[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:31] Welcome everyone this is Thinking Outside the Bud. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host and today's guest is Alon Aloni and Alon is a professional in the cannabis space has an interesting kind of background and connection to cannabis. An interesting professional background we're gonna hear a little bit about that. What’s he doing in the cannabis space these days.
[00:00:47] And with that Alon welcome to the program. Thank you so much. Great to be here.
[00:00:50] Yeah. So you've been in advertising you've been in international relations. You've been in counter terrorism. Give us a little bit a sense of your professional background. How is cannabis come up and then why why can enter the cannabis space now, curious.
[00:01:03] Sure. So actually I started in the music industry in the in the in the mail room of Priority Records. And then from there I started managing artists and I got one kind of sign to a to a development deal. I got pushed out then moved up to San Francisco and started an advertising start in the mailroom and could be Silverstein and partners. Now throughout this whole time I was always doing some little Grahams here. Graham's there a feeling so I always had cannabis kind of in my you know in my immediate vicinity in both the professional and personal life. Then after 9/11 I kind of just felt like I needed to do my part. And I started I went back to school and I went back to school in Israel at a place called the Interdisciplinary Center and or the IDC at the IDC I was part of an international program. It's a interdisciplinary degree so I was able to kind of mold my own you know focus of a major and I decide to do it in strategic studies. And during that time there were a couple of think tanks on campus that I was able to work for the Institute of Policy and Strategy and the Institute of counterterrorism.
[00:02:15] One of my claim to fame is that the Institute of Policy and Strategy was when Ari Sharon former prime minister of Israel made his announcement for the disengagement of Gaza. I was actually the guy that got the speech about 15 minutes early so I could upload it onto the Web site right as he finished. So it was really connected in all of that. I also was taught under former NSA director of Israel Dr. Jose God. So you know I was able to I was exposed to people like Jose Gonzales former prime minister a president of Spain. It was just an amazing experience. But the thing was I actually was pretty shellshocked during the Lebanon war during 0 6 and I came back pretty physically actually. And then kind of was running around you know social media was blossoming and it was a natural extension for someone who had the advertising background like I did. So I started in one internship that it moved into starting to get paid and the next thing I know I'm freelancing. Well the cannabis industry was always on my radar and about a year ago I was given two opportunities. It was one in the automotive where the other was in cannabis and I ran with the cannabis one.
[00:03:28] I mean on a personal note I've always been doing like little grows here and there and making my own bubble hash and you know those kind of fun things. But to bring it into a professional side was something that I dreamt about. Unfortunately just like everything you know and we'll talk a little bit more about this if you'd like but you know just there's a lot of newbies in the industry. And so there's a kind of a new direction of professionalism that's very different. You know I was in a situation where I wouldn't go into specifics as far as who is concerned but they prided themselves on being vague. And with that to me in leadership was someone who wasn't willing to commit and blame everybody else. But so yeah and I'm saddened to say that I've actually been through two experiences within the cannabis industry where that was prevalent. The lack of an exit strategy is mind blowing with such potential in this industry. And it's really sad that I've kind of seen that and I'm really hoping to change that up with my own kind of ventures.
[00:04:39] Yeah this well that's one of the reasons I was kind of curious to have you on and talk about it. So I think that's that's one of the dynamics or one of the stigmas I think right now within the cannabis space is this is it is it really really ready for prime time business or professional business and I think that's you know. I think there's a lot of really good well-meaning highly skilled professionals in the space but that's not everyone and certainly it's something I advise people getting into this space to be aware of and you know you've got to do your due diligence and you've got to anticipate there's gonna be a certain amount of a certain amount of that in the business dealings that you have and you have to kind of not be surprised by it at least. So let's go back and talk a little bit about some of the expenses you bet because I think that part of this for me is you know in terms of people that have been in various facets of cannabis historically I mean there's two that I'm particularly interested in one kind of music scene and I guess to what extent was cannabis integrated in your professional work like as you are working with artists as you're working with the industry. Was as part of the day to day workings of the operation I mean where where was the cannabis kind of culture at that point.
