Real estate getting easier to access: Q&A with Story Cannabis CEO Jason Vedadi

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Image of Jason Vedadi of Story Cannabis Co.

Jason Vedadi (Photo courtesy of Story Cannabis Co.)

Before Jason Vedadi’s founded his first marijuana company, he was a real estate developer with experience launching construction and mortgage businesses.

Vedadi left his position as chair of Harvest Health & Recreation in 2020 to create Oasis Cannabis, a vertically integrated marijuana company in Arizona. He sold Oasis to Ayr Wellness in 2021, only to buy it back in 2023 with a group of investors after launching Story Cannabis, where he serves as CEO.

Knowing that real estate is one of the first major hurdles marijuana entrepreneurs must tackle when launching a business, MJBizDaily spoke with Vedadi about finding the right property and what it’s like to resume managing a business you’ve sold to new ownership.

What cannabis business sector has the hardest time finding real estate?

Zoning is a pretty sensitive area. It’s becoming less sensitive – it depends on the jurisdiction of the state you’re in.

Cultivation generally can be out in farmland or rural industrial parks, so those are generally not as sensitive uses. Whereas residential homes, schools, churches and day cares are more of a sensitive use for setbacks.

You’re going to see more of that (affect) retail than you’re going to see in rural or industrial locations.

As crazy as it seems, we don’t have law enforcement show up to dispensaries because they know there are cameras on the outside. If there’s been a report of a crime, an accident or a robbery nearby, (law enforcement might) actually use our camera systems to facilitate some of their investigations.

I think we’ve been overregulated on what people’s general fears are.

And as time has passed, the general public has kind of figured out that these cannabis stores are really not causing any harm.

What should cannabis companies look for in a construction partner when building out facilities?

For cultivation, they really need to talk to contractors and get engineers that have done (cultivation sites) over and over and over for the better part of a decade.

There’s been a massive transition and sophistication to the cultivation facilities of what works and doesn’t work.

And then, obviously, the outside environment has something to do with the inside environment and how to control inside environments.

On the retail side, I think you can use anyone as construction partners.

It does help if they’ve done some construction work in that state because the security rules are different: how the cameras have to be set up, vaults.

We almost continually manage the construction business as a developer the whole way.

You ended up buying back Oasis Cannabis after selling it. How did that happen, and what were the pros and cons of that experience?

The sale had features in it that would allow us to get some enhancement out of the sale, depending on how the business performed.

And the company we sold it to was kind of at odds on how that was being formulated.

Rather than go fight a long legal battle, both groups decided that it was better for us to buy it back. So that’s kind of what happened.

The cons would be, once you start something, your brain kind of moves on. It’s not yours anymore, so you’re not thinking about it anymore.

A pro is that we decided to go for a much bigger business this time around, build a larger business a second time.

And Arizona is home base for us, the market we know the best. So, it opened our ability to come back and expand.

What do you look for when you are hiring staff, both executive and at lower levels in the cannabis industry?

Those are very broad questions because, if you’re asking me for my facilities manager, it’d be somebody who potentially comes from a military background: very organized, deals with security and process.

If you’re asking me for people in retail, I would say something like culture because we have an industry that provides a lot of diversity from people that are 21 to people that are 70.

So, it kind of depends on where we’re at.

And then in the C-suite, I think it’s position-by-position because you look for different things in a CEO versus a CFO versus a head of retail.

But my big word that I’ve been focused on the most lately is culture. Because I think that there’s a factor in cannabis that’s got a little different appeal.

Walking into a store that feels very, let’s say, boring or not upbeat or alive? I think the customer experience changes, and I think it starts with the people, it starts with the employees.

People need to have the right vibe or personality. They love being there and are high energy.

How would your business potentially change if marijuana is moved to Schedule 3?

It would create a lot more access.

I think that you’ll see credit – from a debt perspective and lending perspective – open up quite a bit more. You’ll see a lot more available money for the industry to borrow.

The biggest difference is our tax structure changes, so it becomes a lot more profitable overnight.

And eventually, in terms of the incremental reform, if you reschedule a drug, it’s going to open up even more of these states.

I tell people the cannabis industry has lost 15 blackjack hands in a row and still survived.

So, I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

This story was edited for content and clarity.

Kate Lavin, the editorial director of MJBizDaily, can be reached at kate.lavin@mjbizdaily.com.