Cannabis Conversations: Navigating the Green Frontier with Tahira Rehmatullah

Step into the transformative world of cannabis innovation and regulation alongside our hosts, Eric and Isaac. Join us for a voyage into the intricate tapestry of the ever-evolving cannabis industry, as we illuminate its past, present, and boundless future through captivating conversations with none other than Tahira Rehmatullah.

Tahira Rehmatullah, a distinguished partner at Highlands Venture Partners and the visionary co-founder of Commons, stands at the forefront of molding the cannabis landscape. With a journey spanning from the untamed days of the “Wild West” to the exhilarating challenges and triumphs of today’s market, Tahira embodies the spirit of dynamic cannabis entrepreneurship.

In this riveting episode, Tahira shares her unique odyssey, seamlessly transitioning from the realms of traditional finance to the pioneering realm of cannabis enterprise. Gain unprecedented insights as we explore the convergence of diverse backgrounds, from investment banking to the artistry of craft cannabis, which collectively forge an industry that’s both robust and adaptable.

Listen as Tahira unfurls the intricacies of navigating regulations, masterfully delves into the enigma of investment complexities, and artfully balances the scales between fostering innovation and ensuring a secure, compliant market environment.

With a seasoned perspective, Tahira sheds light on the labyrinthine intricacies of licensing procedures, offers illuminating insights into equity initiatives, and engages in thought-provoking discourse on the ongoing tussle between the legal market and the persistence of illicit operations.

Whether you’re an astute industry insider, a burgeoning entrepreneur with dreams of making a mark, or simply captivated by the enigmatic realm of cannabis, this podcast is your definitive portal to unlocking the limitless potential of the green frontier. Join us as we journey through uncharted realms and unearth profound revelations that will empower you in the thriving cannabis business landscape.

Transcription:

00:01 Eric:

This is the Roots to Risk Podcast hosted by Eric Schneider, alongside Isaac Bach. Roots To Risk brings you insights, the latest stories, and long form discussions about the cannabis industry. You’ll hear interviews with industry leaders and their perspective on current and future trends, how they’ve built success and what challenges they have faced. Our goal is to facilitate candid conversations and provide informative content for the cannabis community at large. Let’s go. What’s going on Iby? How we feeling today?

00:32 Isaac:

I’m doing good this morning, Eric. How are you doing?

00:35 Eric:

Oh, you sound super excited. Your, your energy,

00:38 Isaac:

I keep the same is just one of us

00:40 Eric:

Off of the, the wall

00:42 Isaac:

Between the two of us, one of us has to keep the even keel. We can’t both be swinging both directions, you know what I mean?

00:51 Eric:

I don’t have a lot of energy. I don’t know what you’re talking about. But on a more important note, we got another episode of the Root Service Podcast with an awesome guest on deck, uh, Tahira Ramala from Highland Venture Partners. Um, you know, I’ve gotten the, the pleasure of, of, you know, speaking with Tahira on multiple occasions and meeting her through various communities, including the Trailblazers Cannabis Collective. I know she’s based here in New York, has a, a lot of great experience from both on the operator side as well as on the investor side.

01:24 Eric:

So excited to hear. Um, and she’s been in the space for, for quite some time, so excited to hear, you know, what she’s seen over the past decade, you know, being in the industry and what’s, what’s positive and, and what’s negative.

01:40 Isaac:

No, definitely. I think she’ll be able to provide some really good insights, not only to, uh, to New York, but what’s going on on the finance side and you know, how different sides of the industry are, you know, coping with different aspects and what the challenges are that you each face. So excited to, excited to hear and speak with Tahira.

01:57 Eric:

Absolutely. And just a little bit more about her background, uh, she’s a partner at Highland Venture Partners co-founder of Commons, and a member of the board of Directors of the Last Prisoner Project, uh, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. Tahira has held a wide range of positions throughout her career, from investment management to brand building, and is an investor and advisor to numerous cannabis businesses. She’s passionate about fostering and promoting bipo and female leadership in the industry and beyond.

