The cannabis industry is absolutely exploding. In recent interviews I’ve talked with Veterans in the Crypto Currency / Blockchain space, as well as the Cyber Security space. Each of these industries seems to attract people who are passionate about the product or service, and a mission-driven culture. Well, in today’s interview, we talk about a very different industry that shares these same two characteristics: the marijuana industry. We talk about working in a stigmatized industry, how unique this field is given the current legislative environment, and how it’s not just an industry filled with stoners… there are legitimate operators, investors, and business people. And, we talk about why military Veterans should consider making this part of their career path.
Cheriene Griffith is Vice President Of Production at CannaCraft, a community oriented, sun-grown, sustainably farmed, Seed-to-shelf California cannabis producer & distributor. She started out at the Naval Academy, served in the Navy for five years, and has worked in Quality Assurance and Operations positions at the J.M. Smucker Company, the Crystal Geyser Water Company, La Tortilla Factory, CHEVOO, and more.
StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
BTU #218 - Marine Corps Veteran to Founder of Warfighter Hemp (Steve Stanyluk)
Cannnabias Manifesto - book that gives the history of the industry through the eyes of Steve Diangalo. It is the fastest way to get up to speed on the industry.
Podcast - How I Built This by Guy Raz
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Santa Rosa, California is Cheriene Griffith. To start things off, if you were talking to someone on active duty, how would you explain CannaCraft to them?
CannaCraft is California’s largest manufacturer of cannabis products. We have three different brands. One is Absolute Abstract which is most of the vaporizers and inhalables. We have another brand called Care by Design which focus mostly on CBD so it’s a lot more focused on medicinal purposes. And then we have Satori which is a chocolate brand.
At the end of the day we’re a manufacturing facility with an interesting product.
What does your day-to-day look like?
This industry is less structured than others. It’s a lot of learning about new regulations that are coming out and how we need to change production to fit that. Things like adding labels or putting the product in child-proof containers.
My day is really focused on the supply chain and making sure our product gets out the door without any problems and within regulation.
What was your first job search like leaving the military?
A head hunter scooped me up and sent me to a job fair where I had about 20 different interviews. None of those jobs were anything I wanted to do but I did become a great interviewer by the end of it. So I ended up in the food industry which actually worked out well because I was doing a lot of regulation work. So I was in the food industry for about ten years before starting work at CannaCraft.
Any thoughts on what it’s like to work in the food industry?
Being in the food industry is really satisfying. At the end of the day, people need to eat. There’s a lot of different places you can go with it. And because there’s a lot of regulations, it can be a good fit for veterans.
How did you start working with CannaCraft?
I’m in a graduate school program that’s here in California. The director of the program left to become CEO of CannaCraft. And they were looking for someone to work in the production portion of the company. So it had a lot to do with my graduate school network. It’s been an interesting pivot so far.
If someone wants to go into the cannabis industry, how necessary is it to have a graduate degree?
The cannabis industry in California is very network orientated. So a lot of it is who you know. But at the same time, this industry is exploding and it’s becoming more business like. So in that way, I would encourage a graduate degree because that’s the future of this industry as it becomes legal in more and more states.
What is it like to be in such an exploding industry?
It kind of feels like a cross between Veep and House of Cards. It’s such an infant industry. It’s a very fun loving culture. Everyone is really passionate about the product. They want to make this industry work. What the industry is lacking is structure and procedures. So that’s where veterans can enter the space with confidence.
There is still a stigma surrounding this product. But as it gets more legal across the United States, I think the stigma will finally die out and the benefits will come through. It’s like alcohol prohibition 100 years later.
It’s really about educating people. Even a lot of people that use these products don’t know that there’s a difference between THC and CBD. So it’s a challenge for us to re-educate our consumers as well as educating people who up until recently wouldn’t even think about using these products.
What is the difference between THC and CBD?
Different strains of different plants will offer a different cannabinoid. The CBD piece is the non-intoxicating cannabinoid and has great medical benefits. THC is known to have different levels of intoxicating qualities. Used in combination with one another, it can be very beneficial.
We just had a speaker here at CannaCraft who was talking about how some cancer patients found a combination of CBD, THC, and conventional medicine which turned out to be extremely beneficial.
In what ways does this industry differ from others?
It’s a cash business quite literally. It can be difficult because if I’m trying to buy a high dollar machine to produce our products, I would literally have to send someone with a high amount of cash on them to go buy the machinery. Hopefully that will be changing soon, though.
How can someone get their foot in the door in this industry?
I’m hoping that a couple years down the road, it will be just like any other manufacturing type industry. If that’s the case, veterans would be well suited to stepping into logistics or supply chain roles. If you’re into law, I think in the near future there will be a need for lawyers in this industry to handle mergers and acquisitions and other things like that. If you’re an artistic type, marketing is huge in this industry. So if you’re willing to take a leap of faith, I think there’s something for everyone in this industry.
What resources are available to learn about this industry?
One is the book Cannabis Manifesto. It really goes through the history of cannabis. For me, it gave me a good baseline for this industry.
I also love the podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?
When some people think of this industry, they immediately think of Cheech and Chong. But it’s really so much more than that. People are doing great research on how this plant can help us. It’s a really cool time to be part of this industry.
Whatever you want to do after the military, just go for it. Networking is key but whatever industry you want to go into is available to you.