009: An Insider’s View of the Medical Cannabis Industry with Jennie Leuzarder

009: An Insider’s View of the Medical Cannabis Industry with Jennie Leuzarder


Though adult use cannabis is rapidly maturing in many parts of the United States, the medical cannabis industry is still developing as well. It faces a different set of operational hurdles and challenges, is continuing to shift and develop, and remains the sole source of legal cannabis in a number of states, including New York.

Operating in 11 states across the country, Vireo Health is a fast-growing medical cannabis company. Founded by a doctor and backed by scientists and physicians, they are a seed-to-sale business building several brands in the medical and wellness spaces. 

Joining us today is Vireo’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Jennie Leuzarder. On today’s episode of the podcast, she takes us through the unique challenges of creating 11 separate functioning operational chains and shares insights into how Vireo created their unique brand. You’ll learn how they’re working to shake cannabis’s decades-old association with hippies, the complications of Vireo’s licenses, and how Jennie’s background in alcohol sales translates into this bold new world.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The challenges of the current licensing process for medical cannabis – and why Vireo has had to create entire manufacturing facilities.
  • Why Vireo emphasizes that they were founded by a doctor and how they work to ensure that product potency is always the same.
  • Why cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 drug creates massive inefficiencies in the supply chain.
  • How a pharmacist consult for medical cannabis is like working with an old-fashioned apothecary.
  • The biggest hurdles for brands in the medical cannabis space – and why even now, very few people know how to get a card.
  • Why Vireo has different brands and voices across a number of different spaces – and the approach the company takes with each of these brands. 
  • The reason Jennie thought cannabis would be federally legal by now – and why she believes full legalization is a year away, at most.

QUOTES

 “I think society goes through these waves where you get an idea of what something should look like. And then the cycle is that inevitably someone comes along and says, ‘Well, that’s ridiculous.’ And I think that cycle will happen here.” – Rick Kiley

EPISODE RESOURCES

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TRANSCRIPT

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Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Green Repeal. Today we’re going to get an inside look at the medical side of the cannabis industry by learning about one of the larger companies out there, Vireo Health. Vireo is a multi-state medical cannabis company that operates in 11 states across the country. Speaking to us on behalf of Vireo is Jennie Leuzarder, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Jennie oversees all key functions of their seat-to-sales, sales operations, brand strategy, market research, and more. She fills us in on how challenging it is to create 11 separate functioning operational chains and provides insight into Vireo’s approach to their brand. Jennie, like Jeff and me, also has a background in alcohol beverage. So, you’ll hear us compare the industries a fair bit. Jennie really knows her stuff and there’s a lot of great intel in here. Enjoy!

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Green Repeal. This is your host, Rick Kylie. I am joined not in person but remotely by my co-host, Jeff Boedges. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Hello from the other side of the world. 

 

Rick Kiley: New Jersey is where he is today. We’re all getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday today and we are very excited to be joined by a friend, colleague, Jennie Leuzarder, who is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Vireo Health. Welcome, Jennie.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Hi, Rick, and hi, Jeff.

 

Rick Kiley: Yahoo.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: We’re really excited to have Jennie here. We’ve known Jennie a very long time, from actually our alcohol beverage days, when she was once upon a time a client and…

 

Jeff Boedges: Co-worker. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And a co-worker. Yeah. 

 

Rick Kiley: And a co-worker, and we’ve come full circle and now we’re talking about cannabis. So, just before we jump in, Jennie, would you mind telling the listeners at home what is your role at Vireo and what does Vireo do in the world of cannabis?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Sure. So, I am the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Vireo Health. Vireo Health is a multi-state operator, cannabis operator. My position is really talking about full circle. I joined the movement about a year-and-a-half ago. It was a different world back then. My CEO always says that we are in cannabis is dog years. Not regular years. So, yeah, a year-and-a-half ago, the company was nearly 150 people. Now we’re over 400. So, we evolve tremendously. My position has evolved as well. Originally, I was brought in to lead all sales and I ended up doing sales and marketing and PR. Many, many hats really. 

 

Rick Kiley: Sure, sure. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And now we have a bigger team, obviously, so I’m not covering all those hats but I’m overseeing a lot of them.

 

Rick Kiley: So, wait. You have 400 employees already. Is that the number you said? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. 

 

Rick Kiley: That’s pretty fast. That’s quite the startup. So, that sounds really exciting. Can you tell us about Vireo Health? You said it’s a multi-state, medical cannabis company, correct? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Correct. 

 

Rick Kiley: So, what does that mean? What is a multi-state medical cannabis company?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, multi-state is a multi-state grower exactly that meaning that you have a licensing more than one state. We started our operation in Minnesota where our headquarters is with one of the two original licenses there. Still one of the two. There’s no more licenses except for us and somebody else. 

 

Rick Kiley: Minnesota has two licenses. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Two licenses, vertically integrated.

 

Jeff Boedges: Does that mean two locations or is that like two licenses with multiple locations?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Two licenses, meaning two growers, grower processors, a vertical license and then within that license, you can have four locations each. So, it’s eight dispensaries in the entire state and I think what recently…

 

Jeff Boedges: One for at least five residents then.

 

Rick Kiley: Come on, man. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I like Minnesota. I’m just teasing, man. It’s all good. 

 

Rick Kiley: The university is going to have more students than that. I think universities outpaced the rest of the population there in Minnesota. 

 

Jeff Boedges: No golfers. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah, lots of lakes too. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Lots of lakes. 

 

Rick Kiley: More lakes than people?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: A thousand lakes. It’s a beautiful state.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, you have one basically dispensary for every 1,250 lakes.

 

Jeff Boedges: I’m planning to grow cannabis in Minnesota, right? I mean, perfect. 

 

Rick Kiley: It’s not warm there. So, as a medical cannabis company, so you produce your own products, you run the dispensaries, and as you said it’s vertically integrated.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Not in ever state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, which state is it not? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, Minnesota, our headquarters is there. That’s where our founder Dr. Kyle Kingsley is from. So, we started there and now our second license is New York which was very similar, also vertically integrated license, which a little bit bigger market. At the time, it was one of the five original licenses. Now there are 10 licenses and what that means is each license got, similar to Minnesota, four dispensary licenses each. So, New York again, the market is from a geographic point of view such a big state, yet there’s only 40 dispensaries for the entire state of New York. And not all of them are open, but it’s a big undertaking. So, that’s in those two states and then we’re in others as well. Again, we’re multi-state based on all the different licenses in different states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Nevada, Massachusetts.

 

Rick Kiley: Wow, that’s seven we’re up to.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Puerto Rico, New Mexico. What did I miss? Arizona, did I mention that?

 

Rick Kiley: I don’t know. You said about 20% of the United States of America. So, this is a pretty big organization at this point. But you’re not in California?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: We’re not in California. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. And not in Washington and not in Colorado. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And are you asking because of…

 

Rick Kiley: Just they’re mature states.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Right. So, we do have a license in Nevada. It’s not active at the moment. We think that it might be active in Q2 of 2020 but that will be our first recreational market.

 

Rick Kiley: So, that’s your first question.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. What does active mean? So, you get a license and then what? You got to wait until they say go or is it on you to say, “I’m ready to go?”

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It’s kind of complicated. It depends, right? So, if you acquire a license, in this case, the Nevada license we acquire. If it’s ready to go, it’s already active, meaning whether it’s a growing license or some processing license and it’s operational, you can just take over and operate. But if you need to start from scratch, that means that you have to start an entire manufacturing facility from the beginning, which is the case of in Nevada. We have to start from scratch.

 

Rick Kiley: So, it’s almost like if you were to take over in the alcohol beverage industry, a liquor store that has the liquor license built-in, you would just be able to keep selling versus starting a new or spot where you’d have to apply and improve. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Or you take a distillery, a winery, right? So, you can take a wine or you can just take the land and build everything else from scratch or a winery that is already running, which probably relates more to our industry.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Wow. All right. And so, maybe I don’t know if you answered this and I missed it, but which are the states that you mentioned do you not operate fully vertically integrated operations?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Most of them actually. The only ones that are fully integrated and that’s one of the complications of the industry is New York and Minnesota. All the others the licenses vary depending on the state, qualifications. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay, cool.

 

Jeff Boedges: Is one way easier than the other? Would you prefer to do it fully integrated? Or is it better to actually have a smaller piece of the action to get up running faster? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I think it depends who you ask. But in our case, obviously, Minnesota were one of two licenses so yes. I mean, we only have one other competitor. We have technically 50% of the market. It’s just us if we execute correctly and we are. So, obviously, we like that. In New York, interesting because we started that way. And interestingly enough, the laws change at the beginning of this year. And at the beginning, the laws were that every license had to operate vertically and now everything changed. We can sell each other products. It’s still tight, though. That means that we have to sign agreements with each one of us. Each one of the operators has a license to be able to sell each other products. So, it’s not fully a market that when you walk into a dispensary in Colorado or Washington or California or not too far In New Jersey you see multiple brands being sold in one dispensary in New York. You don’t see that yet. And even if you do, you know that you can only have a choice of 10 brands to choose from because those are the only licenses that exist in the market. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. Okay. Cool. So, can you tell us a little bit about Vireo? Because I think you’re the largest organization we’ve talked to. So, on this level, multi-state medical cannabis. How’s your organization structured? Are there a lot of scientists? Are there a lot of patient caregivers like how did the operation I guess begin? And who are the leaders driving I guess the vision of the company at least in terms of maybe not the brand itself, I know there’s probably marketing people, but the products behind them? Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, sure. That’s a great question because I think that’s really what makes us different from everybody else, the fact that we are truly scientists and physicians backing the entire brand, the entire company. As a matter of fact, the founder of the company, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, he’s a physician. He started the company. He was an emergency physician in a hospital in Minnesota, in Minneapolis and what inspired him is just being in the ER room and seeing people coming in with OD-ing on opioids or other medicated drugs or just prescription medications that they were OD-ing on. And the solution was to provide them even with more medication to drug them even more. And prior to that, though, about 20 years ago, he had a medical residency in Cuba where he actually studied plant medicine. I don’t know if cannabis was one of the medicines at the actual study, but that was one of the inspirations. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Not official. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It was the inspiration actually the understanding as a physician that there’s more to science than just what we know that there’s actually natural resolutions to cure people and to care for people. So, with that, our company what makes us different is, one, that we have five full-time physicians. We’re the only company in the industry in the US and probably in the world that has five physicians full-time. Okay. And with that, so we bring really the integration of US traditional medicine and plant medicine. And we also have the backing of scientists. We have scientists, we have physicians, we have pharmacists that are backing up and making sure that we have precision. The other probably big differentiator for us is like the consistency of our product, the fact that our products are similar to when you get a Tylenol in a CVS or any other store. You get the same thing today and the same potency will be in six months or a year, two years from now. We pride ourselves for having the same consistency and being that different because we have the backing of medicine, we have the backing of doctors and scientists behind everything that we do.

