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Justice Cannabis Co. CEO Darin Carpenter is on a Mission to Do Good in a Big Way | Cannabis Business Executive – Cannabis and Marijuana industry news

It took several attempts to connect with Darin Carpenter, the CEO of Chicago, Illinois-based Justice Cannabis Co., but that is only because of his hectic and peripatetic schedule. Jumping around the country at a dizzying pace, the former Army medic was busy overseeing any number of new projects in one or another of the eight…
The post Justice Cannabis Co. CEO Darin Carpenter is on a Mission to Do Good in a Big Way appeared first on Cannabis Business Executive – Cannabis and Marijuana industry news.

It took several attempts to connect with Darin Carpenter, the CEO of Chicago, Illinois-based Justice Cannabis Co., but that is only because of his hectic and peripatetic schedule. Jumping around the country at a dizzying pace, the former Army medic was busy overseeing any number of new projects in one or another of the eight states where the vertically integrated company has a footprint. I was looking forward to interviewing Carpenter not only because of the company’s unique genesis but his as well.

“I’ll go way back and be brief about it,” said Carpenter about his journey to Justice. “My interest in cannabis started after I was out of the military, but in response to my time in the military, if that makes sense. I was in the Army, a special operations guy, and we did some stuff in Iraq and Afghanistan at the height of the war. I was a combat paramedic, so I treated plenty of our guys as well as civilians as well as combatants on both sides of the line. And, of course, through that experience in a combat unit, people ended up with all sorts of crazy and horrific injuries, though from an outside perspective, some of the guys that were injured have rebounded quite well and are doing extremely well.

“After I got out of the military, I was doing a double major at Arizona State University,” he continued. “One of my military friends who I treated overseas was on a cross-country motorcycle ride, and he stopped at my house while he was in town to catch up. He’s a double amputee, and he brought with him a bunch of cannabis. I was like, ‘I didn’t know you were smoking weed.’ That’s really the only thing I knew about it, and he’s like, ‘This is my medicine.’

“I thought that was super interesting,” said Carpenter. “I grew up in California, and cannabis was on my radar, but I always thought of it more like a street drug. I had no idea about the medical market, which was really starting to heat up. This was around 2010. I was at Arizona State on my way to medical school, and I thought cannabis consumers were just smoking it to get high and not using utilizing it as a legitimate treatment for various ailments.

“But my friend was able to wean himself off opiates, off antianxiolytics, and he was able to wean himself off of a whole cocktail of drugs that were otherwise managing his neuralgia and pain and inflammation, and I was just fascinated by it,” he added. “So, that’s another kind of core memory that I experienced. Fast forward another year, and then I had an opportunity to meet with a good friend’s father who owned a plant genetics company. They had come to me focused primarily on wheat, barley, and oats, and he basically said, ‘You’re about to graduate, now you’re on your way to medical school, but you should really consider coming to work for us.’”

It was a turning-point for the medical school-bound veteran. “I wanted to be a trauma surgeon and go back into the military and treat combat casualties and injuries,” he said. “But I ended up pivoting basically into commercial agriculture, with a focus on plant variety improvement or breeding, if you will. Plant genetics. I learned a ton about plant variety, protection, certified seed markets, and the general agricultural industry and the way it operated. We stood up a production arm that grew tens of thousands of acres of production grain and seed for grain. That taught me about agriculture in a big way, how you maximize production when margins are slim, in a hyper-competitive industry. You produce a ton – literally a ton, 2000 pounds – of grain and your margin is a couple dollars. This was in Arizona. It was outdoor row crops at huge scale. We had farms in the U.S., we had farms that we were managing in Australia, and farms we were managing in Brazil and Argentina.”

Carpenter served as Global Technical Operations Manager during that time. “My learning curve was literally vertical,” he recalled. “I had to understand the genetics and production, and I had to communicate and sell to farms that were basically leasing their land to produce these products to ensure that there would be a viable crop that could pay the rent. I basically did everything for the owner of this company, which was Worldwide Wheat. It’s no longer around.”