02:30 Eric:

Uh, Tira actually wrote a book recently to add to the list of impressiveness, uh, waiting to inhale, um, cannabis legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice. Uh, it was also co-authored with Quai, ASU mpa, uh, and was released in April of 2023 by m i t press. Uh, she earned an M B A from Yale School of Management and a bachelor’s in finance from Ohio State. Uh, so excited to bring Tahira and, and learn more about, you know, her wide variety of experiences in the industry and, and more about her book.

03:08 Isaac:

No, absolutely won’t hold the Yale thing again there. But, um, you know, excited to, excited to hear from her. Alright,

03:13 Eric:

Let’s bring her in. Hey, Tahira, how you doing today?

03:19 Tira:

I’m great. How are you guys?

03:21 Eric:

I’m great. Doing well. <laugh>. Um, pleasure to have you on here and really excited to, to learn more about your story. I know we’ve, you know, obviously met and chatted through various events and, you know, whether it be Trailblazers or Cannabis collective, but, um, we’d love, you know, just to get a back, get an understanding of your background and, and how you got into this space and what you’re currently working on.

03:46 Tira:

Sure. So I have been in the industry, uh, since 2014 and I came in initially worked with Private Tier Holdings, um, many moons ago, uh, on the investment side, and then was quickly put into an operating role that, um, led me to start the brand Marley Natural. Um, and so, you know, early days, you know, we call today even the Wild West, but that was really the Wild West. And, and prior to that I had more of a traditional finance background, um, predominantly here in New York with Ernst Young and then a hedge fund.

04:17 Tira:

So, um, kind of similar areas of working in, you know, emerging markets, but not, uh, certainly not cannabis. So that was a whole new adventure. And then since then I’ve, I either thought that it would be, uh, a small blip on my, uh, career landscape, you know, and see how long the industry, if it actually became something or at a minimum I would at least have really interesting stories to tell.

04:39 Tira:

Um, and, and almost, I guess almost 10 years later, here we are, uh, which I hate to say that 10 years feels like a long time. Um, and we’re still dealing with the same things, sadly, <laugh> on one side. So, uh, I’ve been all around the table, have been able to work on the investment side, uh, brand building side. So in operations, um, did a spac, the first US listed SPAC before anybody really knew what a SPAC was, and then everybody knew what a SPAC was. Um, and then, you know, more recently kind blending the two, investing and operating so have been, have been kind of all over the place.

05:16 Isaac:

It’s really cool. I guess given the fact that you have such a diverse background within the industry, have you found, you know, one area that seemingly is more difficult than another? Obviously operators have enough hurdles going on, but, you know, how’s the investment side compared to the operator side?

05:32 Tira:

I mean, what, where I’ve enjoyed playing most is kind of being in that, uh, operating operator with an investment, uh, kind of thesis side as well. I think being an investor right now is challenging, just given where the market has been and where it continues to decline into. And, and continuing to be challenged by things like, you know, safe banking know through our eighth, ninth, 10th iteration right now. Um, so with some of that it’s just been challenging even as an investor to, I’m gonna pause one second.

06:09 Tira:

Can you guys hear the sirens?

06:12 Eric:

I I guess you’re calling from New York City.

06:15 Tira:

Yeah, sorry. I, uh,

06:18 Isaac:

We had simultaneous sirens, I think Tira ’cause I had one going by too. <laugh>.

06:23 Tira:

We might be

06:23 Eric:

Where, where do you live? It might be, it might be the same one. Yeah,

06:26 Tira:

It might be the same one. It is funny. I have been, uh, on with people and realize, I’m like, are you in this location? Because I hear a siren and they’re like, yes, <laugh>, uh, okay, it’s gone now. Sorry about that. I, I’m right off of Broadway and so no matter where I go in my apartment, there is siren sound, <laugh>. Um, so I think with the, on the investor side, the, the challenge continues to be with banking elements and just, um, investor hesitation. Obviously without things like safe banking or other initiatives, we still have so many investors on the sidelines, institutional, you know, other groups like international.

07:05 Tira:

Um, so we’re still many years later dealing mostly with family offices, high net worth individuals. Obviously there are other players who’ve come into this space, but, and, and they’re public equities now that people can trade.

