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Kyle Castanon
Kyle Castanon
Courtesy of Kyle Castanon

Industry Insiders Bullish on Future of Legal Marijuana

With recreational marijuana officially legal in California as of Monday, the Golden State is in terra incognita. Local dispensaries are scrambling to navigate rapids of red tape as the multibillion-dollar industry transitions to a legal and regulated market.

To help make sense of this unprecedented moment, L.A. Weekly spoke to industry insiders to get their thoughts on the end of pot prohibition.

Kyle Castanon, founder and master grower, Palomar Craft Cannabis

Now that recreational legalization is upon us, what do you believe is the biggest issue going forward for you and for the industry?

For Palomar, and for most of the industry, I feel our biggest challenge will be scaling up our respective companies. We'll be filling a void left by the unregulated market, and there are so few state-licensed companies that we'll all be growing at a rapid pace, all while coming into compliance with new laws within a small window.

What is you and your company's biggest priority going into 2018?

Building trust with our new customers is Palomar's biggest priority for 2018. Palomar's goal is to have a high level of transparency in an industry that's been hidden in the shadows. We want to show people that we're a brand they can trust, and feel comfortable bringing what's so long been private into public.

What should residents of Los Angeles expect come Jan. 1?

Lots of confusing changes! L.A. might be a few weeks behind for adult use/recreational purchases, but medical patients can still get what they need. You'll also see new labeling requirements and changes to your favorite edibles soon. It will take some time to settle, but when they do, the industry will be in a much more stable, safer place.

What about legalization most excites you and most concerns you?

It's exciting to know that we're a part of history. We're pioneers in a totally new industry, in the largest market in the world. There will be so many opportunities for people who might not have ever had the chance. To me, that's really exciting.

As far as concerns go, I've been doing this for eight years. I've been raided, burned by bad partners and lived in constant fear that at any moment my world could come crashing down. I've seen a lot. Legalization actually offers some relief regarding business practices and safety, both consumer and personal.

Overall, it's gonna be fun!

Tim McGrawEXPAND
Tim McGraw
Courtesy of Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw, CEO, Canna-Hub

Now that recreational legalization is upon us, what do you believe is the biggest issues going forward for you and for the industry?

I think the learning curve for some operators will be very steep. The California cannabis market has been unregulated for over 20 years. The implementation of and costs of seed-to-sale tracking, security and especially third-party testing will be a huge hurdle for a lot of existing operators that don't have experience running their business in a regulated environment.

What is you and your company's biggest priority going into 2018?

Filling our Canna-Hub cannabis business parks with the most sophisticated and innovative operators from California and other states who are eager to be at the forefront of California's new industry.

What should residents of Los Angeles expect come Jan. 1?

We believe there will be an undersupply of cannabis initially, as operators get their state and local permitting handled. But when cannabis does make it into dispensaries, consumers will be getting pure, third-party-tested medicine. Third-party testing is crucial because it ensures the safety of the product.

What about legalization most excites you and most concerns you?

Cannabis regulation and legalization in the fifth largest economy in the world means that billions of dollars will be generated into California's economy. This means hundreds of millions of dollars in permitting fees and other revenue flowing into city and county coffers. The positive impact the industry will have economically and socially in small towns like Williams excites me the most.

I'm most concerned about operators' access to banking. It will take some time, but I believe the solution will come by the middle of 2018.

BigMike Straumietis
BigMike Straumietis
Courtesy of BigMike Straumietis

BigMike Straumietis, CEO, Advanced Nutrients

Now that recreational legalization is upon us, what do you believe is the biggest issue going forward for you and for the industry?

I believe the biggest issue facing us right now, in a general sense, is the maturing of our industry as a whole. In other words, as cannabis becomes legalized in more and more places, it's going to have to learn to function like other big and established industries that consumers have come to know and trust. For example, the cannabis industry is just now learning to function under the same types of regulatory bodies that govern other mature consumer markets.

That said, I'm proud of the fact that because I saw these changes coming, we've made them a priority at Advanced Nutrients and our ancillary businesses for quite some time now. And that's why we've done so much to embrace and encourage the highest standards possible, both in the nutrients and the end products that our customers consume, and just as importantly, to educate the public about these issues.

What is you and your company's biggest priority going into 2018?

At Advanced Nutrients, we'll continue to prioritize the research and development that we've always done to improve our products and serve the growers that depend on our nutrients for world-class, cup-winning cannabis. Personally, I'm also focused on launching and growing a number of related and complementary cannabis businesses, such as my own brand of cannabis consumables, BigMike's Blends, and launching what will become the world's foremost cannabis research and development center, Lacturnus Labs. And, of course, each year I get more and more involved in philanthropic pursuits, such as the biannual campaigns that my international charity Holiday Heroes undertakes.

What should residents of Los Angeles expect come Jan. 1?

We're already pretty relaxed about the legality of cannabis, so I expect the major change will be residents will see an absolutely enormous increase in the scope and scale of cannabis-centric businesses and services that will start to fulfill your every want and need, now that entrepreneurs — and investors with money who want to get in on the ground floor of our industry — are able to be a little more confident in the legal status of the cannabis industry. In short, it's a great time to be a cannabis enthusiast!

What about legalization most excites you and most concerns you?

What most excites me is the potential breakthroughs that we're going to experience, in a very short amount of time, now that the doors have been opened for more research into cannabis. For example, at another of my startups, we're mapping the entire genome of the cannabis plant, including male and female cannabis indica, cannabis sativa and cannabis ruderalis, to give away free to our industry as open-source data to help foster further innovations. These types of scientific research and development breakthroughs were simply impossible before because it was so hard to conduct legal research.

Along with that, it already seems every day we find new and amazing medicinal benefits of cannabis and how to use it to improve people's lives, and I am betting these medical breakthroughs and discoveries continue at an even more breakneck pace.

What most concerns me is the invasion of "Big Marijuana" — the corporate criminals that want to commoditize, dominate and direct the future of our tight-knit industry — who are hellbent on eliminating the mom-and-pop shops that helped build our community by using cutthroat big box–store tactics. Even worse are the health dangers, like GMO cannabis, and pharmaceutical interests that put profit over people.

All that said, I'm very optimistic about the future of our industry.

Cholla Doven, president, Sky High Organix

Now that recreational legalization is upon us, what do you believe is the biggest issue going forward for you and for the industry?

One of our biggest issues in the cannabis industry will be similar to that of the organic food farmers in America. It's really hard to be completely organic when outdoor farming. Outside contaminants such as pesticides and heavy chemicals used in agricultural farming can be blown by the wind and contaminate outdoor cannabis crops. Wine crops have similar mildew and bug infestations to cannabis crops, and since wine is not required to be organic, they are allowed to use very harmful pesticides that can contaminate cannabis and other nearby organic agricultural crops.

What is you and your company's biggest priority going into 2018?

At Infinity Medicinals and Sky High Organix, our biggest priority is being strictly pesticide-free and organic for our consumers.

What should residents of Los Angeles expect come Jan. 1?

Residents of Los Angeles should expect hardly any change in January whatsoever. We might see cannabis users feeling safer to consume in public.

What about legalization most excites you and most concerns you?

What excites me most about legalization is the endless medical applications of cannabis, in particular cannabidiols (CBDs). Now cannabis can be used legally in medical trials. We will see even more illnesses cured and symptoms alleviated by cannabis use.

What concerns me most is how law enforcement will manage and misdiagnose a cannabis DUI. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way yet to determine whether someone has consumed cannabis in the last hour or two, or whether it was six hours ago.

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