 

Rick Kiley: So, no reports of patients having a bad experience because they’re not getting what they expect.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. Nobody’s seen Cher at a concert when they want to see somebody else. 

 

Jeff Boedges: That’s a bold statement. I think there’s still a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re doing and get into it. They might dare at a concert that’s not a Cher concert. In fact, a friend of ours, Jennie. No one you know. It wasn’t me. 

 

Rick Kiley: No, no, no. Okay. That’s very cool. So, what’s the process then? You know, as you’ve gone from state-to-state, I imagine it’s different. What’s the process of getting licensed in every state? We’ve talked to a group last week that is actually medical caregivers and main that are trying to get a recreational license. And there have been a lot of politics that have been impeding that process. I’m curious if the process is pretty laid out and you guys kind of have your system down now or is it really just depend on which state you’re in?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It kind of depends, but there is no science behind it. There’s two different ways to win a license. You can either merit-based meaning you apply and link in sort of like a lottery and there’s hundreds of other applicants or you can purchase a license. We’re sort of 50/50 at this point. 

 

Rick Kiley: Wait. So, hold on. So, like a state would go through this process with evaluating applications and trying to give out licenses depending based on merit, but then somebody…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Well, the merit meaning you’re applying and you’re saying, “I qualify because…” and there’s a big application, right?

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, I get it. I get it but just it would be curious to me that there is a lengthy detailed application process that the team has to go through. But then someone could just come in and buy that license and it could be just like Dave Skunky Weed Farm and take over?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes and no. So, think about this, right? So, say you’re applying for a license in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, whatever the state is. You applied in August. In order for you to apply for that license, you have to provide the state, the Department of Health, the Board of Pharmacy, whoever is heading the process with a location where your manufacturing is going to be. Depending, right? If it’s a dispensary, if it’s a growth facility, you have to have realtor because part of the application is that you have to meet certain qualifications that you might not be near a certain radius from school, a church, or whatever those qualifications are. And then there are certain qualifications even before the real estate of the facility that you’re going to be locating if you actually work with the license. Now, they might be a waiting process of about a year between the time you say, “Hey, yes you won the license,” or not. In that year, that means that you have to be paying real estate on an empty pot. And people that you put in your license saying, “Hey, I have a VP of Sales. I have a VP of Marketing. I have scientists, I have this,” it’s all those qualifications to be able to win the license. Now in a year, you might not have money to pay any of these people so you have to sell it.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. But Dave and his skunk weed farm could buy it?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: They could buy it but usually those guys will have the money to buy them. 

 

Rick Kiley: Right. Because you’re going to sell it for a significant amount of money because you’re trying to recoup that investment that you lost. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, one question I have that is pretty, I think you may be in a unique position to answer because we haven’t spoken to anybody that operates in more than one state. The way the systems have to be set up, as far as I know, you have to grow your product in the state, you need to move it around just within the state, package it, sell it, all in the state. So, what are you doing with your product? Are you setting up now, you said, I think seven, eight, nine, ten states? Do you have a separate facility that basically manages the whole process from A to Z in every state? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No. Fortunately, because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug, you cannot cross state line. So, it is probably one of the biggest disadvantages that we have as an industry and the reason why nobody’s making money at the time. Nobody is because think about all the logistics, all the disadvantages that you have because you have to build entire facility building staff, equipment, product, and duplicate those efforts in every single state.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. 

 

Jeff Boedges: There’s no efficiencies at all. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: There’s no efficiencies. Not at all.

 

Rick Kiley: Even in like…

 

Jeff Boedges: What about brands?

 

Rick Kiley: Go ahead. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Are you doing brands that are crossed so you might have the same brand in two states in Minnesota and in New York that say the same thing, the same promises? Can you do that even though they’re manufactured in two different places?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. So, it’s funny because even that could change, right? So, I give you a quick example. For example, we just launched Ohio in September of this year, and in Ohio, we only have a license, a processing license, so we don’t grow the plant. We have to buy the plant from, we have to buy the raw material from growers and then process that. So, we’re much done with the science of the brand of the actual medication, the potency that we want to do and all that, but the state requires that you can only go to a certain high with the product. So, you have to dilute it to meet with the state requirements to the Board of Pharmacy requirements. So, the same product cannot be the exact same in Pennsylvania and Ohio because of the Board of Pharmacy regulation.

 

Rick Kiley: Right. So, while the package may be… 

 

Jeff Boedges: The three-two beer of weed. Sorry. Keep going. 

 

Rick Kiley: While the packaging might be the same or the brand might be the same, the formulation actually has to be a little bit different state-by-state because of the state guidelines.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. And that’s not everywhere. For instance, right now we’re pretty much the same in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota. We just launched our distillate products everywhere and there’s purity to the max. Nothing at it. And that’s what we’re trying to keep everywhere, but sometimes it just changes and back to the challenges that you have. The efficiencies at scale do not happen because of the regulations that change from -everything will change once it’s federally approved, of course, because there will be regulations that will go across the board but right now you just have to follow the state regulations. 

 

Rick Kiley: It sounds like a nightmare. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It is a total nightmare.

 

Jeff Boedges: But also, I think the big thing with federal legalization is the ability perhaps to grow it in one state and ship it across state lines and market it everywhere. And that’s what you’re, you know, for me the supply line and efficiency thing is such a disaster. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. Well, it’s both on the growing side on the vegetative side, but also the end product too. I mean, you could, I don’t know, if you need to ship the raw materials around. Are you growing your own product? Or you mentioned buying from farmers so are you kind of like which part of the process is the Vireo-owned part of the process? Is it the growing? Is it the extraction? Is it the formulation? Where does Vireo sort of take over and own the whole process? And where are you using other partners to help?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, we do it all. So, we’re a seed-to-sale multi-state operator. Again, it depends on the state because depending on the license like but we started as seed-to-sell. In Minnesota and New York, our licenses are incorporated completely. So, from growing the plant, the entire process, producing the medication, packaging, selling it in our own dispensaries and then communicate and retelling it to a patient. So, we have that process to unpack. Now, in a state like Pennsylvania, for instance, where we started only as a grower processor, we do not – so in Pennsylvania, you can apply for two different licenses. So, a grower processor or a dispensary license. A retail. We didn’t get the retail license until a year later. So, we have started just as a distributor and we had the entire process of, again, growing the plant, developing our brands, and just developing the brands really, the Vireo brand and innovation came within that one brand.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I have a weird specific question. So, all these states that are starting these things, they got to get the seeds from somewhere and this is kind of a chicken and egg question, but if there were no growth facilities there, are these seeds, they must have come from across state lines from someplace, right? So, is there less prohibition on moving a fairly high number of cannabis seeds around the country?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: You know, that’s the one thing I don’t have an answer for.

 

Rick Kiley: Probably a good thing that you don’t have the answer. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I apologize. It just occurred to me, this is a chicken and the egg. Well, where’s the egg? 

 

Rick Kiley: Well, you walk into the forest and you look for a bush that speaks three languages.

 

Jeff Boedges: You scavenged. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. I want to talk a little bit about the dispensary aspect of your business because I know you’re creating the products and your brands for your patients. In the dispensaries themselves, imagine maybe in New York and Minnesota this is true, but are you exclusively selling Vireo products or there are products from other companies being sold at the retailers that you operate?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, it depends, right? So, in Minnesota for sure. We’re one of two licenses. That’s the state requirement. You can’t do anything else and actually, the brand is even different in Minnesota. It’s MinnMed. So, I think in January it’s changing to be a Vireo brand just like the rest of the country. In New York, we started just being a Vireo brand in our dispensaries. Now we’re selling others because New York changed the law and regulations. So, now we can sell each other’s brands. But this is a process. It only started this year so it’s not – we’re all slowly integrating that process into the business and it’s becoming something else.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, at your dispensaries then, how are they? I’ve been in a couple medical dispensaries in New York. I know that they have to have a pharmacist on staff. So, how are Vireo dispensary staffed? Is it uniform in the different states or is it like pretty much state-to-state the same or like who’s on staff there when you walk in there?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, definitely, you will always find a pharmacist because I think that’s our core. We’re a medical company first off. You know, we have doctors. So, in New York, as a matter of fact, our VP of Retail Operations she’s a pharmacist and she started here in New York where she was running our operations in New York and she started as a staff pharmacist in one of our dispensaries and then her position grow. Now, we just opened in Pennsylvania for instance where it’s also required to have a pharmacist on staff. You don’t have to have it at the dispensary a full-time I think but as long as we have a license that will give us three retail spaces, three retail stores in MPA. We have two of those open and we have I think one pharmacy for both, something like that. But, yeah, that’s definitely a requirement. In Maryland, you don’t need a pharmacist. You can just have knowledgeable people but we do pride ourselves for giving the appropriate training because that’s our background in education and we have, as a matter of fact, we have our education director is one of them is Dr. Paloma. She’s a full-time physician that works for us. Another one of our directors of education she’s a nurse. So, we always have training in place for all of the people that are working in our facilities.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay.