[00:05:44] That's that's funny you mention that. Okay so I want to be very clear that when this time in my life I had just finished high school this was actually my first real job out of high school at Priority Records and one of the things that I mean I felt I needed to do was always have my wits with me when it came to situations involved with cannabis. So I made sure the tolerance was really high and I smoked all want to make sure that if I was ever in a situation where business were an opportunity business would arise I would have that wits with me and did it work.
[00:06:22] What was your strategy successful.
[00:06:25] Yeah I mean I I definitely was the guy who you know definitely in situations of having to get out of you know whether it was driving or organizing or those kind of things when you're on towards a very you know crazy kind of environment to be able to kind of walk in the studio and be someone who who was on point it was a very big advantage. I mean I was exposed to some pretty crazy artists and some pretty crazy situations. I actually got kind of hit up by Ray Quan one night that was a you know it just like all these situations and you know kind of cannabis was always around. In fact I never saw anything but cannabis because I was in hip hop. Yeah and you know it's blunts and one thing working in the mailroom. You always make friends like that's one thing that I learned is make friends with the receptionists and people in the mailroom because they know everything that's going on.
[00:07:22] Yeah and they could get everything and they can they can make things happen that other people can't.
[00:07:28] So one one thing we used to do was we made friends with the guys in the in the parking structure so they would call us up every time Snoop would come in and we'd run downstairs to go into Snoop's ashtray and the navigator to pick out one or two because he smoked a whole line.
[00:07:48] We're just huge leftovers you or take a decade as leftovers Yeah. Hey Snoop if you're listening thank you very much. Many a days when I was Jones and making twenty one thousand dollars a year you came and helped us out in the mailroom.
[00:08:04] It's funny but I think that's part of the dynamic of this industry is that you know there's been this kind of various facets of pop culture in various industries and locations for a while and I think a lot of a lot of what kind of is causing sort of drama or dynamics in the industry as kind of the kind of the collision or the intersection of these different cultures and you know on one hand you know it's becoming a big sort of big business.
[00:08:28] But you know it's not necessarily shedding its historical roots. I mean nor should it.
[00:08:33] But you know there's definitely kind of this evolution or at least this understanding of it has a history and if you're going to be an entrepreneur or an investor in the space like coming in and getting involved in this you kind of have to understand that I think that there's also an expectation that there's some sort of hippie kind of wellness connected to this industry and the truth is at least how I'm seeing it. But you know companies buying up other companies madmen all of these big organizations that it's just indicative to what's happened in our culture of the rich getting richer and everybody else staying in the same level. And what I'm seeing this is even that the lowest level of dispensaries where people are expecting to see women with big boobs and not much education behind the plant versus someone who who's less about the the aesthetics and more about the education you know knowing Turpin profiles and what CBD do and how you know extraction methods are produced and you know all of those things that you know unfortunately it's it's not as easy to get on places like the web unless you know where to look for it and things like that. And so I'm seeing this huge you know especially with all of the bigger investments you know the the funds and these guys who really know what business is that you know things like high production you know we're not going to get the kind of you know love of the plant like we're used to.
[00:10:03] And then also just these these investors of wealthy we're not in a place in our society where people come from nothing and turn into something I mean people are calling Kylie Jenner a self-made billionaire. It's just like No she's not. She came from the family that had means to be able to invest in her and allow her to shine her talents. The thing about cannabis is that we've been in the shadows for so long that you know many of the best that are behind bars and you know funds don't want to invest in criminals and you're not going to see these people when they get out or when they have their sentences commuted and all of these things I don't. Unfortunately I don't see a lot of these companies investing in these people when in my opinion that is the expectation of this industry and that is kind of the movement of where it should be. And I think that you know people like myself who who've had an experience doing the the ad world and the digital media world and knowing what you know what it's like to come in and out of an office every day and having you know certain professionalism and you know those kind of things I think that if we include ourselves in the industry and people are open to it it can bring these people who would normally not be given the opportunities and thrust them in because I think that the people who want to lead and the people who have the skill set they need to intersect so that they can become you know a good investment for these funds but still know their roots.