Not only was the experience didactic, but it literally provided an “introduction to the cannabis market,” as Carpenter explained. “Our attorney introduced us to Bloom dispensaries, which is an Arizona vertical business, small cultivation, dispensary, and fledgling extraction lab. They wanted to improve their business model and get into genetics, and they hired us, the company, as a genetics consultant. As soon as we got into the business meeting – I say we, but it was really me doing it – I realized almost instantly how inefficient cannabis cultivation was in 2010.

“Indoor cultivations were very analogous to what you’d see in a basement or someone’s garage,” he added. “Small rooms with a few tables, no automation, utilizing retail-priced consumables, things like your grow media, fertilizer, lighting. Nobody said, ‘Hey, maybe I should go get a wholesale license and buy from a big manufacturer or supplier.’ Once I started opening the company’s eyes up to the wide world of cost savings and efficiencies, they made me a job offer to jump into Bloom, which was my first experience within the cannabis market. I did a lot of the operational management stuff. I was learning about cannabis. I was integrating myself within the company and helping them reduce their cost-of-goods sold dramatically. Helping teach the team about good agricultural practices. There’s cGMP, certified good manufacturing practices, and there’s also good agricultural practices, which is virtually the same thing.”

From Bloom, Carpenter moved to Tryke, a largescale operator out of Nevada and Arizona. “Matt Morgan, the CEO of Tryke, was also an owner in Bloom,” he said. “He had met the Ryan family, who ended up being the majority partner and lead investor for the Tryke endeavor. The Ryan’s wanted Matt solely, and didn’t want additional partners, so Matt divested his interest, left, and took me and one other person to start Tryke. I designed virtually all the facilities and assisted with writing applications for the Nevada market. We got 100 percent on all the applications submitted. I designed the facilities, I managed the construction, onboarded the facilities, and then operated them until I left. We did that between two states, what you saw in Nevada, and we were doing the same thing simultaneously in Arizona, where we had another facility.”

Now he had experience under his belt with cannabis at scale, as well as other lessons from that time period. “There were several takeaways,” he said. “One is, you’ve got to keep your arms around what you’re doing as an organization. You have to remain hyper-focused. You have to limit yourself to launch facilities and new licenses per your available resources. The one thing that we did really well [at Tryke] was that we had all of the resources available to launch directly into these markets. You could have a lukewarm splash, or you could do it big like we did at Reef (Tryke’s dispensary), and it’s not to say that we were over the top or overspent in areas like marketing. We executed extremely well and created a brand that resonated on both the medicinal and the recreational side.

“Our perspective was that we knew that Nevada was going to go rec, it was just a fact,” he added. “Everybody knew that the state was talking about it before they really started talking about it, so we created a medicinal slash rec concept that resonated on both sides. We wanted our patients to come in and have a very positive experience at the storefront; nothing hyper-medical, a little bit more casual, but we ensured that they had high-quality products. When we flipped from the medicinal market to the rec market, we didn’t have to do a brand change, we didn’t have to change operating procedures. Planning ahead, and predicting where the market is going, or at least understanding where the market’s going and building towards that, was really important for us. We didn’t overdo it. We entered at the right size. A lot of businesses tend to fail because they over-anticipate their growth and their ability to penetrate a market. But we were right-sized, able to accommodate consumer demand effectively through our production facilities, and we partnered with all the best brands in the state. We tried to build bridges versus thinking that we were the best thing in town. We wanted to provide that offering to our customers.”

After Tryke but before Justice, Carpenter worked with a company called Flora California, and also did a good amount of consulting. “The reason I left Tryke was because I had a tremendous book of business that was building, where people were, like, ‘Hey, I really need your help,’ said Carpenter of his more recent past. “I was like, ‘Great, let’s do it.’ I did a bunch of consulting with a lot of the major MSOs, I started a fertilizer nutrient line, which is no longer around, and I also helped develop an LED lighting system. That company is still very much around and is one of the better players out there to actually got a few patents on LED systems.