 

Jeff Boedges: Can I just ask why that is so? I’m having not been to a medical version. Are the pharmacist there to try to avoid interaction issues with other drugs? Are they like budtenders? What service are the pharmacists actually providing? And I’m sorry if that’s a silly question.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No, definitely not silly especially because I think that majority of people when they think of cannabis, they’re thinking flower, right? You’re thinking of storing. In Colorado where, what, 80% of the purchases are just flower because people smoke it. Think about it in New York, in Minnesota, the states where flower is not allowed, you have to sell it in different other forms, right, a capsule, soft gels, dentures, suppositories, ointments, you name it. It’s just another regular medication. So, people they don’t know the knowledge. They’ll have to take it in or what the onset is when they take the medication because this is really medication for them. I will say that you can probably control it with flower in a much different way. If you take it as a pill, if you take it as a puff on a cartridge, it’s different also depending on the potency of the product. And what a pharmacist does is they usually will ask questions like, “What medication were you taking before?” and just by knowing their history, they’ll have an idea of what potency they can recommend for them. 

 

Rick Kiley: Sure. Okay. 

 

Jeff Boedges: That’s great. 

 

Rick Kiley: And the pharmacists have to be licensed? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. They have to be licensed in their state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Right. Sorry, Jeff. I didn’t mean to cut you.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah, no, you’re fine. But I’m just curious, though, about the – it’s really a change in responsibility. In traditional, more traditional medicine, it’s the doctor that really kind of talks about those things with the patient. In this case, that responsibility has shifted immensely. You know, obviously, I think the doctors going to say, “Here’s your prescription,” but really let the pharmacist have a much freer hand in how the treatment is actually administered.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. 1,000% and I think also cannabis has given pharmacists a different voice. So, before pharmacists, and I know this because now I honestly never had a relationship with a pharmacist before until I came into this industry. You know, pharmacists are people that you meet at CVS or Duane Reade where they’re basically just cashiers. They do not really have an interaction or a relationship with the patient from the caregiver’s point of view. Here, they actually each is a requirement that in the State of New York or Minnesota that a patient meets has a first-time consultation with a pharmacist. And this consultation can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Think about that. When was the last time do you spend that much time with a healthcare provider? That probably never ever happens. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Just in the line or in the waiting room. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. That never happens. You’re going to see a doctor. The doctor wants to get you out of the door right away because they don’t get paid really by the insurance company so they want to get you out. Here, the pharmacist is actually having a conversation and they really care for these patients and they want to ask them what is it that they can help them with and with all sorts of questions and they’re really guiding them through the process.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, sorry.

 

Jeff Boedges: It’s almost an apothecary kind of approach in its pharmacists. It’s almost like pharmacist is a misnomer in that because I agree. And nothing against any pharmacist out there, guys. I love you. But your interactions are so limited with consumers or with patients. Whereas when I think of the more old-fashioned apothecary, that was more of their approach it felt like. It’s just an interesting change back to…

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. The pharmacists of a century ago.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. 

 

Rick Kiley: Cool. Well, look, I want to keep moving this forward here. I want to kind of start talking about the brand itself and some of the hurdles. I remember when we were talking about Vireo and since you’re a medical company that we are talking about getting your product to consumers, you’ve told me that one of the biggest barriers is people actually just don’t know how to get a marijuana card like how to get a medical card and how that process works. And just that sort of unknown and the fact that no one’s really advertising how to do it. You don’t go see subway ads that are like, “Hey, you want your marijuana card? Call Dr. Weed or whatever.” I mean, they advertise for all these other medical…

 

Rick Kiley: So, I guess the question is, is that still your number one barrier, people not knowing how to go about getting a card?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah and it’s not just ours. It’s kind of like the industry challenge that we have. You know, I live in New York City and most people the number one question, “Oh, is it legal in New York?” And most people don’t even know that it’s legal. Even medically, they don’t know. To this day, I think we have less than 70,000 people that are registered. So, the amount is so small. 

 

Rick Kiley: Wait. In all of New York? The State of New York?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: All of New York. The state of New York. 

 

Rick Kiley: There’s 70,000 people live on my block in Brooklyn.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Right. So, that’s the challenge. So, it’s less…

 

Jeff Boedges: And they’re all smoking, by the way. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Less than 1% of the population don’t even have a card so how can you be competitive? How can you target those consumers? So, do they even know that you exist? Or the industry has not been friendly to promoting the fact that it’s available. 

 

Rick Kiley: Are there restrictions on advertising or promoting like how to get the card? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: Not on your product. So, I know there are restrictions on advertising cannabis brands, but in terms of advertising, “Hey, do you think you have a prequalifying condition for medical cannabis? Find out here.” Like, are there prohibitions against that, do you know or not? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No, there’s definitely no restrictions. Obviously, there are qualifying conditions that you have to have one of them. There’s 13 of those in New York to be able to get them. They change from state-to-state. In Pennsylvania, they’re 23, in Maryland, I think they’re 19. They have a list of conditions each one of the states and if one of them fits you, as long as you have a doctor saying, “Yes, you qualify,” you can get a card then you’re good to go. And the process it could be simple. It could be I say because if you know how to do it, then it could take you 15 minutes, which is what it took me to get mine. I got it through a third party service or you can just get it directly from the Department of Health and might be a longer process like to me the three or five different steps.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I researched this and got it done same day.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Do you do it with…

 

Rick Kiley: Regular doctor that happened to be licensed to prescribe and then I got the prescription and then you could go to the website and you got a temporary card. You could print it out on your computer as soon as you’re done.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Do you see the doctor face-to-face? 

 

Rick Kiley: Yes, I did. Yeah. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Okay. 

 

Rick Kiley: So, I had to go face-to-face. I know there are virtual ones as well. But I think, Jeff, you thought I was joking. I think like Dr. Weed is a guy and there are these third parties. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Is he in New York? I thought he was someplace else. 

 

Rick Kiley: I think Dr. Weed’s in a lot of different states.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, I did NuggMD. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. What? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: NuggMD?

 

Rick Kiley: NuggMD. So, a resource for anyone that wants to see if they have a qualifying medical condition. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I did it on a Sunday morning. I was still in bed. In 15 minutes, it was done. I had made an appointment immediately with a doctor virtually and done deal.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. 

 

Jeff Boedges: So, it is pretty new. Yeah. So, I guess, like right now. I mean, I’m seeing this guy advertise on TV now that you can get like ED treatments and all kinds of other men’s things that used to be like hard, but you can just call and have a virtual appointment now and get whatever you want. And that’s somewhat crazy to me. But I guess it’s the way we do. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, do you know the way that it works here in New York is that a pretty similar process to the other states? You have a doctor that says, “It’s okay?” 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. It’s pretty similar. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay, cool. All right. So, I’m just curious, since I know that you have your Vireo products and we also have your dispensaries, talk a little bit about marketing here. Do you approach those as different brands these days? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Totally. 

 

Rick Kiley: Totally different brands? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Totally different brands. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. All right. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And not everyone does. Even within my company, within Vireo, we still have a little bit of a conflict and dividing the two. Just because we’re such a new company and even from our leadership, they don’t understand yet or we’re still learning to divide the brands and give each other each one of the brands a difference voice. Because when the company started, it was all one voice and because it was a vertically integrated brand, it was one brand and everything was speaking through the same voice. Now, we have different brands. So, we have Vireo, the corporation Vireo which is an international parent company for everything. We have our dispensary license, a dispensary brand which is Green Goods.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Green Goods. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Green Goods. The first Green Goods just opened in Pennsylvania last month. We opened two dispensaries there and then we have Vireo, the brand, which is our… 

 

Rick Kiley: So, the products are all Vireo products? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Our products are all Vireo products. One of the products. Now that’s still… 

 

Rick Kiley: Are you going to be introducing other brands? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, we actually introduced already that’s one of my babies, 1937.

 

Rick Kiley: 1937, very important year in cannabis history. We talked about 1937 quite a bit. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. That’s another thing though. We can come back to the question. It’s like when you look at the names of medications in traditional pharma versus the name of medications in cannabis, you don’t have anything that has kind of a lifestyle name like 1937 in pharma.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Do you have high blood pressure? Try 1926.

 

Rick Kiley: You don’t think Lunesta is a lifestyle brand, Jeffrey? Come on now. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Depending on what kind of point…

 

Rick Kiley: Lights out with Lunesta. Okay. And is it going to be in your plan to continue to innovate new brands do you think?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. We have a few brands actually. We launched LightBud

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, what’s the approach to each brand? So, you have your Vireo Health brands, which we know a little bit about because we’ve talked about it before. What’s the difference between 1937 and the Vireo brands? Like what’s the different story about them? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, I was saying before about the different voices of each one of the brands. Vireo is our medical brand. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Anything that looks and feels like medicine, cartridges, tinctures, soft gels, capsules, oral all solutions, you name it, all of that will be under the Vireo brand platform. 1937 is the brand that is going to take us more into the wellness arena.

 

Rick Kiley: But adult use and recreational? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. So, we already launched 1937 in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland where they very much were for what they are and that’s our flower, our concentrates like hash and rosin and it’s all under the 1937 name. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. That’s exciting. It’s exciting to launch new products.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: I’m sure super easy also. Alright. So, we talked a little bit about the medical card but given that we’re in the highly regulated space and I know you’re no stranger to working in highly regulated spaces given the alcohol beverage background but what are your biggest challenges as you’re building a brand? I would ask you from the perspective of maybe not the challenges that anyone launching like a new sneaker or something would have as well, but what’s unique to cannabis as you’re trying to build this that Vireo is finding challenging, maybe you’re just finding personally challenging that the industry is finding challenging? Like what are the hurdles that you got to start to deal with? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. There are so many challenges to cannabis. One, obviously, that it’s Schedule 1 drug still. Obviously, it shouldn’t be, but it is. Because of that, all the inefficiencies that come along with that so just repeating the same process in every single stage. Huge, huge challenge there. Not to mention costly for any company. So, it’s really hard for anyone to make money in one second, just to be as we pride of being consistent and it’s very challenging to do that when you have to duplicate those efforts in every single state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Interesting. Yeah. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And then from the marketing point of view, it’s hard too because there’s so many restrictions so even you can buy digital. If you want to pop in a Google search, you can’t do that. The things that are basics for any other industry. 

 

Rick Kiley: No TV ads. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely not. No TV ads. 

