17 April 2022 |

The Top Cannabis Industry Influencers?

By Matthew O'Brien

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Let’s talk about something important.

In the cannabis industry today, there are the people who are building the industry, and there are people who create the appearance that they are building this industry.

The Builders

Helping to build the cannabis industry comes in many different shapes & sizes.

There are people that are focused on ensuring patients have access to medical cannabis, people focused on producing cannabis – creating software for the cannabis industry & many others helping in completely different ways.

For many of these people, they chose to prioritize their work over maintaining a public profile in the cannabis industry.

Seldom do these people receive the recognition they deserve for the work they do as stakeholders who are helping to build this budding industry.

Creating Credibility

There’s currently a shortage of capital in the cannabis industry and one strategy founders can use to increase their likelihood of gaining access / raising capital is to increase their credibility in cannabis.

How does one increase your credibility in the cannabis industry?

1) Work with a publication relations firm.

2) Hire a team to help you create content.

Working with a public relations firm who will work on your behalf to find publications who are interested in allowing you to write an article in their online or print publication can be very valuable.

In addition to working on your behalf to create opportunities for you to share thought leadership content with a large audience, many of these firms will also advocate on your behalf when it comes to who appears on the top 100 x lists.

This takes us to yesterday, when I saw this post from Nathan Welton whereby he outlined his criticism of High Times most recent top 100 cannabis industry leaders.

The Core Criticism?

Nathan raised a really good point.

“Seeing many of these Canadian cannabis CEO’s being recognized by HIGH TIMES for their “leadership” in the industry is pretty questionable… would love to know what exactly qualifies someone to make this list, since it would seem the below points are best to describe it.

  • Buying brands, because they have no idea how to create and grow their own
  • Blowing through millions/billions of investors $$$, without being held accountable?
  • Putting thousands of Canadians out of jobs, while they pad their own pockets with multi-millions annually?
  • Constantly blaming “market conditions” for their failures, which are actually driven by their own inability to understand the consumer?
  • No strategic focus, trying to be everything to everyone?”

In essence, why are the CEO’s of Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth, Sundial, Tilray on a list celebrating the success of certain people in the cannabis industry given the underwhelming results their companies have produced?

Candidly, I agree with a lot of what Nathan had to say.

Credible Criticisms

Many Canadian cannabis companies have struggled to meet their goals & we seldom hear anything from these people outside of earnings calls such that it does seem odd for these people to be considered the most influential people in cannabis.

Also, while many of these same people collected large bonuses — thousands of Canadians were laid off by the large cannabis companies these people run. 

There are of course exceptions to this with Tyler Robson the Co-founder & CEO of The Valens Company who was on this list consistently reaching his stated goals.

Nonetheless, there were a number of people in the cannabis industry with large followings who were not included on this list such as Jeffrey Graham, Amanda Goetz, Brett Puffenbarger, Mimi Lam, Shahbaaz Kara-Virani and Jocelyn Sheltraw.

Room For Improvement?

We as an industry can do a better job at giving recognition to the people who are truly working towards improving people’s access to cannabis, and the people who are helping to build the best cannabis companies to serve these customers.

Simultaneously, I don’t see the need to call out anyone for leading a large company that’s struggling to meet its financial goals as consumers will collectively determine which cannabis companies win, and which fail long term.

Closing Comments

When celebrating the success of leaders in cannabis, we as an industry need to give consideration to what we would like to hold in high regard.

Personally, I subscribe to the viewpoint that people such as budtenders who are helping to onboard new consumers are the most people in the cannabis industry, however, the reality is that everyone plays a very important role.

Whether that’s the person helping to collect signatures to legalize cannabis in Italy, or the master grower for a large cannabis farm in Oregon — everyone has a part to play to ensure people have access to high quality cannabis at good prices.

As such, as opposed to creating a list celebrating the top 100 most influential people in the cannabis industry, we would like to give a shout out to each and every individual who is actively helping to improve the cannabis industry in any area today.