“I also helped a lot of MSOs that were struggling with the transition from license acquisition to stable operations really refine their operations, turn their cultivation facilities around – much of my focus was on the cultivation side at that time – and turn them into profitable business entities,” he added. “You’d be shocked at some of these sites and how poorly run they were. Oftentimes, it came down to aspirational managers who wanted to be in the cannabis space that don’t really know what they’re doing but knew enough to get their foot in the door. But once they were there, they weren’t really maximizing their opportunity, so a lot of my experience in MSOs was getting multiple states to talk together to get their heads turned in the same direction to understand how to operate each of these facilities homogenously and uniformly so that they could be profitable.”

Justice Grown

“Through that effort, I met Jon Loevy, the owner of Justice Grown, which we’ve rebranded to Justice Cannabis Co.,” said Carpenter of his latest and presumably last stop on the cannabis train. “He had this amazing pipeline of licenses that he had been collecting for four years at the time that I met him, but he didn’t have anybody that was operating the business, creating that kind of uniform structure, and producing the growth that they should have experienced two years prior to us meeting.”

Loevy is not just any license holder, but half the law firm of Loevy & Loevy. “It’s interesting,” said Carpenter of the practice. “They’re one of the best, if not the best, civil rights [law firms] in the United States, based out of Chicago, Illinois. John and his partners have got a fantastic track record of success on that front. With all the social equity efforts we see in the cannabis market today, at Justice Cannabis Co., we’re living it every day. John lives civil rights every day, social equity every day, and that’s been really helpful in building our business because we’re not talking about what we’re going to do; we’re actually doing it. Social equity is where his niche is carved out.”

While simultaneously acquiring cannabis licenses? “The way they got into it was they had a building in Illinois that another applicant, the original licensee, was looking to utilize for their application,” he explained. “And John and Mike [Loevy] thought, ‘We’re attorneys, we’re pretty good writers, we have this building, let’s throw our hat in the ring as well.’ They ended up winning a license in a hyper-competitive licensing effort, and that’s what really started everything moving forward. They then attacked Pennsylvania and submitted applications, won one of the original licenses of the first group that was allowed a vertical business out there, and then they did that in New Jersey, California, Missouri.

“John is the man behind the scenes,” noted Carpenter, “and arguably one of the best application writers in the business, if not the best.”

Justice currently operates 11 dispensaries with more on the way. “We have a significant pipeline of additional dispensaries that we’ll be launching this year and into 2023, which will put us over let’s just call it 20 by the end of the year,” he said. “These are all in key markets, and these are groups that want to partner with us. These are social equity groups, these are licenses that we’ve won as well, though it’s important to note that those that are partnering with us, their ownership will remain with them. We’re not playing any games; we’re just helping them get onboard and providing guidance, which is a part of our mission, to bring more talent and diversity into the space in key markets.”

I asked whose idea it was to pursue such a cooperative business model. “It was a collaboration between John and me,” said Carpenter. “He is the chairman, obviously I’m the CEO, I run ops and whatnot, but he’s a very creative guy, and he’s got tremendous relationships, and through both of our skill sets, we stitched together this strategy. Having distribution at the end of the day is key in our perspective. We’re building a vertical operation and we want to ensure that we have an out for our products, but we want to ensure that others get access to products that are fair-priced and very high quality so that they can compete against other MSOs that are out there. That’s generally how we’re approaching this. Our efforts to help is really a two-pronged effort to help them get online but also sell our products.”

House of Brands

Like many in the space, Justice is building a house of brands that will be one of the foundations of its success. If one clicks on Brands on the Justice website homepage, it lists Bloc Dispensaries, Justice Grown Dispensaries, Crop Cannabis, and Bullet Train Extracts.

“Justice Cannabis Co. is the corporate, or national, brand identity of the company,” explained Carpenter. “Bloc Dispensary is an effort to reframe who we are as an industry and as a consumer base, as a group of like-minded individuals that are coming together for a purpose – which is the definition of a bloc – and that purpose is cannabis, health and wellness, and feeling good and right, whether it’s on the medicinal side or the recreational side. The Bloc Dispensary concept is the greater rollout. We do have the Justice Grown brand, but it is going to be phased out and rebranded as Bloc.