 

Rick Kiley: No print ads and magazines.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And even if you could do those actually, it’s so costly. Again, nobody’s really making money in this industry yet.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, why is everybody doing it if you can’t make money? Like is it just the expectation that at some point we will be? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: We’re just doing this long investment.

 

Jeff Boedges: I think that’s the genesis of this podcast. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. I mean, wasn’t that also the genesis of prohibition and when alcohol was happening back in the day with alcohol? When at first it started, again, it’s replicating right when it started in Canada and then it came into the US and it was a buildup to be something bigger. 

 

Rick Kiley: I think because we spent a lot of time talking about prohibition, there are a lot of influences but I think at the end of the day, the cost of the enforcement was untenable and the loss of the revenue was required and that’s what made prohibition be repealed at the end of the day. And we’ve seen costly governmental battle on the war on drugs which cannabis is rolled into with these really bad Schedule 1 drugs as well. Now, even I think cocaine is Schedule 2, right? Like cocaine’s not even Schedule 1 which still boggles my mind. 

 

Jeff Boedges: It has no medical value whatsoever. That was the defining characteristic in the Sched 1 whereas, you know, I had my nose broken more times than I can count but I know for a fact that when they set your schnoz, that’s what they give. You get a little bit of blow kind of… 

 

Rick Kiley: What? 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Yeah, they give me a blow when they set my nose. I was like, “Really?” 

 

Rick Kiley: Wow. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Well, actually, I guess I shouldn’t call. It wasn’t powder. They give it to you in liquid form but I do know that I was the chattiest patient ever.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Wow. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Sorry. Rick, I thought you already knew about it. 

 

Rick Kiley: No. I didn’t realize that you had your nose broken and you had cocaine to help you put it back together. You learn something new every day. 

 

Jeff Boedges: It used to be the other way around. You do the coke and then you get your nose broken. 

 

Rick Kiley: See, this is one of those things where perhaps a medical cannabis experience would help you because perhaps that could be an alternative to this. Highly addictive and cocaine which boggles my mind. So, I mean, it’s our hope and our belief that we’ll continue on this path to repeal. And I guess, you know, you kind of answered a lot of the questions that we have prepared already in advance and you get the sense I’m gathering everybody’s involved in organization because they believe that that is going to happen, otherwise, they wouldn’t be making this investment yet. So, are you paying attention to what’s happening in sort of the advocacy on the federal regulations that are going through like the fact that the Safe Banking Act just passed through the House of Representatives? The more act got out of the judiciary, which I think safe banking would allow for interstate commerce and that would be extremely helpful for an organization like yours, yes? And then the more active I think, actually, is the template pretty much for federal legalization? Like I guess to what degree are you just observers of that process? Are people in your organization part of it? In that, are you calling representatives? Is there a lobbying effort? You know that…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, we have a public affairs team that is very involved and we’re watching every process very closely. We have our Chief Strategy Officer. He’s very close to each one of these processes. Ari Hoffnung, his background is in the public arena in New York. And we also have and also think about the impact that this is having on the industry and then we’re looking it at also from 1937, for instance. So, the voice that this brand has is the voice of advocating for people that have been impacted by the cannabis, by the cannabis laws in the past. So, we’re given this brand a voice. Yet the brand is also advocating for others. So, it’s our way of advertising but really advocating for the industry and for the people that have been affected. But whether we’re supporting the candidates that there are supporting the movement of legalizing this and expunge laws, anything that has to do with being in the right side or wrong, that’s 1937. So, we’re doing in different ways, obviously, with our lobbying team and being really close to it and also through our brands. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it.

 

Jeff Boedges: What about your hiring practices? Are you guys trying to, you know, look at people that may have been negatively impacted in the past and try to give them an opportunity to share in the rewards of the industry? Not that there are any rewards yet, as you said, no one’s making money but is there any chance that you guys would look at people that maybe historically have been, you know, even incarcerated?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I don’t know. You know, that’s something that I’m not really close to. Honestly, we don’t have anyone like that yet in our corporate team but again, we’re growing and we’re not that many. The corporate team is probably 40 of us. We’re 400 people. The majority is really now our facilities. I’m not saying that we don’t have someone that comes from a background from the kind of, you know, that were impacted in the cannabis industry before. But, you know, I can tell you that that’s definitely something that we’re open to as a company.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. I think that would be enough. One, I think it would be a very forward-thinking and certainly a magnanimous move and I think a right move from a social justice perspective, but from a practical side, I think it would be a great PR du coup for a company that figured out that there are a lot of very talented people who just need a break, but also a lot of people who have been negatively impacted and you guys are taking a social stand against that. And I think again, this is me brainstorming here but I think it would be an interesting place for a company like yours to play.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: You can’t stop the guy from brainstorming. You can’t take the marketer out of the man. 

 

Jeff Boedges: You can only help slow me down.

 

Rick Kiley: You could try. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: But at the same, I guess, the other angle of that we just launched our market in Ohio and we had a blitz, sales blitz with all of our entire marketing team. We all flew to Ohio. We visit every single one of the open dispensaries. Talking to these dispensaries they were like, “Oh, it’s just a breath of fresh air to see professionals coming into the dispensary,” as opposed to the hippie that they just that maybe smoked weed all their lives and now they want to have a business. So, I think there’s two sides of the story. So, they want to look if you’re looking at this from the medical side and where you really want to help people, you want people that are experts behind your medicine and that they know how to make this medicine and you want to make sure that you have the best products and the best potencies and the best science behind the products that you’re intaking and you’re buying. That’s what makes us different. That’s what we’re offering.

 

Rick Kiley: By the way, I thought you almost said pot-ency there for a second which maybe we should start using. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. We came like that. 

 

Rick Kiley: Pot-ency. What’s the pot-ency of this strain? Alright. 

 

Jeff Boedges: We get those. 

 

Rick Kiley: Trademark Green Repeal. 

 

Jeff Boedges: My pot-ency. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I agree. I think just purely from a marketing standpoint, I feel like the industry and the category really has a lot of work to do and coming from alcohol beverage where we grew up and sort of started marketing in an age where there are plenty of aspirational iconic images of people drinking, being successful, being achievers and well-balanced human beings, right, like that all exists whereas we still live in a time I think where most people’s image that’s conjured when they think of someone using cannabis is Cheech & Chong or someone burned out or something like that.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. And that’s part of this stigma, right, that we want to change.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. And we have to build this idea of no, there are professionals that maybe want to microdose at the end of the day to unwind instead of having a glass of wine or whatever else they might do. And that there’s room for that professional to have this in their life. And I think there’s a lot of work to do that not just you and your brand and we as marketers, but really the category needs to do.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Absolutely. 

 

Jeff Boedges: And that’s just the key. So, you need stuff. You’re not even considering all the CBD things that are still largely castigated as being evil for a lot of circles and I’ve run up against people that are like, “Oh, you know, CBD? How could you sell that in the store?” I think it’s okay, man. I’m trying to talk people off the ledge. But all of that is sort of looped in with this bad reputation. I think there are reputational issues that the industry needs to deal with.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, definitely. And even for me when I first started in the industry a year-and-a-half ago, I remember telling some of my mom friends and one of them the first thing she’s like, “Oh, please don’t tell the kids.” The other one is like, “Oh, Jennie, you’ll get something else.” As if I should be embarrassed. “Poor thing.” So, I’m like, “What do you mean, you’ll get something else? This is what I want to do.” But back to the stigma, right? So, people think this is something bad or why would I be doing that when I’ve been a professional my entire life? They don’t equate being in cannabis as a professional career. So, you know, back to like, “Okay, what does cannabis look like? You know, is it the hippie?” Again, what are we? I think it’s our responsibility now to change that stigma.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, I think society goes through these waves where you get an idea of what something should look like. And then the cycle is that inevitably someone comes along and says, “Well, that’s ridiculous. It can be anything,” and I think that cycle will happen here. I think the question is, how fast will it happen? And will government regulators stay in the way for a long time?

 

Jeff Boedges: How do we operate legally within the regulations?

 

Rick Kiley: So, I think, Jennie, one of the things, this is called The Green Repeal. We’ve been talking about it for a reason. We think that the federal legalization is where we’re going. And you might be actually in a position, you might have people who are in the know within your circle. Do you have any sense, does your team believe that there is a date, a time, a year where a law may be passed federally to allow everyone to go a little further? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I want to have the answer for that actually.

 

Rick Kiley: Do you? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: When I started again a year-and-a-half ago, we thought that by now.

 

Rick Kiley: Oh, really? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It was a done deal because New Jersey was so hot and New Jersey was going to be legal and because New Jersey was going to be legal then they trickle down to New York. And then if New York is legal, then the entire country should be legal. So, that neither one of those two states happens so then everything is in stall right now. So, now we’re waiting for the 2020 elections. But it’s a matter of months, a year tops. 

 

Rick Kiley: You think? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I’m 100%, yes. We’re moving so fast. As a matter of fact, I know people already that are going to, that countries in Europe are already developing their laws and regulations so they’re preparing for when the US goes legal because they’re going to do the same thing as well. So, the entire world is getting ready for this. This is true prohibition. 

 

Rick Kiley: Awesome. And do you…

 

Jeff Boedges: So, we have your vote for December, or sorry, November 26, 2020. So, we’re going to have you back a year from now. We’re going to…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. And you’re going to quote me and read my lips.

 

Rick Kiley: There you go. Well, we will know. So, it’s a good question. We will know the result of the next presidential election by November 26, 2020. At least I hope we do. Do you believe that who is sitting in the White House matters in regards to this? Or do you think it doesn’t matter who’s there?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I don’t think it will matter. I think whoever wins the election it’s going to happen regardless. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Okay. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Knock on wood.

 

Jeff Boedges: There’s some speculation that may become a political bargaining chip, meaning somebody might legalize it prior to the election in order to gain favor with the people on the fence, so to speak.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Oh, yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. I think so. 

 

Rick Kiley: Why does everyone keep saying this? It’s freaking me out. Alright. Cool. Jennie, it’s been great having you here. If somebody wanted to learn more about Vireo or find one of your Green Goods Dispensaries, how should they go about doing that?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Well, you can easily find us, VireoHealth.com and Green Goods I think ShopGreenGoods is our website. ShopGreenGoods.com.