[00:11:46] And I think that when you've gotten when you've got the huge investors into it just like the tech industry. I mean it's it's very much the same thing I mean you know I think we're we're in the age of homebrew computer club do you know about the homebrew club. Yeah. So I think we're in that age right now where the Tories and the con Karmazin breweries are being established right now and then they're going to be eaten up by even bigger companies. And you know the Microsoft's which we can I guess you know somebody like madmen who have expanded very well and they've done smart things like you know putting a dispensary in Times Square. They're not selling a neat thing they're just everybody's going to know that there's a dispensary there. I mean I thought it was genius but these are going to be the companies that are going to you know I'm afraid convoluted the entire industry on one hand cannabis is like any other industry and it's no taste business as it business logical investment and capital is like no other hand it's quite different.
[00:12:47] It's got such a sort of diverse cultural background and you know kind of the legal dynamics and everything make it make it quite unique. And I think that you know it takes a slightly different kind of entrepreneur and this kind of investor to be successful in this space. I disagree.
[00:13:00] Ok. In fact I'll go as far as to say like I'm I'm currently involved in a fund where the person who brought me in is actually 83 years old and he comes from real estate and he's in the process of building a lab on his own real estate and I say this because what he's bringing is a professionalism to the fund. What they've done and I've got to tell you I mean she's I'm so impressed with the way that he's in researched his potential investments. I'm just saying that like I see new people entering this industry I see them enjoying the potential it's just they're not people who have been involved in the industry. Does that make sense.
[00:13:38] No I agree. I mean what do you think he got involved. What do you think the what was the move to get involved in cannabis or was it just Hey this is just like any other business and I see opportunity I'm to get in there. Yeah absolutely. I do think there is. I do think there is a certain amount of knowledge you have to have around the space to to successfully navigate it.
[00:13:56] And I think that you know because it has this kind of legal situation because it does have you know this kind of cultural background like being oblivious to those things is potentially a liability but yeah I mean I think look at the a lot of the benefits of the are a lot of the good things have happened over the last two three years in the spaces that have gotten a lot more people involved that are you know clinical professionals in the business side on the investor side.
[00:14:19] Yeah definitely. And it's just going to keep growing in fact I think it's going to grow faster in the situation it's in now. I think there are there are companies that you know more the tobacco side of companies. But I think that there's a lot of these companies are ready to pull the trigger but are waiting until there's a federal legal action.
[00:14:41] Yeah there is that there's they've toe at the sidelines they're waiting for waiting for the gun gun to go off which is I mean from a strategy point of view from us these companies I think is as if a question I mean you know do you grow as quickly as you can.
[00:14:52] Do you try to consolidate and form bigger entities that can compete with the big players do you carve out a niche that you can either continue to own or make it easier for you to get acquire them to compete against. I think those are all kind of big picture strategy questions on everyone's roadmaps. I mean I don't know what your thoughts are on what happens when federal legalization happens. But I guess a big question.
[00:15:12] Well I'll tell you that I'm predicting less growth. What I'm predicting is people coming in with large amounts of money buying up and consolidating whether it's grows whether it's extraction whether it's labs.
[00:15:26] You know when someone asks me where the like like my mother's a day trader for fun and she's been killing it with till Rei and canopy and all these and it's because this is the time to do it and she started when they when they when IPO. So she's been in for a little bit. And what I see happening is a lot of consolidation like we were talking about before. It's the it's the Homebrew Computer Club and the Steve Jobs and the the the Bill Gates and all of them are sitting in a room right now. And you know they're showing off their computer system whatever whatever side of the cannabis industry they're in that's what they're showing off right now.
[00:16:07] And you know the Beasties are sitting outside salivating because they know what potential is there.
[00:16:14] And so I see once it goes legal on the Fed side you're gonna see huge investment. But what worries me the most is twofold. One most advocates when it comes to cannabis lobbying are very single minded when it comes to their politics. They're single issue. So if for example Donald Trump wants a few more votes I could see him politically making this a situation where he goes and he legalizes it to get those votes.
[00:16:50] Yeah and I know that you know something like that can happen. The other thing too is how it's going to roll out.
[00:16:57] I mean you know is the FDA going to set a standard like one of the ideas that I had when I was working at this media company education platform was you know get everybody and some big names involved in cannabis and run a kickstarter to create a certification program that is universal to certify what it would to what part of the process you want to certify by tenders.