07:19 Tira:

But we’re so limited on that side as well. Um, particularly given that some brokers won’t manage it. You know, we now have, uh, large institutions like Cowen, uh, and other org like I think Cantor that are dropping coverage or no longer participating on that side. So, um, you know, it’s a, it’s a tough indicator on, uh, on that side on where, where are we going? I’m, I’m a long time believer and feel like, you know, the resilient are the ones who are gonna be here at the end of the day. Uh, but it’s a challenge on that side to just sustain.

07:52 Tira:

And I think for funds that have been around in the last couple of years, it’s particularly challenging ’cause you’re dealing with a lot of investments that are potentially underwater or gonna have to do down rounds just given the, the current capital squeeze.

08:07 Tira:

And obviously we’re seeing that across industries. It’s not just exclusive to cannabis, but we’re just in that unique position in cannabis that we have even fewer options than other organizations, um, or other industries. And it’s interesting because of everything that happened with Silicon Valley Bank and other financial institutions recently, you know, the, the cannabis industry was actually in a good position. ’cause we’re used to having two of everything. We have two banks, we have, you know, two processors. We have all of that. Uh, and so just kind of understood how to navigate that, I think a little bit better than, uh, more traditional, uh, industries.

08:43 Eric:

Have there been, like, since, you know, since you’ve been involved in this space since 2014, you know, I’m sure that you’ve seen a, a ton of change and ups and downs are, are there anything that, is there, well, is there anything that sticks out in your mind in terms of advances in this space, you know, outside of just more states coming online and, um, additional operators? That’s important to note?

09:08 Tira:

I think the quality of operations has just grown significantly over time. And, you know, you guys probably see this as well in your line of work and just what you’re seeing and what is being presented and the, the types of operators who are functioning. You know, I think about early days when I went into grow facilities and what they looked like then and, and what they look like now. You know, that, that more institutional quality is certainly coming and the, the craft element is still there. So I think that’s been a significant progression.

09:38 Tira:

And when we think about who is actually participating in the industry, who is actually operating, we have definitely brought in talent from everywhere. Uh, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that, oh, because you have talent from other industries that everything is gonna be a thousand percent better. But it’s the lens and like the, the SOPs, the consistency that some of those operators bring that have allowed the environment to grow.

10:07 Tira:

Now we’re seeing that shift with a lot of businesses as well, where they’re moving from the founders, the original founders, to people who they’re being recruited in at the C-suite level who’ve come from C P G, alcohol, tobacco, who know how to work in highly regulated industries. Um, and consistent, you know, packaged goods. And that, that I is showing, I think in a lot of the products that we’re seeing in the market right now and the operations of dispensaries and other, um, other growth like in New York, you know, a new dispensary just opened, but it’s a, they call themselves like more of a concept store than a dispensary because they wanna the showcase so much more.

10:45 Tira:

Um, and I think we’ll see a lot more of that. Like the, the quality is shifting in a, in a great way. But there’s, you’re seeing all those value tiers, uh, being represented, I think more in the market.

10:57 Isaac:

No, definitely. And we can definitely agree that the, um, you know, everything you just pointed out is, is true. And we’re seeing the same things a lot of our operators have, uh, grown up a little bit that we work with mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, you know, and started to figure it out a little bit. But in, in the same light, you know, are you outside of the legislation side of things? ’cause we know that it really hasn’t changed much in the last, you know, 10 years or so, but is there anything you’ve noticed that hasn’t really progressed at all or things you would like to see continue to exchange or maybe kind of move in the right direction within the industry?

11:28 Tira:

I think on the policy side, particularly, I mean banking and those elements aside, we still have a lot of work to do. And I think consistency to develop in the equity component, the social equity and, and how those policies are being carried out. And we look at New York State as a great example, you know, long time coming, spent a lot of time focusing on social equity for the state policy. Uh, and we’re, there are so many unanticipated consequences that have come in. So even though more than half of the country has a legal cannabis market, every new one still continues to struggle in its own way because everything, everybody has their own initiatives or ideas or things that are priority for them.

12:12 Tira:

Um, and I don’t think we’ve gotten to a, a golden model yet, uh, for the states. Everybody had, you know, I still have great hope for New York, but as we know, we’re dealing with the illegal market so much in this state.