 

Rick Kiley: ShopGreenGoods.com. And Vireo is V-I-R-E-O. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: V-I-R-E-OHealth.com. Make sure you include health in there. But yeah, I mean, you can google us. We’re a multi-state grower. We are in 11 states and we keep growing. We are active in seven of the 11 states, I think. 

 

Rick Kiley: Cool. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Excited to be here.

 

Rick Kiley: Great. It’s been great having you on. Really fun conversation. Thank you so much, Jennie.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Thank you both.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. Bye, Jeff.

 

Jeff Boedges: Bye, guys.

 

Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Green Repeal. Today we’re going to get an inside look at the medical side of the cannabis industry by learning about one of the larger companies out there, Vireo Health. Vireo is a multi-state medical cannabis company that operates in 11 states across the country. Speaking to us on behalf of Vireo is Jennie Leuzarder, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Jennie oversees all key functions of their seat-to-sales, sales operations, brand strategy, market research, and more. She fills us in on how challenging it is to create 11 separate functioning operational chains and provides insight into Vireo’s approach to their brand. Jennie, like Jeff and me, also has a background in alcohol beverage. So, you’ll hear us compare the industries a fair bit. Jennie really knows her stuff and there’s a lot of great intel in here. Enjoy!

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Green Repeal. This is your host, Rick Kylie. I am joined not in person but remotely by my co-host, Jeff Boedges. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Hello from the other side of the world. 

 

Rick Kiley: New Jersey is where he is today. We’re all getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday today and we are very excited to be joined by a friend, colleague, Jennie Leuzarder, who is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Vireo Health. Welcome, Jennie.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Hi, Rick, and hi, Jeff.

 

Rick Kiley: Yahoo.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: We’re really excited to have Jennie here. We’ve known Jennie a very long time, from actually our alcohol beverage days, when she was once upon a time a client and…

 

Jeff Boedges: Co-worker. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And a co-worker. Yeah. 

 

Rick Kiley: And a co-worker, and we’ve come full circle and now we’re talking about cannabis. So, just before we jump in, Jennie, would you mind telling the listeners at home what is your role at Vireo and what does Vireo do in the world of cannabis?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Sure. So, I am the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Vireo Health. Vireo Health is a multi-state operator, cannabis operator. My position is really talking about full circle. I joined the movement about a year-and-a-half ago. It was a different world back then. My CEO always says that we are in cannabis is dog years. Not regular years. So, yeah, a year-and-a-half ago, the company was nearly 150 people. Now we’re over 400. So, we evolve tremendously. My position has evolved as well. Originally, I was brought in to lead all sales and I ended up doing sales and marketing and PR. Many, many hats really. 

 

Rick Kiley: Sure, sure. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And now we have a bigger team, obviously, so I’m not covering all those hats but I’m overseeing a lot of them.

 

Rick Kiley: So, wait. You have 400 employees already. Is that the number you said? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. 

 

Rick Kiley: That’s pretty fast. That’s quite the startup. So, that sounds really exciting. Can you tell us about Vireo Health? You said it’s a multi-state, medical cannabis company, correct? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Correct. 

 

Rick Kiley: So, what does that mean? What is a multi-state medical cannabis company?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, multi-state is a multi-state grower exactly that meaning that you have a licensing more than one state. We started our operation in Minnesota where our headquarters is with one of the two original licenses there. Still one of the two. There’s no more licenses except for us and somebody else. 

 

Rick Kiley: Minnesota has two licenses. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Two licenses, vertically integrated.

 

Jeff Boedges: Does that mean two locations or is that like two licenses with multiple locations?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Two licenses, meaning two growers, grower processors, a vertical license and then within that license, you can have four locations each. So, it’s eight dispensaries in the entire state and I think what recently…

 

Jeff Boedges: One for at least five residents then.

 

Rick Kiley: Come on, man. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I like Minnesota. I’m just teasing, man. It’s all good. 

 

Rick Kiley: The university is going to have more students than that. I think universities outpaced the rest of the population there in Minnesota. 

 

Jeff Boedges: No golfers. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah, lots of lakes too. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Lots of lakes. 

 

Rick Kiley: More lakes than people?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: A thousand lakes. It’s a beautiful state.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, you have one basically dispensary for every 1,250 lakes.

 

Jeff Boedges: I’m planning to grow cannabis in Minnesota, right? I mean, perfect. 

 

Rick Kiley: It’s not warm there. So, as a medical cannabis company, so you produce your own products, you run the dispensaries, and as you said it’s vertically integrated.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Not in ever state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, which state is it not? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, Minnesota, our headquarters is there. That’s where our founder Dr. Kyle Kingsley is from. So, we started there and now our second license is New York which was very similar, also vertically integrated license, which a little bit bigger market. At the time, it was one of the five original licenses. Now there are 10 licenses and what that means is each license got, similar to Minnesota, four dispensary licenses each. So, New York again, the market is from a geographic point of view such a big state, yet there’s only 40 dispensaries for the entire state of New York. And not all of them are open, but it’s a big undertaking. So, that’s in those two states and then we’re in others as well. Again, we’re multi-state based on all the different licenses in different states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Nevada, Massachusetts.

 

Rick Kiley: Wow, that’s seven we’re up to.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Puerto Rico, New Mexico. What did I miss? Arizona, did I mention that?

 

Rick Kiley: I don’t know. You said about 20% of the United States of America. So, this is a pretty big organization at this point. But you’re not in California?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: We’re not in California. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. And not in Washington and not in Colorado. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And are you asking because of…

 

Rick Kiley: Just they’re mature states.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Right. So, we do have a license in Nevada. It’s not active at the moment. We think that it might be active in Q2 of 2020 but that will be our first recreational market.

 

Rick Kiley: So, that’s your first question.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. What does active mean? So, you get a license and then what? You got to wait until they say go or is it on you to say, “I’m ready to go?”

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It’s kind of complicated. It depends, right? So, if you acquire a license, in this case, the Nevada license we acquire. If it’s ready to go, it’s already active, meaning whether it’s a growing license or some processing license and it’s operational, you can just take over and operate. But if you need to start from scratch, that means that you have to start an entire manufacturing facility from the beginning, which is the case of in Nevada. We have to start from scratch.

 

Rick Kiley: So, it’s almost like if you were to take over in the alcohol beverage industry, a liquor store that has the liquor license built-in, you would just be able to keep selling versus starting a new or spot where you’d have to apply and improve. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Or you take a distillery, a winery, right? So, you can take a wine or you can just take the land and build everything else from scratch or a winery that is already running, which probably relates more to our industry.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Wow. All right. And so, maybe I don’t know if you answered this and I missed it, but which are the states that you mentioned do you not operate fully vertically integrated operations?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Most of them actually. The only ones that are fully integrated and that’s one of the complications of the industry is New York and Minnesota. All the others the licenses vary depending on the state, qualifications. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay, cool.

 

Jeff Boedges: Is one way easier than the other? Would you prefer to do it fully integrated? Or is it better to actually have a smaller piece of the action to get up running faster? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I think it depends who you ask. But in our case, obviously, Minnesota were one of two licenses so yes. I mean, we only have one other competitor. We have technically 50% of the market. It’s just us if we execute correctly and we are. So, obviously, we like that. In New York, interesting because we started that way. And interestingly enough, the laws change at the beginning of this year. And at the beginning, the laws were that every license had to operate vertically and now everything changed. We can sell each other products. It’s still tight, though. That means that we have to sign agreements with each one of us. Each one of the operators has a license to be able to sell each other products. So, it’s not fully a market that when you walk into a dispensary in Colorado or Washington or California or not too far In New Jersey you see multiple brands being sold in one dispensary in New York. You don’t see that yet. And even if you do, you know that you can only have a choice of 10 brands to choose from because those are the only licenses that exist in the market. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. Okay. Cool. So, can you tell us a little bit about Vireo? Because I think you’re the largest organization we’ve talked to. So, on this level, multi-state medical cannabis. How’s your organization structured? Are there a lot of scientists? Are there a lot of patient caregivers like how did the operation I guess begin? And who are the leaders driving I guess the vision of the company at least in terms of maybe not the brand itself, I know there’s probably marketing people, but the products behind them? Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, sure. That’s a great question because I think that’s really what makes us different from everybody else, the fact that we are truly scientists and physicians backing the entire brand, the entire company. As a matter of fact, the founder of the company, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, he’s a physician. He started the company. He was an emergency physician in a hospital in Minnesota, in Minneapolis and what inspired him is just being in the ER room and seeing people coming in with OD-ing on opioids or other medicated drugs or just prescription medications that they were OD-ing on. And the solution was to provide them even with more medication to drug them even more. And prior to that, though, about 20 years ago, he had a medical residency in Cuba where he actually studied plant medicine. I don’t know if cannabis was one of the medicines at the actual study, but that was one of the inspirations. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Not official. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It was the inspiration actually the understanding as a physician that there’s more to science than just what we know that there’s actually natural resolutions to cure people and to care for people. So, with that, our company what makes us different is, one, that we have five full-time physicians. We’re the only company in the industry in the US and probably in the world that has five physicians full-time. Okay. And with that, so we bring really the integration of US traditional medicine and plant medicine. And we also have the backing of scientists. We have scientists, we have physicians, we have pharmacists that are backing up and making sure that we have precision. The other probably big differentiator for us is like the consistency of our product, the fact that our products are similar to when you get a Tylenol in a CVS or any other store. You get the same thing today and the same potency will be in six months or a year, two years from now. We pride ourselves for having the same consistency and being that different because we have the backing of medicine, we have the backing of doctors and scientists behind everything that we do.

 

Rick Kiley: So, no reports of patients having a bad experience because they’re not getting what they expect.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. Nobody’s seen Cher at a concert when they want to see somebody else. 

 

Jeff Boedges: That’s a bold statement. I think there’s still a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re doing and get into it. They might dare at a concert that’s not a Cher concert. In fact, a friend of ours, Jennie. No one you know. It wasn’t me. 

