because it’ll be great to be back in the world.
Last we talked too, you were very involved in mentorship, and you were helping whoever you could. You had to be choosy with your time because you’re very busy, so has that progressed at all? Do you have any new things happening there?
I have a few people that I’m still mentoring definitely and I am a big believer, and you’ve probably heard this, that you should have a mentor, a peer, and somebody that you’re mentoring. What I find is that the people that I mentor, I learn a lot from because it’s hard to look at the industry through the eyes of a new person again. Sometimes the experience becomes a roadblock of sorts because you automatically don’t think outside the box the way you do when you have no choice, because you don’t know what the box is when you’re brand new. A lot of times, my mentees help me keep my perspective fresh, and I think that what happens is when you’re involved in an industry, you start finding these normative sources of information. All the CEOs go to this place and go here, all the women that I know do this and that. The new people come to me and they bring me these new ideas, and so the mentoring ends up making me better is what I’m finding.
What you’re picking up from them at the time you’re like, “I know I’ve said this a lot, but now that I hear that person speak it back to me, I’m like, ‘It makes a lot more sense. I should probably pay attention to what I’m saying.’” It’s funny when you get those circumstances where you’re like, “Had you never done that, would you notice it or would it be something that you would pay attention to?”
What happened was one of the people that I have mentored for many years built a house and is moving, and we had a big going away party. It’s so gratifying to see the people that you work with win, and he’s winning in a major way. It’s really cool. When I showed up, he cried. He’s like, “That means so much that you came.” He’s like, “Everybody, this is why this is happening.” It was so cool. It was a great feeling.
It wasn’t for your ego. It was for bringing somebody up.
He asked me if I would help him, and I said, “Yes.” Not every mentor-mentee relationship works out because the one thing when people ask me, “Will I mentor them?” One of my responses has to do with, “What are you going to provide?” There has to be a give and a take because I can’t give and give. One of the things that you can offer me is time, research, or whatever. What is it that you’re going to provide me? A lot of times, they don’t come at you with a thought process around that, but then they come back and they say, “I’ll tell you what. If you’re at my beck and call and I can call you, and you can answer questions for me, or we can meet once a week, here’s what I’ll do for you.”
When you have a mentee that understands that giving me something of their time, it allows me the time to carve out time for them, that give and take is a beautiful thing. I’m not looking at it like, “What are you going to do for me?” What I’m looking at it is one of the things I want to teach you when I’m mentoring you is that you’ve got to be respectful of everybody’s time. If you’re going to show up to a meeting, you need to come prepared, be on time, have your ducks in a row, and have your technology ready. It’s the training of the basic soft skills, professionalism, and things like that. A lot of times, the mentees want you to spoon-feed them a deal. What they don’t realize is the key to my success hasn’t been the deals fall in my lap. It’s that deals fall in my lap because people know that I’m going to handle them with respect, be trustworthy, and honor their wishes. All of those things are soft skills that people have to pay attention to. They matter.
How often when you talk to a mentee about the basis? This is what I expect to be professional and growth. How often do you just don’t see them again?
Does it make you sad or that’s just the way it is?
They’re not in that place yet that they want a mentor. They think they want to do something, but they don’t know what they want. That’s more common than the ones that dive in and are gung-ho.
You think 1 out of 10 might take you up on it or more than that?
It’s a low number. It’s 1% for sure. It’s very few, but believe me, I get hit up enough that’s enough. It works out great. There’s that weeding out, pun intended, of people that will become a bottomless pit of need. It’s one thing. If you give someone advice and they don’t take it, you don’t have to do what I tell you to do, but after a while, then you have to start wondering what are you doing here?
You’re wasting your time and my time now because you’re not taking any of this advice.
I’m upfront where I’ll say, in this case, whatever question they’re asking me, if I don’t know the answer or if I don’t know what they should be doing, I’m going to say, “Why don’t we muddle through this one together because I don’t know?” If there’s a definite, “Yeah. You shouldn’t be doing that,” and I’ll tell you why and they do it anyway because they think they know better, and then the consequence happens. A lot of times, I’ll allow that. That logical consequence of a bad decision is more instructive than me saying to them. It’s like, “Don’t put your hand on that hot stove.” It’s more instructive to put your hand on the hot stove, and you’ll never do that again. I believe in the logical consequences of people’s decisions. We’re digressing into the esoteric nature of mentor-mentee relationships, but I do believe that they benefit me more than I benefit them.
With that said, over the last year of being President of Bhang, how much have you tapped into your mentors?