“The phase out is not due to the brand,” he added, “but to our metamorphosis as a business and trying to capture a wider audience with this Bloc concept. So, that’s the dispensary, which has garnered much attention. We actually won the Best Dispensary of the Parkland, a competition in Missouri through the Daily Journal, which is one of the largest publications in the state and gets like a million viewers a month, about one-sixth of their total population. I’m so grateful for that award, because it’s just a testament to the team’s ability to design and bring forward a concept that’s really resonating.

“We also have a few brands that fall under our house of brands,” he continued. “Crops Cannabis is the flower brand that’s primarily focused on very high-quality flower and flower-forward products. They’re not going to be infused products; everything that we’ll produce out of the Crops brand will be purely flower, whether it’s pre-rolls or various pricing weights of flower; eighths, quarters. And my background in plants genetics is really the key to that. One thing that we’ve taken away from the Reef and Tryke experiences is that variety is the spice of life. You’ve got to have variety to keep consumer engagement. That’s something that we talk about often, to keep people excited and guessing as to what’s coming next.

“Part of our model is ensuring that we have all of the latest strains, but also integrating our own genetics improvement program, which we’ve started, that will create a pipeline of genetics that will be exclusive to our stores as well as our wholesale partners,” he added. “It’s extremely important for us to have variability of our genetics. We’re not focused on one particular type, and we’re not focused on the most expensive type; we’re focused on a wide range – high THC, low THC, various cannabinoid and terpene blends – so that if someone comes into our dispensary, we have something that fits their needs. Cannabis is like a fingerprint, and a particular strain needs to fit in the matching fingerprint. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me. So, we’re focused on variety, and ensuring that there’s that rotation, so that there’s always something on the shelf for everybody, and that will be run throughout the Crops brand.”

Bullet Train Extracts is the company’s newest brand, a very recent release, but Carpenter said it’s already flying off the shelves.

State by State

In the interest of time, I asked Carpenter for a brief update on the company’s progress in each state they currently operate in. He gladly complied.

Pennsylvania

We are completing construction on a large-scale facility out there. We have three dispensaries online. It’s our hope and mission to have our flower, concentrates, and edibles into the market by the end of the year. We’re going to have both an indoor and a greenhouse facility that will be hyper-focused on the highest-quality products. The facilities are designed to be cGMP eligible, and we are setting up our processes to maintain all of the cGMP criteria until we can receive that certification.”

California

“California is on its upswing. As I mentioned, we’ve started the genetics improvement program. We’ve got thousands of cultivars that we’re sorting through that will be utilized for future breeding events in an effort to bifurcate our genetic lines from the masses. We also are launching our concentrates brand in California next week, and we’re very excited about that. Bullet Train Extracts is the name.

“We also have a retail license, but we’re on a hold in California so that we can get the cultivation and extraction lab really humming along. We’ve gone through a bit of reconfiguration as I’ve come online. California truthfully has been a bit on the back burner due to the competitive nature out there, the value of our East Coast licenses, and the need to get those facilities up and running quicker.”

Illinois

We are about to start major construction for a large-scale facility in Illinois that will be a very, very hyper-efficient greenhouse system. We’re going to be doing things like reducing our carbon footprint through the efficiencies garnered with the system. That’s all I can really tell you, but it’s really exciting, and we’re investing quite a bit in this system, which a proven system. We’ve run them before in California. We also are accelerating product development and launches in Illinois. We’ve just launched the new Crops brand this year, we launched Bullet Train Extracts this year, and I actually got a cool text from one of our buyers, who said we can’t keep it on the shelf, and please give us more.