[00:17:27] Oh I see.
[00:17:28] Yeah I would just just really granular into the different because there's only a handful of schools that teach you this stuff. And then after that you're kind of on your own. And you know again this is going to bring people who would normally not have an opportunity because let's face it most of the people who are involved in cannabis sold cannabis didn't produce that. Exactly. And the people who produced cannabis you know are are either getting picked up at some of these places and being mass growers or you know they have their own facilities. I really like for example what what are they their flow corner where what they do is buy from the smaller farm.
[00:18:08] And so like a cooperative. Yeah.
[00:18:11] And if we see more of that. I mean I know California they stop the cooperatives. There's no there's no more of that. So how are these gonna be a for profit business. And I think that that's definitely going to bring in some of these kind of wealthier sharks especially on the real estate side because that's that's the big thing about candidacies. You know the difficulty in real estate. Yeah.
[00:18:33] So another topic I wanted to chat about because I think you've got some unique perspective or you know I'm curious about it you know being an Israeli. Having more time in Israel. I don't I'm not sure how many people know but you know sort of the birth or the a lot of the origins of real cannabis research was you know was based in Israel and I think a lot of a lot of the data and science that we have around application of cannabis and effects of cannabis actually comes from Israeli research.
[00:18:57] I forget I was going to butcher his name Rafael McCollum or heard exactly who it was. I'm pretty sure yeah.
[00:19:04] Weissman Institute he's currently at the University of Jerusalem. I know who you're talking about I the pronunciation of his name escapes me where Israeli by citizenship because my parent is actually speaking the language. But you know it's interesting because Hebrew sorry for being that nerd. But there's actually only now modern Hebrew is only about a hundred and fifty to two hundred years old.
[00:19:29] Yeah yeah. Before there was Aramaic Hebrew. Yeah yeah.
[00:19:34] Interesting. Interesting language interesting situation. And I guess I mean I guess from from your experience there.
[00:19:40] I mean what what is the kind of cultural and political take on cannabis in Israel.
[00:19:46] Well first off they've had the longest running medical program in cannabis in the entire world. And so roughly there's about six seven thousand people maybe ten thousand that receive cannabis through the most through socialized medicine like there. It's literally taken care of within their insurance. I've actually smoked some of that stuff it's not very good.
[00:20:10] Why is that.
[00:20:10] Is it just a different strain different produce or it's just low quality you know the thing about it is is that a lot of these grows and when we're gonna find this you know I know that there I forgot the university here in the States but they're they're able to grow cannabis for research purposes but cannot exceed a certain THC. Really really low THC. And so I think it just you know that's that's kind of how they do it. I did have some you know in all honesty the cannabis that I had in Israel was terrible.
[00:20:44] The hatch. And then why is that.
[00:20:46] I come from Hollywood. Born and raised right now. So for me it's all about I don't care what the background is. It's just who you are as a person. So at my school I made a lot of friends with the Arabs. And that's why I'd go to the West Bank and I'd I'd have more hash in my hands and I would canvas.
[00:21:03] So like for example the reason why is because they could grow and you know as they grow they could use the entire plant to produce hash verses you know kind of the buds here and the cuts there and so these were like quick grows like. Let me just get it out there. When I took a trip to the Becca Valley in southern Lebanon you'd see just as far as you could see cannabis you don't just pull everything off the plant and put it in their bags and go and press it like that's all they did it wasn't about buds. I met a few kibbutz Nicks that would grow kind of on their own and it was like OK. But yeah. It was a harsh harsh place for sure.
[00:21:47] Yeah. Interesting. I mean just one thing is fascinating for me is kind of seeing how cannabis has been kind of adopted culturally from an economic point in different countries and I think where everyone everyone here is kind of this oh well or you know all of a sudden there's all this kind of a talk in the US and the fact that cannabis has been a lot of places for conference stuff since I've been here it's used in different ways for different purposes and different economies. But there's a lot to learn and there's a lot of different kind of manifestations of it it kind of different. I'm curious what other experiences you know in terms of looking at your understanding of cannabis broadly.
