Cookies brand to start selling marijuana seeds for home grows, CEO Berner says

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LAS VEGAS – International marijuana brand Cookies will begin selling seeds for home cultivation, cannabis entrepreneur and rapper Berner said Wednesday on the Main Stage at MJBizCon.

“I really want to start pushing home grow,” he said.

The quotable CEO and co-founder of Cookies shared more insights in his on-stage interview with MJBizDaily‘s Bart Schaneman on Wednesday:

  • On medical cannabis: After his own recent diagnoses for cancer and then undergoing treatment, Berner said he feels like it’s a “second shot at life. … I’ve seen the benefits firsthand of cannabis, and I was able to experience it myself.”
  • On partnerships: “I love working with people,” he said. “I’ve always been a social butterfly.” Berner said Cookies partners with operators who love cannabis, the plant and what they do. “We’re looking for operators who understand the vibe. If I can vibe with you, I can work with you.”
  • On legacy: “I want to make sure when I die, especially after coming close to death, that there’s a plan for Cookies,” Berner said. “I don’t want a bunch of blue buildings sitting around the world with no plan and no vision.”
  • On East Coast opportunities: Berner said he’s so excited about prospects on the East Coast that he’s looking to buy a home there. “I f***ing love New York. … New York is a whole ‘nother vibe right now.” He also said, “I think Pennsylvania’s going to be big.”
  • On overcoming the illicit market: “Easy – you grow something the streets don’t have,” Berner said. “It’s hard to compete with the black market because weed is way cheaper, but if you got some s*** nobody else got, they’ll come. The way you compete is just come with the fire. That’s how you win. It’s all about the genetics.”

Turning challenges into opportunities

Also on the Main Stage, marijuana heavyweights and advocates shared with MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in the cannabis industry right now.

Troy Datcher, CEO of California-based The Parent Co., said the company’s home state is proving to be challenging, with a thriving illicit market and high taxes.

To weather the storm, the company has stayed true to its vision – to be a national brand – and has had to reduce its head count by 33%.

“It was necessary to protect our balance sheet,” Datcher said. “We have one of the largest balance sheets in California.

“We’ve got to take capital and it’s going to take resources to attract talent to join us on a journey.”

What keeps Datcher motivated?

“We’re excited about what we’re shaping as an industry, bringing Black and brown people to the table and convincing (U.S. Sen.) Cory Booker and everyone in Washington to get off their ass and help us get this thing done,” he said.

Nancy Whiteman, CEO and co-founder of Colorado-based edibles company Wana Brands, said state regulations, lack of enforcement, price compression and the prevalence and dangers of delta-8 THC are some of her biggest challenges.

“There was a toddler who died from ingesting delta-8 products,” she said.

“What is going to happen when that becomes known? Will all THC get painted with the same brush as being dangerous?”

Whiteman called on the industry to advocate for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate hemp and CBD.

The opportunities that inspire Whiteman to overcome challenges include reaching new, emerging markets, and focusing on innovation.

“We’re redefining what cannabis can be,” she said.

Delta-8 THC is also a challenge for Marijuana Policy Project President and CEO Toi Hutchison, who said the advocacy group’s campaigns are experiencing “donor fatigue.”

“We’re getting the general populace to understand that our work in cannabis is not done,” she said. “We are still arresting 600,000 people every single year.”

Education, she said, is key to battling the proliferation of delta-8 THC.

“Bans never work, prohibition never works,” she said. “It’s really important that we use the words ‘synthetic cannabinoids’.”

Peter Caldini, CEO of New York-headquartered multistate operator Acreage Holdings, said low prices and other current challenges mean it’s crucial to use good business fundamentals.

“The strong are going to survive,” he said. “We’re in the weeding-out process.”

The company reduced its head count and is focused on differentiating itself.

“We’ve been spoiled in a way with these great growth rates,” he said. “The real top performers are going to succeed in the long run.”

For Ruben Lindo, the founder and CEO of New York-based Blak Mar Farms, the challenge is figuring out how to position the business, win licenses and get the company’s products on store shelves when the state launches adult-use marijuana sales.

Lindo said the company has decided to stay craft rather than scale up and produce cannabis en masse.

“Challenges aren’t challenges,” he said. “They’re areas of opportunity.”

Kate Robertson can be reached at kate.robertson@mjbizdaily.com.

Chris Roberts contributed to this report.