 

Rick Kiley: No, no, no. Okay. That’s very cool. So, what’s the process then? You know, as you’ve gone from state-to-state, I imagine it’s different. What’s the process of getting licensed in every state? We’ve talked to a group last week that is actually medical caregivers and main that are trying to get a recreational license. And there have been a lot of politics that have been impeding that process. I’m curious if the process is pretty laid out and you guys kind of have your system down now or is it really just depend on which state you’re in?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It kind of depends, but there is no science behind it. There’s two different ways to win a license. You can either merit-based meaning you apply and link in sort of like a lottery and there’s hundreds of other applicants or you can purchase a license. We’re sort of 50/50 at this point. 

 

Rick Kiley: Wait. So, hold on. So, like a state would go through this process with evaluating applications and trying to give out licenses depending based on merit, but then somebody…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Well, the merit meaning you’re applying and you’re saying, “I qualify because…” and there’s a big application, right?

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, I get it. I get it but just it would be curious to me that there is a lengthy detailed application process that the team has to go through. But then someone could just come in and buy that license and it could be just like Dave Skunky Weed Farm and take over?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes and no. So, think about this, right? So, say you’re applying for a license in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, whatever the state is. You applied in August. In order for you to apply for that license, you have to provide the state, the Department of Health, the Board of Pharmacy, whoever is heading the process with a location where your manufacturing is going to be. Depending, right? If it’s a dispensary, if it’s a growth facility, you have to have realtor because part of the application is that you have to meet certain qualifications that you might not be near a certain radius from school, a church, or whatever those qualifications are. And then there are certain qualifications even before the real estate of the facility that you’re going to be locating if you actually work with the license. Now, they might be a waiting process of about a year between the time you say, “Hey, yes you won the license,” or not. In that year, that means that you have to be paying real estate on an empty pot. And people that you put in your license saying, “Hey, I have a VP of Sales. I have a VP of Marketing. I have scientists, I have this,” it’s all those qualifications to be able to win the license. Now in a year, you might not have money to pay any of these people so you have to sell it.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. But Dave and his skunk weed farm could buy it?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: They could buy it but usually those guys will have the money to buy them. 

 

Rick Kiley: Right. Because you’re going to sell it for a significant amount of money because you’re trying to recoup that investment that you lost. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, one question I have that is pretty, I think you may be in a unique position to answer because we haven’t spoken to anybody that operates in more than one state. The way the systems have to be set up, as far as I know, you have to grow your product in the state, you need to move it around just within the state, package it, sell it, all in the state. So, what are you doing with your product? Are you setting up now, you said, I think seven, eight, nine, ten states? Do you have a separate facility that basically manages the whole process from A to Z in every state? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No. Fortunately, because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug, you cannot cross state line. So, it is probably one of the biggest disadvantages that we have as an industry and the reason why nobody’s making money at the time. Nobody is because think about all the logistics, all the disadvantages that you have because you have to build entire facility building staff, equipment, product, and duplicate those efforts in every single state.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. 

 

Jeff Boedges: There’s no efficiencies at all. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: There’s no efficiencies. Not at all.

 

Rick Kiley: Even in like…

 

Jeff Boedges: What about brands?

 

Rick Kiley: Go ahead. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Are you doing brands that are crossed so you might have the same brand in two states in Minnesota and in New York that say the same thing, the same promises? Can you do that even though they’re manufactured in two different places?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. So, it’s funny because even that could change, right? So, I give you a quick example. For example, we just launched Ohio in September of this year, and in Ohio, we only have a license, a processing license, so we don’t grow the plant. We have to buy the plant from, we have to buy the raw material from growers and then process that. So, we’re much done with the science of the brand of the actual medication, the potency that we want to do and all that, but the state requires that you can only go to a certain high with the product. So, you have to dilute it to meet with the state requirements to the Board of Pharmacy requirements. So, the same product cannot be the exact same in Pennsylvania and Ohio because of the Board of Pharmacy regulation.

 

Rick Kiley: Right. So, while the package may be… 

 

Jeff Boedges: The three-two beer of weed. Sorry. Keep going. 

 

Rick Kiley: While the packaging might be the same or the brand might be the same, the formulation actually has to be a little bit different state-by-state because of the state guidelines.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. And that’s not everywhere. For instance, right now we’re pretty much the same in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota. We just launched our distillate products everywhere and there’s purity to the max. Nothing at it. And that’s what we’re trying to keep everywhere, but sometimes it just changes and back to the challenges that you have. The efficiencies at scale do not happen because of the regulations that change from -everything will change once it’s federally approved, of course, because there will be regulations that will go across the board but right now you just have to follow the state regulations. 

 

Rick Kiley: It sounds like a nightmare. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It is a total nightmare.

 

Jeff Boedges: But also, I think the big thing with federal legalization is the ability perhaps to grow it in one state and ship it across state lines and market it everywhere. And that’s what you’re, you know, for me the supply line and efficiency thing is such a disaster. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. Well, it’s both on the growing side on the vegetative side, but also the end product too. I mean, you could, I don’t know, if you need to ship the raw materials around. Are you growing your own product? Or you mentioned buying from farmers so are you kind of like which part of the process is the Vireo-owned part of the process? Is it the growing? Is it the extraction? Is it the formulation? Where does Vireo sort of take over and own the whole process? And where are you using other partners to help?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, we do it all. So, we’re a seed-to-sale multi-state operator. Again, it depends on the state because depending on the license like but we started as seed-to-sell. In Minnesota and New York, our licenses are incorporated completely. So, from growing the plant, the entire process, producing the medication, packaging, selling it in our own dispensaries and then communicate and retelling it to a patient. So, we have that process to unpack. Now, in a state like Pennsylvania, for instance, where we started only as a grower processor, we do not – so in Pennsylvania, you can apply for two different licenses. So, a grower processor or a dispensary license. A retail. We didn’t get the retail license until a year later. So, we have started just as a distributor and we had the entire process of, again, growing the plant, developing our brands, and just developing the brands really, the Vireo brand and innovation came within that one brand.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I have a weird specific question. So, all these states that are starting these things, they got to get the seeds from somewhere and this is kind of a chicken and egg question, but if there were no growth facilities there, are these seeds, they must have come from across state lines from someplace, right? So, is there less prohibition on moving a fairly high number of cannabis seeds around the country?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: You know, that’s the one thing I don’t have an answer for.

 

Rick Kiley: Probably a good thing that you don’t have the answer. 

 

Jeff Boedges: I apologize. It just occurred to me, this is a chicken and the egg. Well, where’s the egg? 

 

Rick Kiley: Well, you walk into the forest and you look for a bush that speaks three languages.

 

Jeff Boedges: You scavenged. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. I want to talk a little bit about the dispensary aspect of your business because I know you’re creating the products and your brands for your patients. In the dispensaries themselves, imagine maybe in New York and Minnesota this is true, but are you exclusively selling Vireo products or there are products from other companies being sold at the retailers that you operate?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, it depends, right? So, in Minnesota for sure. We’re one of two licenses. That’s the state requirement. You can’t do anything else and actually, the brand is even different in Minnesota. It’s MinnMed. So, I think in January it’s changing to be a Vireo brand just like the rest of the country. In New York, we started just being a Vireo brand in our dispensaries. Now we’re selling others because New York changed the law and regulations. So, now we can sell each other’s brands. But this is a process. It only started this year so it’s not – we’re all slowly integrating that process into the business and it’s becoming something else.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, at your dispensaries then, how are they? I’ve been in a couple medical dispensaries in New York. I know that they have to have a pharmacist on staff. So, how are Vireo dispensary staffed? Is it uniform in the different states or is it like pretty much state-to-state the same or like who’s on staff there when you walk in there?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. So, definitely, you will always find a pharmacist because I think that’s our core. We’re a medical company first off. You know, we have doctors. So, in New York, as a matter of fact, our VP of Retail Operations she’s a pharmacist and she started here in New York where she was running our operations in New York and she started as a staff pharmacist in one of our dispensaries and then her position grow. Now, we just opened in Pennsylvania for instance where it’s also required to have a pharmacist on staff. You don’t have to have it at the dispensary a full-time I think but as long as we have a license that will give us three retail spaces, three retail stores in MPA. We have two of those open and we have I think one pharmacy for both, something like that. But, yeah, that’s definitely a requirement. In Maryland, you don’t need a pharmacist. You can just have knowledgeable people but we do pride ourselves for giving the appropriate training because that’s our background in education and we have, as a matter of fact, we have our education director is one of them is Dr. Paloma. She’s a full-time physician that works for us. Another one of our directors of education she’s a nurse. So, we always have training in place for all of the people that are working in our facilities.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. Okay.

 

Jeff Boedges: Can I just ask why that is so? I’m having not been to a medical version. Are the pharmacist there to try to avoid interaction issues with other drugs? Are they like budtenders? What service are the pharmacists actually providing? And I’m sorry if that’s a silly question.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No, definitely not silly especially because I think that majority of people when they think of cannabis, they’re thinking flower, right? You’re thinking of storing. In Colorado where, what, 80% of the purchases are just flower because people smoke it. Think about it in New York, in Minnesota, the states where flower is not allowed, you have to sell it in different other forms, right, a capsule, soft gels, dentures, suppositories, ointments, you name it. It’s just another regular medication. So, people they don’t know the knowledge. They’ll have to take it in or what the onset is when they take the medication because this is really medication for them. I will say that you can probably control it with flower in a much different way. If you take it as a pill, if you take it as a puff on a cartridge, it’s different also depending on the potency of the product. And what a pharmacist does is they usually will ask questions like, “What medication were you taking before?” and just by knowing their history, they’ll have an idea of what potency they can recommend for them. 

 

Rick Kiley: Sure. Okay. 

 

Jeff Boedges: That’s great. 