[00:22:19] Well you know I was actually going to tell you about two stories one my first seven days in Israel met a few kids from school then you know of course you go out. So I like to say real recognizes real and within I think my fifth day I'm sitting on a pound and a half of a candidate. It wasn't the best candidates but you know and I paid like I think was like 500 shekels maybe one hundred and twenty five dollars for it. This stuff was seeds and stems and all that but what do I do. I go to my first college party with a box of blunts and this pound and a half and I'm like Go for it real recognizes real another arm. I go to Poland one of my clients was the march of the living. They sent people from all over the world to Auschwitz and Birkenau now for Holocaust memorial and they actually do a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau which they used to call the death march. So I'm outside the hotel. The guy didn't even speak English. Next thing I know I'm at a house party smoking weed because pot smokers recognize pot smokers every it's how it is you know. And that's one thing that I'm a that is going to get lost in the industry with the big investments is that you got these guys coming in and they don't understand the pot culture.
[00:23:36] Yeah. And I think that's part of this dynamic is that you know traditionally there has been a very strong cultural element to it. If you're if you're in the pop culture if you're a pot user like yeah you can kind of find your brethren in just about anywhere you go.
[00:23:52] And it's kind of it's a social thing.
[00:23:54] It's it's a way it's a vehicle for connecting with folks you know and people that get it get it and there's kind of this immediate bond. And I think that's changing. I think that that is being challenged by the you know the growth of the industry.
[00:24:06] Now I was on the front lines as a bartender and I have to tell you that the age of vaping is going to completely fundamentally change the culture of cannabis consumption.
[00:24:19] So tell me more about that. I think I understand what you mean but explain more.
[00:24:22] Right. So first and foremost when you're vaping you're not sharing. And one of the things about cannabis that I always found especially when you're rolling joints is the sheer fact you're passing a joint having a conversation incorporating that whole kind of what do you do what do you do that real recognizes real like what I was discussing earlier I would get these guys to come in and you know their 50s their 60s they'd buy you know five four three grams they do this with their guys who like they'll smoke that by themselves in the evening the wife is inside you know kind of thing or you know they'll bring it to a concert or you know it's this very these events that should be communal end up becoming individual and especially when we're in the age of everybody looking into their phones as opposed to the world and then recording it just to tell people that they were there.
[00:25:19] I think that the vape is definitely indicative to that and given its convenience I think that it's it's going to fundamentally change.
[00:25:28] I mean think about it. It's just like cars. People don't drive manuals anymore. So at least they're the least stolen vehicles on the planet. That's why I own one. They're also very fun. So it's the same thing like kids don't know how to roll joints these days.
[00:25:45] You know you're absolutely right. It's terrible.
[00:25:49] I just see a lot of this and so I think that there is a level of professionals that have been smoking for a long time that understand that culture. And I think we need to come into this industry and lead it not just get investment in now. I don't think a lot of people are in it for the long term either.
[00:26:09] And that's a whole other subject.
[00:26:10] Well you know it's like any any anything that has froth around it and you know it is garnering interest is you know it's going to be right for people that want to flip a dollar and make make a quick buck.
[00:26:22] So interesting. I always find the people that are coming in from outside the U.S. or have at least a somewhat of international aspect of it you know kind of kind of set a broader level have just a different take.
[00:26:32] And I think they have a different mindset around it. So I think it's refreshing to see some people get involved in the U.S. market that way.
[00:26:39] Well I do want to be very clear that my time overseas was owed three toes. And so I definitely think things have changed. You know I definitely know at least on the cell phone you know that it was before the iPhone you know I'm saying that because I definitely am sure things have changed since I was out there. Especially given that Israel like example is now legalize the export and you know these guys are farmers man. Israel is a farming. You know the the the the Zionist movement is all about farming and. And there was this big. They can turn nothing into something in the middle of the desert.
[00:27:17] Yeah it really is incredible.
[00:27:19] The with the with the most seemingly unproductive land and soil you know with some focus and technology and that smarts what can you tell of Eve north of Televisa all the way up to Haifa.