12:29 Tira:

And people didn’t anticipate that, you know, that’s just not something that was really thought about by the, by the enforcement of decriminalization. And so I think that at that policy level, you know, ensuring that we have elements of mass expungement, you know, automatic expungement, things like that, that are, that are part of that initial policy. And then, you know, I don’t know what the, what the necessary method is. I know a lot of states look to other states, but there’s, we just haven’t done as good of a job in reflecting, I think on some of those challenges that come up in other states and how do we avoid those and in additional states.

13:06 Tira:

And a lot of it will lend back to federal policy. But at, at the same time, I think it’s very much going to continue to be a state issue for the next decade, two decades, you know, for, for, it’ll be like alcohol. Uh, and, and not to say that there are identical industries, but every state will have its own way of prioritizing their own cannabis market.

13:30 Isaac:

No, for sure. And I think, you know, given, you know, where you sit within the ecosystem currently, um, one of the things we hear a lot about in New York is, you know, the inability to get funds to these companies and these, you know, license winners and everything. So how have you thought that process is going? Like what, what have you been hearing on your side of things if there’s gonna be any improvements on that, on that system or, you know, any potential changes as it relates to that?

13:55 Tira:

I think there, there’s an attempt for acceleration of getting licenses in the right hands and getting the, the models up and running. Um, you know, the speed is always the key. I think that’s the thing that everybody has struggled with in all markets on getting the license to people fast enough because their, their own timelines are running out. So what we’ve seen in New York is that there are faster efforts to get licenses awarded so people can actually turn the lights on. Um, I think the challenge will then be on how much runway do those groups have left and how much more capital can actually come in to support them.

14:35 Tira:

’cause I, I’ve been on in licenses in other states and, um, worked with them where you’re on your third year and $6 million have been spent and you don’t have doors open yet. Uh, and you know, then you go into these distressed environments, uh, you know, you run outta time, people get laid off, the, the whole cycle continues.

14:56 Tira:

And, um, you know, we’ve seen that quite a bit in a state like Massachusetts, uh, which is thriving now, but took a long time to get there. And so, so many people had to, so much capital gets kind of burned through because you don’t know. And I would expect that too for, for New York, you know, I, I have been parts of groups that have been, uh, planning for this for three years and Right. Still don’t have a license in hand. Um, so I think that acceleration is there, but I think my, my worry is that some of the estimates on like, the expectations on what’s actually gonna be open just because a license has now been awarded, uh, I think there, you know, there’s probably a significant haircut that you could apply there because they may just, they just might not make it.

15:39 Tira:

And again, the, the foot traffic is good in a lot of these new locations, but we’re still under a dozen in the state. Uh, and the foot traffic on illegal dispensaries is still pretty high because people dunno the difference

15:53 Eric:

A hundred percent. Like when I talk to friends and colleagues, you know, they’re like, yeah, it’s, it’s great that like, you know, cannabis is legal in New York. I can just, it’s like, you know, but you know, that lack of education that you’re talking about, um, is, is definitely a challenge that we, we need to overcome. One, one question that I had is, it seems like you’ve dealt with the application process, you know, quite a bit, um, in, in different markets. Like, do you think that it’s too arteris, like it’s too thorough, uh, and too lengthy of a process?

16:26 Eric:

Or is it needed because it’s, you know, these licenses are essentially golden tickets and, and really operators need to be vetted out? I think that there’s like a delicate balance, right? Um, but want to get your thoughts. I’ve heard of people spending two years, you know, underground writing an application that’s hundreds of pages, right? Is that, yeah. Is that overkill or is that needed? You know, I, I, I don’t know.

16:51 Tira:

Yeah, I think that, I think similar to you, there is a delicate balance on, you know, proving the, the strength of the applicant through that process. Um, and by having more information there and, and kind of proving those points out at the same time, there’s only so much you can do in advance of being able to get a license. Um, you know, I, I certainly don’t think that it should be the, the lottery model or, you know, fill out one page and prove that you’re a real human. Yeah. Because that is also a really challenging way, you know, we think about how other regulated industries enforce that, you know, getting a liquor license, getting tobacco, being able to sell tobacco, all that kind of stuff, like controlled substances, which we, I think all agree that cannabis is, is you wanna, you want to make sure that the proper precautions are in place.