 

Rick Kiley: And the pharmacists have to be licensed? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. They have to be licensed in their state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Right. Sorry, Jeff. I didn’t mean to cut you.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah, no, you’re fine. But I’m just curious, though, about the – it’s really a change in responsibility. In traditional, more traditional medicine, it’s the doctor that really kind of talks about those things with the patient. In this case, that responsibility has shifted immensely. You know, obviously, I think the doctors going to say, “Here’s your prescription,” but really let the pharmacist have a much freer hand in how the treatment is actually administered.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. 1,000% and I think also cannabis has given pharmacists a different voice. So, before pharmacists, and I know this because now I honestly never had a relationship with a pharmacist before until I came into this industry. You know, pharmacists are people that you meet at CVS or Duane Reade where they’re basically just cashiers. They do not really have an interaction or a relationship with the patient from the caregiver’s point of view. Here, they actually each is a requirement that in the State of New York or Minnesota that a patient meets has a first-time consultation with a pharmacist. And this consultation can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Think about that. When was the last time do you spend that much time with a healthcare provider? That probably never ever happens. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Just in the line or in the waiting room. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. That never happens. You’re going to see a doctor. The doctor wants to get you out of the door right away because they don’t get paid really by the insurance company so they want to get you out. Here, the pharmacist is actually having a conversation and they really care for these patients and they want to ask them what is it that they can help them with and with all sorts of questions and they’re really guiding them through the process.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. No, sorry.

 

Jeff Boedges: It’s almost an apothecary kind of approach in its pharmacists. It’s almost like pharmacist is a misnomer in that because I agree. And nothing against any pharmacist out there, guys. I love you. But your interactions are so limited with consumers or with patients. Whereas when I think of the more old-fashioned apothecary, that was more of their approach it felt like. It’s just an interesting change back to…

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. The pharmacists of a century ago.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. 

 

Rick Kiley: Cool. Well, look, I want to keep moving this forward here. I want to kind of start talking about the brand itself and some of the hurdles. I remember when we were talking about Vireo and since you’re a medical company that we are talking about getting your product to consumers, you’ve told me that one of the biggest barriers is people actually just don’t know how to get a marijuana card like how to get a medical card and how that process works. And just that sort of unknown and the fact that no one’s really advertising how to do it. You don’t go see subway ads that are like, “Hey, you want your marijuana card? Call Dr. Weed or whatever.” I mean, they advertise for all these other medical…

 

Rick Kiley: So, I guess the question is, is that still your number one barrier, people not knowing how to go about getting a card?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah and it’s not just ours. It’s kind of like the industry challenge that we have. You know, I live in New York City and most people the number one question, “Oh, is it legal in New York?” And most people don’t even know that it’s legal. Even medically, they don’t know. To this day, I think we have less than 70,000 people that are registered. So, the amount is so small. 

 

Rick Kiley: Wait. In all of New York? The State of New York?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: All of New York. The state of New York. 

 

Rick Kiley: There’s 70,000 people live on my block in Brooklyn.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Right. So, that’s the challenge. So, it’s less…

 

Jeff Boedges: And they’re all smoking, by the way. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Less than 1% of the population don’t even have a card so how can you be competitive? How can you target those consumers? So, do they even know that you exist? Or the industry has not been friendly to promoting the fact that it’s available. 

 

Rick Kiley: Are there restrictions on advertising or promoting like how to get the card? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: Not on your product. So, I know there are restrictions on advertising cannabis brands, but in terms of advertising, “Hey, do you think you have a prequalifying condition for medical cannabis? Find out here.” Like, are there prohibitions against that, do you know or not? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: No, there’s definitely no restrictions. Obviously, there are qualifying conditions that you have to have one of them. There’s 13 of those in New York to be able to get them. They change from state-to-state. In Pennsylvania, they’re 23, in Maryland, I think they’re 19. They have a list of conditions each one of the states and if one of them fits you, as long as you have a doctor saying, “Yes, you qualify,” you can get a card then you’re good to go. And the process it could be simple. It could be I say because if you know how to do it, then it could take you 15 minutes, which is what it took me to get mine. I got it through a third party service or you can just get it directly from the Department of Health and might be a longer process like to me the three or five different steps.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I researched this and got it done same day.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Do you do it with…

 

Rick Kiley: Regular doctor that happened to be licensed to prescribe and then I got the prescription and then you could go to the website and you got a temporary card. You could print it out on your computer as soon as you’re done.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Do you see the doctor face-to-face? 

 

Rick Kiley: Yes, I did. Yeah. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Okay. 

 

Rick Kiley: So, I had to go face-to-face. I know there are virtual ones as well. But I think, Jeff, you thought I was joking. I think like Dr. Weed is a guy and there are these third parties. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Is he in New York? I thought he was someplace else. 

 

Rick Kiley: I think Dr. Weed’s in a lot of different states.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, I did NuggMD. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. What? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: NuggMD?

 

Rick Kiley: NuggMD. So, a resource for anyone that wants to see if they have a qualifying medical condition. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I did it on a Sunday morning. I was still in bed. In 15 minutes, it was done. I had made an appointment immediately with a doctor virtually and done deal.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. 

 

Jeff Boedges: So, it is pretty new. Yeah. So, I guess, like right now. I mean, I’m seeing this guy advertise on TV now that you can get like ED treatments and all kinds of other men’s things that used to be like hard, but you can just call and have a virtual appointment now and get whatever you want. And that’s somewhat crazy to me. But I guess it’s the way we do. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, do you know the way that it works here in New York is that a pretty similar process to the other states? You have a doctor that says, “It’s okay?” 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. It’s pretty similar. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay, cool. All right. So, I’m just curious, since I know that you have your Vireo products and we also have your dispensaries, talk a little bit about marketing here. Do you approach those as different brands these days? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Totally. 

 

Rick Kiley: Totally different brands? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Totally different brands. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. All right. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And not everyone does. Even within my company, within Vireo, we still have a little bit of a conflict and dividing the two. Just because we’re such a new company and even from our leadership, they don’t understand yet or we’re still learning to divide the brands and give each other each one of the brands a difference voice. Because when the company started, it was all one voice and because it was a vertically integrated brand, it was one brand and everything was speaking through the same voice. Now, we have different brands. So, we have Vireo, the corporation Vireo which is an international parent company for everything. We have our dispensary license, a dispensary brand which is Green Goods.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Green Goods. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Green Goods. The first Green Goods just opened in Pennsylvania last month. We opened two dispensaries there and then we have Vireo, the brand, which is our… 

 

Rick Kiley: So, the products are all Vireo products? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Our products are all Vireo products. One of the products. Now that’s still… 

 

Rick Kiley: Are you going to be introducing other brands? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, we actually introduced already that’s one of my babies, 1937.

 

Rick Kiley: 1937, very important year in cannabis history. We talked about 1937 quite a bit. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. That’s another thing though. We can come back to the question. It’s like when you look at the names of medications in traditional pharma versus the name of medications in cannabis, you don’t have anything that has kind of a lifestyle name like 1937 in pharma.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Do you have high blood pressure? Try 1926.

 

Rick Kiley: You don’t think Lunesta is a lifestyle brand, Jeffrey? Come on now. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Depending on what kind of point…

 

Rick Kiley: Lights out with Lunesta. Okay. And is it going to be in your plan to continue to innovate new brands do you think?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. We have a few brands actually. We launched LightBud

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. So, what’s the approach to each brand? So, you have your Vireo Health brands, which we know a little bit about because we’ve talked about it before. What’s the difference between 1937 and the Vireo brands? Like what’s the different story about them? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: So, I was saying before about the different voices of each one of the brands. Vireo is our medical brand. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Anything that looks and feels like medicine, cartridges, tinctures, soft gels, capsules, oral all solutions, you name it, all of that will be under the Vireo brand platform. 1937 is the brand that is going to take us more into the wellness arena.

 

Rick Kiley: But adult use and recreational? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. So, we already launched 1937 in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland where they very much were for what they are and that’s our flower, our concentrates like hash and rosin and it’s all under the 1937 name. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. That’s exciting. It’s exciting to launch new products.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes.

 

Rick Kiley: I’m sure super easy also. Alright. So, we talked a little bit about the medical card but given that we’re in the highly regulated space and I know you’re no stranger to working in highly regulated spaces given the alcohol beverage background but what are your biggest challenges as you’re building a brand? I would ask you from the perspective of maybe not the challenges that anyone launching like a new sneaker or something would have as well, but what’s unique to cannabis as you’re trying to build this that Vireo is finding challenging, maybe you’re just finding personally challenging that the industry is finding challenging? Like what are the hurdles that you got to start to deal with? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. There are so many challenges to cannabis. One, obviously, that it’s Schedule 1 drug still. Obviously, it shouldn’t be, but it is. Because of that, all the inefficiencies that come along with that so just repeating the same process in every single stage. Huge, huge challenge there. Not to mention costly for any company. So, it’s really hard for anyone to make money in one second, just to be as we pride of being consistent and it’s very challenging to do that when you have to duplicate those efforts in every single state. 

 

Rick Kiley: Interesting. Yeah. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And then from the marketing point of view, it’s hard too because there’s so many restrictions so even you can buy digital. If you want to pop in a Google search, you can’t do that. The things that are basics for any other industry. 

 

Rick Kiley: No TV ads. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely not. No TV ads. 

 

Rick Kiley: No print ads and magazines.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: And even if you could do those actually, it’s so costly. Again, nobody’s really making money in this industry yet.

 

Rick Kiley: Got it. So, why is everybody doing it if you can’t make money? Like is it just the expectation that at some point we will be? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: We’re just doing this long investment.

 

Jeff Boedges: I think that’s the genesis of this podcast. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. I mean, wasn’t that also the genesis of prohibition and when alcohol was happening back in the day with alcohol? When at first it started, again, it’s replicating right when it started in Canada and then it came into the US and it was a buildup to be something bigger. 

 

Rick Kiley: I think because we spent a lot of time talking about prohibition, there are a lot of influences but I think at the end of the day, the cost of the enforcement was untenable and the loss of the revenue was required and that’s what made prohibition be repealed at the end of the day. And we’ve seen costly governmental battle on the war on drugs which cannabis is rolled into with these really bad Schedule 1 drugs as well. Now, even I think cocaine is Schedule 2, right? Like cocaine’s not even Schedule 1 which still boggles my mind. 