“California and Illinois are both very competitive markets, but what both markets are lacking is consistency, and I think that’s where our team really shines. Consistency is our key. And so, as we’ve refined these facilities, we’ve been able to leverage the consistency and high quality, and it’s really starting to gain traction within the space. We’ve brought on a new sales team. A lot of our prior sales were repeat sales from people that loved our product, but now we’re really starting to push into the market and work on marketing and ensuring that we’re building our audience so that people understand who we are and what the company is about.”

New Jersey

We’ll be online in a couple short months. Our first dispensary will launch in June. It’ll start as a recreational dispensary and convert to adult use as soon as we receive approval from the state. We have two more dispensaries that will be onboarded shortly thereafter, both adult use and medical sales, and then we have a major cultivation facility that will be coming online in July that will feed our dispensaries and the market. The small amount of product we’re producing today gets fantastic feedback, but the biggest upward trajectory for us is getting these three dispensaries, cultivation, and extraction online in a few months. That’s why I was flying around.”

Massachusetts

It’s fairly developed. It’s an interesting market to us. We have our first dispensary launch in the next couple months as well. We are just waiting for the final approval for a dispensary build in Middleboro. We have two more for which we received community host agreements. We’re in the permitting phase and will be launching those probably towards the end of the year, maybe Q1 of 2023. We like Massachusetts because it is a little different than other states. If you receive your community host agreement from the local municipality, you’re good. It’s very difficult to do, and not every municipality is welcoming to the industry, but we found very good markets and niches that we think will be successful businesses in the near future. Later phases will include cultivation or some sort of production facility.”

Missouri

“We’ve got five dispensaries right now, all performing well. The medical market is taking off in a good way. It’s still an emerging market, and there’s a lot of competition, but we’re very close to break even. We’ve only been open a few short months, but we are excited about Missouri. We are a part of the industry out there, we have a voice, and we’re hoping that Missouri will move to a recreational market this year. There’s a lot of neighboring states that have rec markets, so the medical market isn’t developing as fast as it could when you can just jump the border.”

Utah

“We absolutely love Utah. It’s a limited-license state. We have two of 14 dispensary licenses, the most a company has gotten. We’re in Salt Lake City and St. George. Adopting rates have been great. Our Salt Lake dispensary is actually our highest-performing dispensary to date right now, with crazy upward trajectory and no signs of slowing. We’re lucky to be in Utah. We’ve got great partnerships with the wholesalers out there, and my old company Tryke is out there as well, and we’ve got a great partnership with them. So, business is good. It’s a great state program, it’s very active, they hear the concerns of the industry, and they’ve been very proactive ensuring that the market is moving in the right direction.”

Michigan

“We just launched our first dispensary in Michigan a month and a half ago on the lake in Benton Harbor. It started as a medical dispensary, and it’s actually going like crazy even though we have a recreational competitor across the street. We’ve applied for our adult use license, and anticipate getting it in a few short weeks, and then we’ll convert to a medicinal and recreational dispensary. We will continue our efforts in Michigan. It’s a great market.”

I complemented Carpenter on his succinctness and noted that many MSOs like to stick to limited-license states, but Justice seems to be open to other markets as well, and also that some big states were missing, like New York. Are other states on the waiting list?

“Yes,” he said. “From a future market strategy, we are in the process for any of these key states that are coming online. Any emerging market that is limited, that does have a competitive license process, we will obviously be chasing. It just works better for us. We’ve been pretty successful maneuvering that and getting support from the state to receive a license. We are not afraid of not limited-license states, but the program has to be right. There are certain states where it’s just a complete free for all.

“I liken it to the coffee industry,” he added. “Coffee is pretty saturated, but there’s one thing that keeps these chains growing, and it’s having consistent, high-quality products, and that’s really what we’re focused on. I mentioned this metamorphosis, but it’s really just a business scale strategy. The first phase is getting these limited license markets online as quickly as possible, getting our foothold into these markets, and ensuring that we maintain our positive trajectory.