17:41 Tira:

Um, but if you make it so challenging to get that license and people spend hundreds of thousands on dollars of, of on application writers because they know what to include, like that, that part seems really unfair because then you are really in, in its own way creating a bifurcated market where people who can afford that and have the resources can do it, or those who can’t are, you know, giving up a portion, often a piece of their license in order to, uh, be able to, to afford that, that application, right?

18:14 Tira:

Or that group. And there are a lot of other services that are also involved, like in Massachusetts for licenses, you know, for a license that I worked on. Uh, you have your security advisors, you have your range of law firms, you have lobbyists, um, you know, you have all of these other things that have to come into play.

18:31 Tira:

And those are not cheap at all to just have those people in advance. They’re presenting with you at community meetings in order to show that you have that those people engaged. And that part I think is really, really hard to do with $0. Um, so even before you’re able to like get your application in, you know, you spent several hundred thousand. So I, I think it’s a healthy balance, you know, we have to see what some markets do. I do appreciate that some places have dropped what the actual prices of that application.

19:02 Tira:

You know, when we think of like New York Medical Market back in the day, you know, 20 15, 20 16, whatever it was, it was $200,000 in application. Like that’s crazy <laugh> just to submit. And then, you know, for 40, I think it was, what was it, five initial licenses and there were 47 or something like that, applicants. So for 42 of those groups to just lose $200,000. And at that time too, you had to have leases on locations. Um, and I understand that too, where it’s like, you wanna prove that this can happen, but again, it’s like putting the cart before the horse on some of these things, which I think we need to, to balance.

19:41 Tira:

And I know a lot of that has shifted, but it, it wasn’t that long ago that these rules were kind of in place. So there’s fast iteration that we need to have.

19:50 Eric:

Yeah. And mo and like, it, you know, even similar for us, right? Because they would say like, what are you doing for insurance? Can you like show us your insurance policies? It’s like,

20:00 Eric:

We don’t even have a license in a business yet. How can I, like, I, I feel like a lot of it is, and, and this is honestly like something that we see too with a lot of contractual requirements. It’s just, it is what it is, but it’s, uh, it’s, it’s challenging because is it, it’s just not putting the operator in a position to be successful. Now we found like a workaround where we send them a letter of intent that shows like if and when they’re awarded a license, we’ll be able to get the relevant insurance program in place that will comply with the state.

20:32 Eric:

But I remember, you know, years ago they were like, no, we wanna see a certificate of insurance. Like we don’t even have a business yet, you know, and, and so we couldn’t, we couldn’t even get quotes, you know, if they don’t have a location and certain things.

20:45 Eric:

So, um, right. <laugh> to your point, it is that you don’t even know you’re underwriting. Yeah, exactly. Um, it, it is that, that delicate balance. And but at the same time, to your point earlier, it is about speed to market. And so you, you have to factor in those things and, and there’s always gonna be bumps, right? There’s always gonna be mistakes made. But, you know, I I, I always have the, the mindset you can’t let, you know perfect. Get in the way of great. Right.

21:16 Eric:

Um, and so, but it, it’s great to get obviously feedback from you as someone that’s, you know, had that experience in multiple different markets.

21:26 Tira:

Yeah. I mean it’s a, you know, we’ll, I’m sure we’ll get to a well-oiled process at some point, but I I think that’s gonna be like a decade away other rather than like a year or two away <laugh>.

21:37 Eric:

Yeah, no, and I think it takes, you know, and like we’re, we’re both part of the cannabis collective and, and I know like a lot of what members are doing is, is talking to, to regulators and people in the state and, and trying to educate them on, you know, what has worked, what hasn’t with like, boots on the ground knowledge. You know, I think, I think it’s, uh, there’s, there’s a lot of disconnect sometimes and it’s just really important to make sure that everybody continues to, to get on the same page.

22:09 Eric:

’cause at the end of the day, they, they do have, I I think personally like good intentions, right? It’s just, um, how how you go about it is, is also very important.

22:19 Tira:

Yeah. And one area, you know, you touched on a, an interesting thing on how we have a lot of people now who are trying to talk to the regulators and the different groups and advisory councils on, on changes that need to be made. I think where New York and other states that have come before have mistepped is that there aren’t enough people actually on the business side engaged in that process. And so that, that’s been coming later. Uh, and even though, you know, New York State and other states did have time, and you have predecessors, other states who have legalized who could say like, okay, this was the gap.