[00:27:31] That was all swamp marshes. And they filled it up. That's why they had the biggest cockroaches I've ever seen in my life. And they fly to it's crazy and run it. So if you're like in the middle of the night you hear clack splat and you're just like what is going like a bird. It's
[00:27:47] Like a bird at the window.
[00:27:49] So in terms of where you see the U.S. market going I mean we're in this you know kind of crazy situation of SAP I say legalization and legalization is different and other regulation is different at every level. I mean where do you see kind of the opportunities where do you see you know development happening. I mean as you know someone who is a professional and you know someone who's been familiar about the pop culture for a long time. Like where do you see this playing out.
[00:28:12] Sure. So I'll tell you that I think right now we're in the wild west of branding and I say branding because as far as the quality of cannabis I mean I think we push the plant to such an extent that the mass production of it and its consistency is already there as far as product is. OK. So I think is now is the time where brands can establish themselves like local markets where you know a mom and pop shop can apply for their you know micro business license and then open up a distributing and then white label their stuff and maybe sell to like 10 15 stores as a new revenue stream. I see a lot of that happening. If they're smart you know because there's a lot of white label cannabis out there and again I think the quality has already gotten there where it's nothing but consistent. And with that said I think the branding of you know I think can Destin has done a really good job. You know they don't they don't give you strains they give you feelings and I get it's kind of hokey for you for the newly entered consumer in the industry. That's something that they'll move towards. I don't like that there's a lot of focus on the stereotypical stoner culture with some of the branding but I think that that will slowly dissipate as more investment comes in more opportunities on the marketing side too because you have to remember that the two laws are just online platforms to market yourself has been completely you know you have to have to know how to finagle your way through and that's Google and Facebook.
[00:29:50] And so you know what I like about it is it's marketing in the roots. So going into direct mail and stuff like that but again it's going to be you know I really want this industry to be more on that mom and pop level. And I really want to see more of a localized because cannabis in every community is different and access to it should be based upon what the community wants how it to be accessible. And we're gonna find other places in the United States let's say we go completely legal we're going to find communities that just don't want it and we're going to find places that we know just need it and the brands that kind of position themselves in the current state legal markets are really going to have a head start. Brands like select that I saw in Nevada. They have a great CBD line but their cannabis long is just as good.
[00:30:42] You know they're vapes and stuff. You know Henry's Henry's original date.
[00:30:46] I love their packaging. They're a great little brand. I mean there's Flo con another one. You know there are some really good stuff out there. And again I see a lot of mom and pop shops localizing their grow to kind of position themselves and then you know after a few years I see them all getting bought out.
[00:31:05] Is OK. I definitely think that it's going to be movement of the plant being used in different communities.
[00:31:11] I see a lot of movement in the 55 and older especially when it comes to like wellness centers and those kinds of things I see that there being a push in to you know I think that once it goes legal you're going to have a big support from places like AARP and that is going to completely open up the market to such an extent that I mean it's just the only people that are really going to take advantage of it are going to be these big companies that have the resources to do it. But I want to see the mom and pop shops flourish and a good micro business license white label some cannabis with there with their product marketing on it and put it out in the community. I see a lot of that. And then what's cool about that is that when you go to different regions you get to try different cannabis that are specific to that place and that's something that I remember just growing up like you know taking our runs to Arcata in Humboldt County and then say just getting different kinds and it was always different than what we got down south and you know it's just that when I when I would hang out in Amsterdam and go to different coffee shops to get different different kinds.
[00:32:17] This is how I want it how I want it to be how it will be as a totally different story but in my five year plan I hope to actually have my shop where I have a micro business license and I'm going to do that white label some cannabis sell it to the local shops and just enjoy the local market.
[00:32:35] I like it a lot. This has been a pleasure. If people want to get a hold of you and find out more information and follow up on some of these points what's the best way to contact you.
[00:32:43] Well you can hit me at my email which is firstname.lastname@example.org .
[00:32:51] You can hit me up on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/alonaloni/ . Yes I didn't have a rough childhood.
[00:33:01] It does happen.
[00:33:05] So I have to get you know my mother gets flowers on my birthday so you know a bit of a show that those are at the show so people can click through and get a hold of you. This has been a pleasure great conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time and we will keep in touch. Take care man.
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