 

Jeff Boedges: It has no medical value whatsoever. That was the defining characteristic in the Sched 1 whereas, you know, I had my nose broken more times than I can count but I know for a fact that when they set your schnoz, that’s what they give. You get a little bit of blow kind of… 

 

Rick Kiley: What? 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Yeah, they give me a blow when they set my nose. I was like, “Really?” 

 

Rick Kiley: Wow. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Well, actually, I guess I shouldn’t call. It wasn’t powder. They give it to you in liquid form but I do know that I was the chattiest patient ever.

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Wow. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Sorry. Rick, I thought you already knew about it. 

 

Rick Kiley: No. I didn’t realize that you had your nose broken and you had cocaine to help you put it back together. You learn something new every day. 

 

Jeff Boedges: It used to be the other way around. You do the coke and then you get your nose broken. 

 

Rick Kiley: See, this is one of those things where perhaps a medical cannabis experience would help you because perhaps that could be an alternative to this. Highly addictive and cocaine which boggles my mind. So, I mean, it’s our hope and our belief that we’ll continue on this path to repeal. And I guess, you know, you kind of answered a lot of the questions that we have prepared already in advance and you get the sense I’m gathering everybody’s involved in organization because they believe that that is going to happen, otherwise, they wouldn’t be making this investment yet. So, are you paying attention to what’s happening in sort of the advocacy on the federal regulations that are going through like the fact that the Safe Banking Act just passed through the House of Representatives? The more act got out of the judiciary, which I think safe banking would allow for interstate commerce and that would be extremely helpful for an organization like yours, yes? And then the more active I think, actually, is the template pretty much for federal legalization? Like I guess to what degree are you just observers of that process? Are people in your organization part of it? In that, are you calling representatives? Is there a lobbying effort? You know that…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, we have a public affairs team that is very involved and we’re watching every process very closely. We have our Chief Strategy Officer. He’s very close to each one of these processes. Ari Hoffnung, his background is in the public arena in New York. And we also have and also think about the impact that this is having on the industry and then we’re looking it at also from 1937, for instance. So, the voice that this brand has is the voice of advocating for people that have been impacted by the cannabis, by the cannabis laws in the past. So, we’re given this brand a voice. Yet the brand is also advocating for others. So, it’s our way of advertising but really advocating for the industry and for the people that have been affected. But whether we’re supporting the candidates that there are supporting the movement of legalizing this and expunge laws, anything that has to do with being in the right side or wrong, that’s 1937. So, we’re doing in different ways, obviously, with our lobbying team and being really close to it and also through our brands. 

 

Rick Kiley: Got it.

 

Jeff Boedges: What about your hiring practices? Are you guys trying to, you know, look at people that may have been negatively impacted in the past and try to give them an opportunity to share in the rewards of the industry? Not that there are any rewards yet, as you said, no one’s making money but is there any chance that you guys would look at people that maybe historically have been, you know, even incarcerated?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I don’t know. You know, that’s something that I’m not really close to. Honestly, we don’t have anyone like that yet in our corporate team but again, we’re growing and we’re not that many. The corporate team is probably 40 of us. We’re 400 people. The majority is really now our facilities. I’m not saying that we don’t have someone that comes from a background from the kind of, you know, that were impacted in the cannabis industry before. But, you know, I can tell you that that’s definitely something that we’re open to as a company.

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. I think that would be enough. One, I think it would be a very forward-thinking and certainly a magnanimous move and I think a right move from a social justice perspective, but from a practical side, I think it would be a great PR du coup for a company that figured out that there are a lot of very talented people who just need a break, but also a lot of people who have been negatively impacted and you guys are taking a social stand against that. And I think again, this is me brainstorming here but I think it would be an interesting place for a company like yours to play.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Absolutely. 

 

Rick Kiley: You can’t stop the guy from brainstorming. You can’t take the marketer out of the man. 

 

Jeff Boedges: You can only help slow me down.

 

Rick Kiley: You could try. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: But at the same, I guess, the other angle of that we just launched our market in Ohio and we had a blitz, sales blitz with all of our entire marketing team. We all flew to Ohio. We visit every single one of the open dispensaries. Talking to these dispensaries they were like, “Oh, it’s just a breath of fresh air to see professionals coming into the dispensary,” as opposed to the hippie that they just that maybe smoked weed all their lives and now they want to have a business. So, I think there’s two sides of the story. So, they want to look if you’re looking at this from the medical side and where you really want to help people, you want people that are experts behind your medicine and that they know how to make this medicine and you want to make sure that you have the best products and the best potencies and the best science behind the products that you’re intaking and you’re buying. That’s what makes us different. That’s what we’re offering.

 

Rick Kiley: By the way, I thought you almost said pot-ency there for a second which maybe we should start using. 

 

Jeff Boedges: Yeah. We came like that. 

 

Rick Kiley: Pot-ency. What’s the pot-ency of this strain? Alright. 

 

Jeff Boedges: We get those. 

 

Rick Kiley: Trademark Green Repeal. 

 

Jeff Boedges: My pot-ency. 

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I agree. I think just purely from a marketing standpoint, I feel like the industry and the category really has a lot of work to do and coming from alcohol beverage where we grew up and sort of started marketing in an age where there are plenty of aspirational iconic images of people drinking, being successful, being achievers and well-balanced human beings, right, like that all exists whereas we still live in a time I think where most people’s image that’s conjured when they think of someone using cannabis is Cheech & Chong or someone burned out or something like that.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Exactly. And that’s part of this stigma, right, that we want to change.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. And we have to build this idea of no, there are professionals that maybe want to microdose at the end of the day to unwind instead of having a glass of wine or whatever else they might do. And that there’s room for that professional to have this in their life. And I think there’s a lot of work to do that not just you and your brand and we as marketers, but really the category needs to do.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Absolutely. 

 

Jeff Boedges: And that’s just the key. So, you need stuff. You’re not even considering all the CBD things that are still largely castigated as being evil for a lot of circles and I’ve run up against people that are like, “Oh, you know, CBD? How could you sell that in the store?” I think it’s okay, man. I’m trying to talk people off the ledge. But all of that is sort of looped in with this bad reputation. I think there are reputational issues that the industry needs to deal with.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah, definitely. And even for me when I first started in the industry a year-and-a-half ago, I remember telling some of my mom friends and one of them the first thing she’s like, “Oh, please don’t tell the kids.” The other one is like, “Oh, Jennie, you’ll get something else.” As if I should be embarrassed. “Poor thing.” So, I’m like, “What do you mean, you’ll get something else? This is what I want to do.” But back to the stigma, right? So, people think this is something bad or why would I be doing that when I’ve been a professional my entire life? They don’t equate being in cannabis as a professional career. So, you know, back to like, “Okay, what does cannabis look like? You know, is it the hippie?” Again, what are we? I think it’s our responsibility now to change that stigma.

 

Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, I think society goes through these waves where you get an idea of what something should look like. And then the cycle is that inevitably someone comes along and says, “Well, that’s ridiculous. It can be anything,” and I think that cycle will happen here. I think the question is, how fast will it happen? And will government regulators stay in the way for a long time?

 

Jeff Boedges: How do we operate legally within the regulations?

 

Rick Kiley: So, I think, Jennie, one of the things, this is called The Green Repeal. We’ve been talking about it for a reason. We think that the federal legalization is where we’re going. And you might be actually in a position, you might have people who are in the know within your circle. Do you have any sense, does your team believe that there is a date, a time, a year where a law may be passed federally to allow everyone to go a little further? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. I want to have the answer for that actually.

 

Rick Kiley: Do you? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: When I started again a year-and-a-half ago, we thought that by now.

 

Rick Kiley: Oh, really? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: It was a done deal because New Jersey was so hot and New Jersey was going to be legal and because New Jersey was going to be legal then they trickle down to New York. And then if New York is legal, then the entire country should be legal. So, that neither one of those two states happens so then everything is in stall right now. So, now we’re waiting for the 2020 elections. But it’s a matter of months, a year tops. 

 

Rick Kiley: You think? 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I’m 100%, yes. We’re moving so fast. As a matter of fact, I know people already that are going to, that countries in Europe are already developing their laws and regulations so they’re preparing for when the US goes legal because they’re going to do the same thing as well. So, the entire world is getting ready for this. This is true prohibition. 

 

Rick Kiley: Awesome. And do you…

 

Jeff Boedges: So, we have your vote for December, or sorry, November 26, 2020. So, we’re going to have you back a year from now. We’re going to…

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yes. And you’re going to quote me and read my lips.

 

Rick Kiley: There you go. Well, we will know. So, it’s a good question. We will know the result of the next presidential election by November 26, 2020. At least I hope we do. Do you believe that who is sitting in the White House matters in regards to this? Or do you think it doesn’t matter who’s there?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: I don’t think it will matter. I think whoever wins the election it’s going to happen regardless. 

 

Rick Kiley: Okay. Okay. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Knock on wood.

 

Jeff Boedges: There’s some speculation that may become a political bargaining chip, meaning somebody might legalize it prior to the election in order to gain favor with the people on the fence, so to speak.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Oh, yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. I think so. 

 

Rick Kiley: Why does everyone keep saying this? It’s freaking me out. Alright. Cool. Jennie, it’s been great having you here. If somebody wanted to learn more about Vireo or find one of your Green Goods Dispensaries, how should they go about doing that?

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Well, you can easily find us, VireoHealth.com and Green Goods I think ShopGreenGoods is our website. ShopGreenGoods.com.

 

Rick Kiley: ShopGreenGoods.com. And Vireo is V-I-R-E-O. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: V-I-R-E-OHealth.com. Make sure you include health in there. But yeah, I mean, you can google us. We’re a multi-state grower. We are in 11 states and we keep growing. We are active in seven of the 11 states, I think. 

 

Rick Kiley: Cool. 

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Yeah. Excited to be here.

 

Rick Kiley: Great. It’s been great having you on. Really fun conversation. Thank you so much, Jennie.

 

Jennie Leuzarder: Thank you both.

 

Rick Kiley: All right. Bye, Jeff.

 

Jeff Boedges: Bye, guys.


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