MedMen, one of the most visible cannabis retailers in the US market, has been on a tear in recent weeks.
Its 14 brick-and-mortar outlets — positioned on some of the trendiest shopping streets in the world, like New York's Fifth Avenue and Venice Beach's Abbot Kinney Boulevard — have been likened to the "Apple Stores" of the booming marijuana industry
Following the acquisition, MedMen became the biggest cannabis company in the US. with a valuation close to $1.9 billion.
The company's CEO sat down with Business Insider on Friday to discuss the company's ambitious plans for the future.
"I'm really flattered when I hear the Apple Store comparison, or when I hear the Starbucks comparison," MedMen CEO Adam Bierman told Business Insider in an interview. "We're flattered because those folks are the best at what they do — they've cracked the code."
But, Bierman said, the comparison isn't completely apt — marijuana is a whole different ballgame.
"There's no expectation from consumers because most people haven't ever walked into a marijuana store before," Bierman said. "They don't expect X, Y, and Z."
To that end, MedMen is assembling what Bierman calls a "cabinet" of experts from mature industries — like retail, consumer packaged goods, and agriculture — to continue building the brand.
Earlier this month, MedMen hired retail veteran Ben Cook — who spent 15 years working with brands like Sam's Club, Target, and Apple — as its new chief operating officer.
According to Bierman, it's the over-55 crowd that's spending the most in MedMen's stores. It feeds into what Bierman said is MedMen's core "wellness" business.
"It's the person saying, 'Hey, I'm going on a hike on a weekend and you know what? I got work, I got stress and I would love somebody to help me be more present and see the colors,'" Bierman said. "It's about mainstreaming marijuana and educating people about it what it can be used for."
According to a MedMen white paper on cannabis consumption, 68% of survey respondents said they use marijuana primarily to relieve stress and anxiety. The second most common reported use was for "physical relaxation."
Capturing this market has provided a window of opportunity for upscale marijuana brands, like Toast, to create low-dose, high-end products.
MedMen itself is rolling out [statemade], a line of high-end marijuana-infused products in its Nevada locations, like tinctures, vaporizer pens, and pre-rolled joints.
Though it's legal in a number of states, the US federal government still considers marijuana to be an illegal, Schedule I drug. That means companies like MedMen, which sell marijuana to US consumers in states where the drug is legal, can't get listed on either the NYSE or the NASDAQ.
"We are very appreciative and humbled by the fact that Canada will take us," Bierman said. "But at some point, we need to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ."
For that to happen, Bierman said, a bill like the STATES Act — a bipartisan piece of legislation shielding states that choose to legalize marijuana from federal interference — would have to be passed.
President Trump has indicated that he'd be open to signing the bill, though it likely won't happen until after the midterms.
"Canada has this big finger that is wagging, that is pointing down to us in the US saying, 'How come you can't get your stuff together?" Bierman said. Referencing the UFC, Bierman likened Canada's "visionary and progressive" stance on marijuana to Khabib Nurmagomedov, the fighter who beat Conor McGregor into submission earlier this month.
"He just sat there and exerted his pressure on McGregor until McGregor was so out of air," Bierman said. "That's what Canada is to the US in regards to the laws and regulatory environment around marijuana."
If the US federal government provides protection to cannabis companies, that would open a "floodgate" of institutional capital coming into the industry, Bierman said.
Big private equity firms could theoretically start wielding billions of dollars to buy up licenses in states with large addressable markets, like New York.
Though Bierman said he thinks competition is good for the industry as a whole, he says he's protecting his business with MedMen's retail outlets.
Regulations, which differ state-by-state, ensure that there are a few specific locations where marijuana retailers can locate. In New York — which allows medical marijuana — the stores must be at least 1,000 feet from schools or churches. That leaves only a few prime locations for marijuana stores to locate — and Bierman hopes MedMen gets the first-mover advantage in claiming those spots before private equity giants rush in.
"We're planting flags and around those flags are a moat with man-eating alligators and fire-breathing dragons," he said.
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