22:54 Tira:

Um, and we still, so many groups still just don’t make that adjustment where I think you need to have somebody who’s operating in the space. ’cause now we have the, the fortune of having people who have done that.

23:05 Tira:

Um, and they should be weighing in on the policy. Like, you don’t have to be somebody who’s the policy writer or be, have the history in that area to be able to influence. ’cause these are the types of things that matter most. This is where all the, the hiccups start happening. You know, I don’t know if any of us could have necessarily predicted that decriminalization, you know, taking away that loophole, that public, uh, consumption or possession would no longer be enforced. You know, I don’t know if anybody could have predicted that New York City would look the way that it does today, where everybody’s selling it on every single corner.

23:38 Tira:

Um, that might be something like a, a corner case that surprised everyone. But what could have quickly probably followed that is cases in enforcement around the country that can try to balance, you know, the, the social equity side, because you don’t wanna encourage decriminalization, decriminalization, but then start arresting a lot of black and brown people who are the ones who are now participating in that decriminalization.

24:07 Tira:

But what, you know, what do other states show around that? Now, I’m not sure about that, but I think for us here in New York, just seeing it all around us are also surprised that it accelerated so quickly and, and there was nothing to really do about it. Um, and having somebody on the business side maybe weigh in, I think especially with like California, you know, what has happened there? Have, there’s been a shift back to the illegal market because of some of the, the tax issues, licensing issues, you know, we’re seeing so much California product in New York, like all of that.

24:40 Tira:

How do we, how do we learn from those elements and create safeguards there? To your point, there are always gonna be issues because every place is unique to some degree, but it feels like some of these elements could have been further established in order to make a better structure.

24:57 Isaac:

No, definitely. I think the, the interesting thing about New York and those, uh, you know, gray level dispensaries that are all over the place is now they’re going to potentially go after the landlords when mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I feel like the education piece would’ve been like, you know, before you sign a lease, show me your license to operate a dispensary. It could have been an easy step to your point of just like mitigating a lot of that, um mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it’s those little things and I think you, you nailed it with having people who are on the operator side actually involved in these conversations from the get go. We’ll probably start, you know, fixing a lot of those problems before they come up, um, you know, in other states as they come online.

25:34 Isaac:

Although we are running on a new states to bring on. So yeah, we’re running our shots here. Yeah,

25:39 Tira:

Exactly. <laugh>, which is I guess, a good thing we’re running outta states to actually bring on, on <laugh>.

25:45 Eric:

Um, one, one thing I wanted to segue to ’cause and, um, you bringing up, you know, criminal enforcement and, uh, social equity is your book that focuses on criminal justice reform and, and social equity. Can you provide just a little bit more about that and, and what that looks like?

26:04 Tira:

Yeah, so the book is called Waiting to Inhale, um, you know, focus on cannabis legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice. And our, our intent behind that, I, my co-authors, uh, a guy named Quasi Empa who’s a criminologist, he’s a professor at the University of Toronto. And so kind of taking both the Canadian and US lens, both from the policy side as well as the business side, um, and seeing how well one, we wanted to share with people just really the history. ’cause I think when we’re also seeped in cannabis that we know now what that history is.

26:38 Tira:

But what really surprised me and why I got interested in cannabis was because of my lack of understanding on like what led to prohibition, how was it used as a tool of enforcement really against racial minorities, uh, at the time and how kind of that accelerated, you know, 1980s kid just say, no, Nancy Reagan, that’s the, the world that I thought.

26:59 Tira:

And I realized that that was all wrong, not because Nancy Reagan necessarily lied, but she probably also didn’t know any better, right? Like we were all taught that kind of stuff. And, um, the intention around the book was really this element of awareness, uh, because there’s so much that needs to be done. You know, enforcement is, there’s so many layers to it. You also need to think about it, it’s cannabis is a public health issue, as are a lot of, uh, controlled substances. And so, but I think it’s actually for the positive, like legalization can help with public health as opposed to create more issues.

27:34 Tira:

Um, so the book is really structured in a way that we kind of go through the history, but then also tell a lot of personal narrative around people who have been impacted by the war on drugs. I think we, there are a lot of, there’s a lot of information around the stats.