“Then, as we stabilize them, we’re going to circle back and look at these other markets,” he continued. “We’re not afraid of markets that have saturation, which means something different to everybody. In California, for example, one could argue that it’s fully saturated, but we will be coming back to California in a big way. It all depends on market dynamics, how consistent is the product, what are the market demands, what are the market trends, and what does the patient or consumer demographic pool look like. We look at all this stuff, and if it fits, we will be circling back around to re-enter these markets. But it is generally going to be a later phase, and that later phase will probably start happening next year to the year after.”

Storm Clouds on the Horizon?

With talk of a recession next year or the year after, cannabis stocks falling, and people tightening their belts, I asked if Carpenter any of that will impact the company’s decision-making over the next year or so.

“It’s an interesting question, because so many things could change with the pressure on the public markets, and specifically the cannabis stocks,” he said. “Sentiment isn’t good, and a lot of that pressure is really risk mitigation or risk based. I think a lot of investors and the industry thought that with the current administration there would be a bit more movement to deregulate, approve things like SAFE banking, and all the kind of functional components needed to operate like a legitimate business. And because there hasn’t been that much movement, paired with talks of recession, and despite the spike in sales because of COVID, that’s putting general pressure on the market.

We’re anticipating that we will be able to manage quite a bit of growth, paired with investment partners, paired with some debt, but also through internal cash flow,” he added. “We want to maintain our strategic approach and are not going to do the shotgun approach. We want to ensure that if we are expanding into key markets, we have to do a little bit of M&A activity, and that the target is absolutely perfect. The interesting thing for us is that we’ve been able to watch the follies of others over the years and we understand that just because you have a license doesn’t mean you have a golden ticket. You have to build a good solid business founded on principles. The company’s got to have a soul to resonate with communities and consumers, and you have to have very high-quality, consistent products that ultimately build a loved and trusted brand. We think that with all of that rolled together paired with business performance, we will be in good position in the next year, year and a half.”

Is Carpenter tasked with working within tight means, or is he given a bit of leash in order to grow the company? “Behind the curtains, I am so proud of the team, because we’ve done so much with so little,” he responded. “I mean, what we’ve done, and this is braggadocious towards the team, is literally an Olympians lift with very little resources, and we’re in this inflection point where the company has grown to such a size that we are going out to market to raise capital to help in our next phases of growth. We’ve been very lean, we’ve done a lot with very little, but the resonance that we’re getting within the markets, the fact that we’re turning the old business into a profitable business is a testament to the team’s ability to work with what we got to build such a great organization. I have to give credit to the team because they’ve done an exemplary job. That said, we are entering a new phase where the company is at a size that we are working with some partners to bring in additional capital to fund future growth. With that, though, we’ll still be lean, focused on business performance, focused on our balance sheet, building that up, and ensuring that we have a super high-quality product that people want at the end of the day, and a good positive dispensary experience.”

When I asked how many employees Justice currently has, Carpenter knew down to the centime. “383 was the count as of Friday,” he said. “And we’re hiring. In New Jersey, and we’re hiring in PA. We have open recs in every market that we’re in, but those are our growth areas.”

Growth also has occurred in the C-suite. “One aspect of the new phase of our growth this year was bringing on C-suite executives and refining the scope of work as we’ve added additional specialized talent to the management team to help individuals that were really doing a little bit of everything,” he said. “At one time, I was an operations officer and the CEO. As far as my leadership style, I lead from the front. I want to get in front of our team, and I want them to be able to ask questions. I want them to understand exactly where we’re at and where we’re going with full transparency. A lot of my effort on the road has been pushing everything that I have in my head down to the team so that they have the best guidelines to launch these facilities.

“There is full-on support with Larry Firestone, our CFO,” Carpenter added. “He’s been a CEO and CFO for 41 years, he’s run public companies, and has been a tremendous addition to the team. We’ve got our Chief Operations Officer, Jim Staher, who ran Western Digital, which, if you’ve got a computer, you’ve got his hardware. We’ve got Kevin Lawrence, our Chief Revenue Officer, who has tons of national sales experience paired with extremely large sales volumes in the cannabis field. He’s kind of like our secret weapon on the sales side. On the marketing side, we have Lorraine Stowers, who has been in the cannabis industry for 12 years, and who helped us out with Reef to get us on the map. She introduced us to all the social media influencers that really put us on the map.

