Here, Mike Verret from Mother Earth Wellness explains historical and cultural shifts in the perception of cannabis.
In this interview with Cannabis Science and Technology, Mike Verret, the Director of Marketing at Mother Earth Wellness, highlights the importance of technology, education, and medical legalization in changing public attitudes around cannabis, while also sharing Rhode Island's experience in this evolving landscape. Mother Earth Wellness, a vertically integrated cannabis operator, will host this year’s Canna Boot Camp on September 20, 2023, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Learn more about the Cannabis Science Conference and the Canna Boot Camp here.
Why is cannabis education important to Mother Earth as a company?
Mike Verret: I'm going back us all the way up to the 1960s for this conversation because we had to overcome an interesting glitch in things right at a time when cannabis was up and coming, and right around the Vietnam War is when it got really vilified. So you think about the hangover effect of that is still “hippies and burnouts and Grateful Dead” and that's what it became, right? Cannabis has had to come out from under that shroud and I think the technology and the education work together for that. Accessibility and understanding are two very important things.
The other thing that was wildly important in this is the medical launch of cannabis, because that became an educational platform in a lot of ways, especially as we're rolling out state by state. And here's a funny comparison for you of where we are now. The movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” starring Burt Reynolds came out in the 70s and the whole concept of the movie was illegally smuggling Coors banquet beer over state lines. It wasn't that long before that even the liquor business had been like the cannabis business. It just had a great head start coming out of Prohibition.
Where we are now with cannabis is a lot more about acceptance and understanding. The fact is that yes, people want to get high—we're always going to have the vice industry angle. We are in the vice industry, but so is wine. Where it's really starting to take off is the transfer of information. Think about the technology and information around the cannabis industry now versus 15 years ago. Social media didn't exist 15 years ago. A lot of things have changed with the voice of cannabis being amplified thanks to technology and information sharing. I think what that did is accelerate the scientific conversation, the medical conversation, the true benefits and parsing out the plant down to what it can do by the cannabinoid type or all the different aspects. We didn't know any of that. At least, there wasn't an easy way to explain it to people and now there is. More awareness breeds more acceptance.
But you still have this crazy hangover of political effect, right? Take Oklahoma as an example. Oklahoma has 1500 medical dispensaries but will not go recreational because they see it as a gateway drug or whatever their reasoning is, and that fascinates me. There is a tipping point that's coming, and I look at the media markets and population. You've got Los Angeles and San Francisco on board, they're legal. Chicago is legal, New York is legal. If Miami goes legal, you have now hit the five crown jewel cities of the United States and that changes the conversation, the pressure that starts to come on government officials from a lobbying standpoint. What ultimately will happen is standardization, right? It doesn't make any sense to me that I could walk into a dispensary in California and reach into a fishbowl and grab five joints and pay $10, and then in Massachusetts, at least when it first launched, it was one pre roll 1 gram $17.00 in a childproof tube. And you have to get it over the counter. All of that will eventually have to be smoothed out and everybody will still have their same rules and hours of operation just like the liquor business.
Where we are now in Rhode Island is just a fun sandbox to play because we're only seven months old and frankly, the rollout was very shortened in terms of number of dispensaries, but we already had a successful medical program. So this evolution is easy for us. Other states have an uphill battle, but we figured it out pretty quickly and took cues from what works and what doesn't from other states and cautionary tales of markets like New York that are still powered by a black market. There are just a lot of different things that we're learning from along the way.
Ultimately my goal and our goal at Mother Earth is to shift people's thinking on cannabis and get them to understand that it's not taboo when you wait in line at a dispensary. You should embrace what it represents and have the ability to do that in a way like this. So that's what I'm most excited about with the Canna Boot Camp participants and showing how we pulled the vertical business together from the ground up. We built it from the ground up to prepare for this moment and what it looks like seven months in and how fast we're moving for the next seven months. I think it's going to be a great storyline for everybody.
Accessibility and innovation and maintaining the quality and the validation of what we are,
that's what we're trying to do. You guys are giving us a great platform to help to do that as a leader in the space, in the state at least, that's the kind of stuff we want to use our microphone and our loudspeaker to further what you guys are focused on, so we're really excited and thank you for having us.