A ton. I have two mentors right now. I have three things I want to talk about. One of Bhang’s co-founders is a guy by the name of Richard Sellers. He was my very first cannabis mentor, and he knows everybody in the industry and everything about the industry. He’s an absolute expert. A kind, generous, and level-headed person. I give him a lot of credit for me being where I’m at now. We don’t talk to each other very much anymore, but when I have something that’s going on, that’s heavy, he’s my go-to guy.It's hard to move a large ship if you've got everybody wanting to tell you what direction to go. Click To Tweet
In 2020, our largest investor put a man on our board by the name of Graham Simmons. He’s a Canadian. He’s been a public company CEO since he was in his twenties. He’s got 25 years of experience in capital markets. He and Richard are very similar. He’s very level-headed. He is a strategic thinker. He is always looking for a win-win solution and when I took over at Bhang, Graham came in and said to me essentially. He’s a big Denver Broncos fan, so he’s always using a form of force. He’s like, “I’m the coach on the sidelines and you’re the quarterback on the field. I’ll talk in my headset and tell you what you should be doing, but you’re ultimately the one that’s got to run the play.” That’s very much how we do Bhang. I’m so grateful for Graham because he’s not only brought a team of people to the table that I’ve been able to tap into to overcome some of the harder challenges.
For me, having no public markets experience, I had a safety net to fall back on, which is invaluable when you’re a brand new CEO. He has been my absolute champion and had my back through all of it. You meet somebody through happenstance and then to have something like that click so well was really a blessing. I journal every day and one of my practices is every day to talk about what I’m grateful for. I went back through my journal, “Family and friends and all these people who love me, and Graham.” Graham is definitely somebody that I consider a mentor.
The last one that I want to talk about that’s exciting to me is I’m part of this group that we lovingly refer to ourselves as the female mafia. We are a group of women CEOs that have decided and modeled after the Young Presidents’ Organization, we formed a very formal cohort and we’re going to go have a retreat. We’ve hired a high-functioning team and CEO coach. Her name is Gisele Shelley and she’s with The Glenbrook Group. She has clients like the CEO of Amy’s Foods and the CEO of NutraSweet Tomatoes.
She’s worked with the CEO of Delta Airlines and Target and she’s a high-performing coach. We thought, “If we’re going to get together and become a cohort of women that can help each other, whether it’s with contacts, raising money, investments, or I’ve got this challenge with my board or I’ve got this challenge with my supply chain, we felt like that our collective power is very much rather than a good old boys’ network.” We’re a network of strong, smart women that are hiring, firing, and making tough decisions all day long. I’m excited to be part of the cohort and this group of women is amazing.
Is it focused on cannabis? Is it outside of cannabis as well?
Every one of us is a cannabis person.
Have you heard of anybody else doing this at this point?
Informally, there are people that have a little network of people. We all have our network of people on our go-to phone calls that we make, but not formally like this. We’ve talked about once we get this cohort going, it’s ten women, we’re talking about adding other cohorts to it because we have other women like, “I want to be in that.” The groups become less effective as they get bigger, so we want to keep that limited to ten.
It’s hard to move a large ship if you’ve got everybody wanting to tell you what direction to go. It doesn’t make it very easy, especially in the beginning. In the beginning, it should be simple. You should be able to make a decision on the call like that, but it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t work that way when you get 80 or 100 people or 2,000 people. It makes it much more challenging. Jamie, thank you so much for being on the show and you are moving and shaking. You’ve got some impressive stuff working. I do want to point out again to the Last Prisoner Project to make sure. That’s a national campaign, what you guys are working on. Please go check out Jamie and Bhang Corporation, Bhang, Inc. They’re on the net. Are you guys going to switch to the New York Stock Exchange as soon as possible? Do you have any plans to expand from Canada?
We’re in a conversation about what our plans are going forward? We’re on the Canadian Securities Exchange under BHNG, and you can find us at BhangNation.com and our CBD products, you can go to BhangCBD.com. We’re out there and easy to find. We’re talking about what’s the right next step for us. now that we’re basically on the solid financial footing and have a great partnership with Trulieve and we’re 7 soon-to-be 9 states. We’re a brand a watch, I would say.
Jamie, I look forward to seeing your continued success and thank you so much for everything that you’re doing for not only industry but society. I think you’re doing some amazing stuff. Keep on pushing down that road, and I hope to see you very soon.
See you later. Thank you again.
- Jamie L. Pearson – Previous episode
- Happy Munkey
- Last Prisoner Project
- The Glenbrook Group
About Jamie Pearson
Jamie L. Pearson is the President & CEO of Bhang Inc. [CSE:BHNG OTCQB: BHNGF]. A rare, second-generation cannabis executive, she has decades of experience in global operations, deal structuring, and negotiation as a former multi-national real estate entrepreneur and investor. Fluent in German and English, Jamie is responsible for Bhangs capital markets initiatives, national and international expansion, and overall corporate management.
She leads the company’s diverse executive team in the development and execution of Bhangs strategic plan. Widely considered one of the most influential women in cannabis, Jamie’s cannabis expertise, operations experience, and deep legacy and legal industry relationships elevate Bhang and the entire industry. Jamie was selected from over 7,500 nominees as a High Times Female 50 Honoree and keynote speaker. In her viral speech, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Jamie outlined the measurable benefits of including women and the BIPOC community in leadership and board roles on purpose.
Jamie believes the cannabis industry should be positively disruptive to the very framework of business and encourages her colleagues to share access, to reject the plants stigma, and to promote cannabis as a gateway to wellness for our bodies, our companies, and our communities.
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