27:48 Tira:

You know, how many people are incarcerated every year for low level drug possessions, particularly around cannabis, but there’s no real humanization around it. And so this was an attempt to kind of de demystify what’s actually happening and humanize these stories. You know, we, we tell a story about somebody who is the longest serving, uh, nonviolent low level cannabis possession. Um, you know, person who was incarcerated in Michigan, he served 25 years of a 60 year sentence for selling the equivalent of three pounds of cannabis in the nineties in a state where that’s now all completely legal.

28:24 Tira:

Um, and he wasn’t released until 2021, but like, how much does that world change and how little we are doing to actually address that issue? Because that, that element also becomes around safety, community resources. You know, we, we spend so much money to keep people in jail.

28:45 Tira:

Now, on average, it, it costs about $75,000 to put somebody in jail. Uh, think of the savings we could have for hospitals, schools, you know, community centers, all of that. And so cannabis is actually a way that we think, uh, can actually help a lot of that. Uh, and, and thinking too, what’s the next, you know, we know psychedelics are shifting as well. Also something that was used to be legal then became illegal. So it’s a bit of a discussion around, you know, drug prohibition is actually the anomaly because it’s only been the, these substances have only been illegal for about a hundred years, whereas they were like very widely available.

29:26 Tira:

And so it’s that lens too of we made these things taboo and you know, really turned our nose up at them, but they were utilized in ways. And an element around if you, if you make it accessible and safe, does that actually lead to less usage and harm and violence and criminalization as opposed to more, you know, a lot of people will say, oh, you’re gonna have addicts all over the place. Um, and I think that there’s actually that not think, I know that there’s data that actually reflects the opposite of that.

29:58 Tira:

And so a lot of different pieces of it, you know, a lot of things were left on the cutting room floor, but, uh, it’s been a long time coming and we actually started working on this in, in 2019 with a lot of starts and stops. Wow. But finally, finally we’re able to get it out this year.

30:12 Eric:

That’s awesome. And where, where could people get it?

30:15 Tira:

Well, you can get it in pretty much any place you buy books, but the easier ones are defined on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Uh, our publisher was m i t press, and so, you know, penguin Random House, uh, is the distributor on that. So you can get in a lot of different locations wherever you like to buy books or on your Kindle. Very cool.

30:34 Isaac:

That’s awesome.

30:36 Eric:

No, and, and this has been a, a really great conversation ti and it’s, uh, I think awesome to hear your experience. It’s just pretty, pretty well versed in a lot of different areas from the investment side to operator and, um, you know, provides a, a really unique lens. And, um, before, before we wrap things up though, just wanted to do, uh, a few fun questions that, that Isaac’s gonna throw your way, and then we’ll, uh, we’ll let you go about your day.

31:03 Isaac:

Awesome. Um, all right, so early morning you gotta get ready for a meeting for working general or for a workout. What’s the go-to song at the top of the playlist? What’s your, what’s your pump up song?

31:14 Tira:

Oh, I listen to a lot of Tiesto as like just pump up jams. I like, you know, I love it. <laugh>, any, any beats there. Just like, get me going, get me excited.

31:27 Isaac:

I I love that answer. Yeah, I’ve seen him a, a few times, uh, in, in Las Vegas. So I I’m with you on that <laugh>. Um, obviously you just wrote a book, so that’s the easiest answer. But outside of your own book, what would be one book that you’ve turned back to a few times or would recommend that people look into that’s provided a lot of value for you?

31:46 Tira:

Um, well, I don’t know how familiar you guys are with, um, Peter Green Spoon, uh, but he has two books now. Um, and his father was a, a great advocate for, uh, cannabis back in the day and died actually quite recently. But, uh, Peter has a couple of books, you know, uh, through the Smoke and his latest one, um, I’m blanking on the name, which is embarrassing to say, but his, his books are just phenomenal. Um, he is a physician himself, he’s suffered from addiction, uh, had a father who is a one of an early advocate.

32:19 Tira:

And I think it’s not just, it’s not just about cannabis. It’s kind of like a wide ranging topic on like, humanity, social justice research. Like, I, I just find that all really interesting and so have enjoyed, enjoyed his work.