“We’ve got a good blend of corporate experience slash cannabis experts on the team, and I think that’s a big differentiator for us because we know what the consumer wants at the end of the day, and that will build resonance,” he said. “We’re not trying to get into the space. We’ve all done it for so many years. I think the newest addition would be Larry, who is new to the market, but he’s been with us for about a year now.

I asked Carpenter why I would go to his shop instead of one that might be closer to me. What makes Justice retail special?  “From a dispensary and retail experience perspective, it’s all about the people and the connection that you can have while you’re in our shop going through the sales experienced,” here replied. “I go back to coffee shops. There’s a particular chain I just love, and I will literally drive across town to go there, because the HR team within this chain has done such an exemplary job. The people there make me feel good about buying coffee, it’s crazy. So, our training model, and the people that we hire, are really dialed in to ensuring that the customer service experience is top notch, and that we are caring and compassionate.

“A lot of people use those terms,” he added, “but if you go into our shops, there’s an instant connection with everybody working there, and that feeling is what brings people back to a location, especially when you’re selling products like other dispensaries, especially in limited-license states. How are we going to be different if we’re selling all the same products at the end of the day? It’s how we communicate to our audience, how we connect with our customers. It’s that full experience when you go into our shops, and if you read our reviews, it’s like everyone is bragging about how much they love the team.”

Is it also important to Justice to support craft cultivators, smaller companies, mom-and-pop businesses struggling but with good products? “Yes to all of the above, and we’re really just getting started,” he stated. “I’m so excited for the future of the business because we’re going to be a company that does good in the space, and that includes everything you mentioned. We’ve got deep discounts for veterans. We hire a ton of veterans. I’d say maybe 30 percent of our team is a veteran. We hire all walks of life. If you’re a good person, it doesn’t matter who you are, what sex you are, what sexual orientation you are.

“And then, of course, if you are a craft grower or a smaller player, if you produce a high-quality product, we are going to carry it,” he added. “This is another thing we learned recently. We were producing top-notch products and had a great brand and some resonance, and we could have pushed harder to sell more of our products, but we kept slightly less than a 50 percent product mix of our products on the shelf, and everything else was supporting the rest of the industry. We want to support the industry. We want it to thrive, and we want to provide support to those that need help producing a good product. A part of what John Loevy is doing is setting up and helping with relationships with those that are going to be acquiring craft grow licenses, and assuming that they win, we will ultimately support them at the end of the day.”

Future Justice

On the subject of veterans, I asked Carpenter if he had suffered any serious after-effects, like PTSD, as a result of his service. “I’ve been very fortunate to not have that type of effect through my experience, but what is important to me is that we provide support to those that have had various effects from their time in the military,” he said. “The VA is great in so many ways, and it’s not in other ways, and we’re seeing a trend within the veteran community – of soldiers and sailors and marines and others – that want help through less traditional means. By less traditional, I mean VA protocols, which is typically pharmaceutical medications, but the stories and the results of treatment utilizing cannabis and its various cannabinoids and terpenes, is just tremendous. The fact that we can help support those that have helped the country and every single one of us is absolutely personal. It’s all about them.”

Our conversation winding down, I noted that while most MSOs, and most companies for that matter, have a certain end-game in mind, it sounded like Justice was in it for the long haul. “It’s a huge differentiator,” Carpenter concurred. “I don’t want to say anything that would offend other operators, but we’re not bankers, and we’re not trying to just build a thing up and hopefully sell it. We want to create long-term value for our investors and partners as well as the communities that we operate in, and we are looking at ways to do so through various financial strategies.

“One of the questions that our investors or future investors ask us is what kind of liquidity event they can anticipate,” he added, “and we want to ensure everyone that we are going to build this thing, and we are going to be a prominent force out there for good and for the industry.”

 

 

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