32:33 Isaac:

That’s awesome. Good, good. Addition to the, the book list. Yeah. And then last one, I know, I know you’re here in New York, so I’m curious to hear your answer, but what’s, what’s your favorite restaurant or go-to restaurant

32:44 Tira:

Ooh, go-to versus favorite? ’cause it’s, it’s a little challenging because now the city is so busy, <laugh>. Um, I’m a big fan. One of the latest ones is, uh, Therese, which is a newer restaurant that that opened, um, and have been frequenting that. Um, my go-to spot is a place called White Oak because one, it’s very close to my apartment, but two, uh, it’s just a great kind of pub that I probably anybody who many people who would be listening to this would say, oh yeah, I’ve met you there before, because that’s where I make people meet me.

33:20 Tira:

<laugh>

33:21 Isaac:

<laugh>. Love it. I love it. It is crazy. Living, living in the city. Um, honestly haven’t been to either of those places. And you know, there’s, there’s so many things to do in New York. Good, good additions. So I’m looking forward to checking those out. Um, yeah. And

33:37 Tira:

Pretty

33:37 Isaac:

Much any, but that’s for me. You got anything to,

33:41 Tira:

I was gonna say that

33:42 Isaac:

Any

33:42 Tira:

Oma, any omae place that there are like so many omae places now, but I’m like trying to check through every single one ’cause I love them.

33:51 Isaac:

I know I need to actually, I need to text one of my friends who I went with, but there’s a, um, it sounds crazy ’cause we live in Manhattan, but there’s one that does all locally sourced fish, and it’s an Oma Casa restaurant down in the East Village. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Granted the, it’s family owned, so the, the hostess who’s also one of the, uh, owners us, uh, some very good sake throughout the night. So we’ll see, uh, if the fish was actually that good or if it was sake induced.

34:17 Tira:

Gosh, yeah, either way. I I need the recommendation.

34:23 Isaac:

Absolutely. All

34:24 Eric:

Right, well, well really appreciate your time, Tia. This has been a, a great conversation and, um, we really appreciate your insight. I think it was very valuable for, for everybody listening, and I think, you know, the goal of what we’re trying to do is get leaders in the industry, provide their perspectives, kind of hear their journey, um, and, and what they’re excited about in the future. So really appreciate your time. It was nice to, uh, to finally get some restaurant recommendations that we can actually execute on her being in, uh, in New York City.

34:54 Eric:

I know anybody else I’m excited about, but I don’t, you know what I mean? They’re, they’re all, well,

34:58 Isaac:

Yeah, it’s one of those things where we have to travel to go there, and now I just have to go down to my old neighborhood to check out some of the ones that she provided us. Absolutely. So excited about that.

35:08 Eric:

Absolutely. But, but in all seriousness, that was a, a great, a great session and I think, uh, really interesting perspective, kind of like we alluded to on the forefront of, of her experience. And, um, you know, she’s been in the industry for, for quite some time, so has been able to, you know, see what works, what doesn’t. Um, and uh, I think it was just an overall great, great insight, um, to add to the, uh, to the Rolodex.

35:38 Isaac:

No, a hundred percent. I think she, like you said, provide very invaluable information just like over her, you know, career within the industry, um, and also very interested in checking out her book. I think it’ll be a, a good place to, you know, do some own learning. And I think it sounds like a really good spot for people who might be in the industry, but newer or interested in the industry to get some, get some education on the background of, you know, how we got to where we’re at today.

36:06 Eric:

Yeah. And, and just a reminder, the book is called Waiting to Inhale Cannabis Legalization And The Fight for Racial Justice, um, can be, can be found on Amazon or, or really any publication. So, um, another one in the books. Appreciate your time as well, Isaac and uh, <laugh>,

36:26 Isaac:

That’s a first. I appreciate that.

36:28 Eric:

Absolutely. I do appreciate your time. Absolutely. Okay.

36:31 Isaac:

You know, if, if we wrote a book, you’d have to be a third co-author called Shaq, G b t, <laugh> his <laugh>.

36:38 Eric:

That is true. Um, but excited for the next one, man, and, uh, let’s keep it rolling.

36:44 Isaac:

Me too, man.

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