This article appeared in Forbes. Warren Bobrow writes for the Vices column. He and our CEO had the pleasure of chatting earlier this month.
WB: Please tell me about yourself. Art trained? How did you discover the plant? How old were you? Indoor or outdoor grown?
I’m a design nerd. I’ve been attracted to design of all kinds my whole life. I originally applied to architecture programs for university. When my poor math skills caught up to me, I turned to art school. I attended OCAD (The Ontario College of Art & Design) and discovered my love for graphic design and communications. After a specialty college program, I started working in advertising. I was fortunate enough to work in all the top-tier ad agencies in Canada building brands for the last 15 years. Now, I’ve set my sights on designing and hand-making cannabis accessories for my own brand.
Cannabis has been a part of my life for a very long time and I discovered it like most, behind a roller rink, next to a dumpster. It was the dead of summer, hot and stinky. It was the least romantic introduction I could’ve had and, I kind of loved it. Since then, the plant has been a huge part of my life in all forms. I’m an organic, outdoor-guy mostly. But, when the harvest runs out, I head over to the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) to *legally* buy weed and it’s shipped right to my door in a day.
WB: Please tell me about your company? What is your thoughts on stigmas? How do you anticipate removing them?
The Green Cannabis Co. is an ethical brand focused on eco-friendly and sustainably-sourced cannabis accessories. Our entire collection is made by hand. We locally-source our raw materials, including hemp from British Columbia, beeswax from Quebec and raw clay, used in our ceramics, from Ontario and Alberta. We use bio-degradable packaging, we’re a plastic-free organization and we take a print-free approach to the way we package our goods. Instead, we hand-trim pages of vintage books and stamp our labels by hand using vegetable ink. I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t that take long?” and the short answer is, yes. It absolutely does, but we think it’s worth it. It not only minimizes our impact on the environment, but it also gives us our “look”. Our brown kraft paper, hand-stamped labels and imperfect approach is the signature of our brand. Even our business cards get the same hand-stamped treatment. In an industry littered with overuse of plastic, loads of flashy graphics our simplistic, subtle and sophisticated approach is refreshing.
I learned a lot about how companies view the cannabis industry while setting up The Green Cannabis Co. Banks would laugh me out of branches, I was booted out of PayPal, Square and Stripe, all the major credit card processing companies for violating their terms. They view selling legal, hand-made cannabis accessories in the same light as selling illegal drugs. It was incredibly disheartening, but it pushed me to find a better way. And, in time, I believe it will get easier for companies like ours to thrive in this industry. Stigmas are being shed everyday and fingers crossed the major ones fall soon. But, if a small, independent company in Canada (where weed is legal) is having these issues I can’t imagine what it must be like for others in the US and around the world.
We started The Green Cannabis Co. in December of 2019. Little did we know what the first half of 2020 would have in store. When Covid-19 hit people were locked in their homes and looking for ways to relieve all of their pent up stress and anxiety. People started to ask me what strains are best to sleep, to relax, to escape. These are people who I never thought would ask me about cannabis, people like my mom, my sisters-in-law and elderly neighbours. That, to me, speaks volumes. The stigmas are falling and now people are trying the plant - and it’s helping. Some of them are trying it for the first time, others are reminded of how awesome it was when they were kids. Either way, a whole new group of users have entered the cannabis space and we believe that’s good for everyone. The more we can normalize the use of cannabis, the more those stigmas will start fading away.
WB: What are your six and twelve month goals? What sets you apart from your competitors?
We are super excited about what the next few months hold. In the next 6 months, we’ll be continuing to launch new products and expand our foothold in retail shops, dispensaries and boutiques, both brick and mortar as well as online. As the brand continues to grow, we’d love to expand our offering. We’re beginning to add in some lifestyle-wear to our collection, we’re prototyping a line of topicals and edibles and are looking to secure a retail location, you know, if that’s still a thing in 12 months. We are fortunate enough to have an incredibly strong brand with laser-focused brand pillars. With that, we immediately know if we’re playing in the right sandbox or not.
There is nothing like our products on the market. Many of our competitors source mass-produced, white-labelled goods from overseas and slap a logo on it. We take an entirely different approach. We design, we prototype and produce our collection ourselves, proudly in Canada. Every cut, every stamp, every fold all happens here. It would be far easier and far cheaper to manufacture overseas but we believe there is a better way, where we aren’t dependant on outsourcing to fulfill our orders and where we can feed our local economies. Another thing that will become more important on the heels of the virus, we think.
WB: Do you have a food memory you’d like to share?
I grew up in an Italian household. Lots of food, lots of cooking and, as kids, we were always welcome in the kitchen. And, by welcome, I mean forced to help in the kitchen. I remember helping jar tomatoes and making sausage when I wasn’t even old enough to hold a knife. My job on Sunday mornings was prepping the sugo (red tomato sauce) for the big Sunday family dinner. Little did I know how impressionable I was back then. The garlic grinder I used every week would inevitably become the inspiration for our signature built-in grinder on our rolling trays.
WB: What is your passion?
Thoughtful design. Design that is pleasing, purposeful and created with the user and the environment in mind. It’s a part of everything I do and every choice I make from the clothes I buy, to the beer I drink – I’m a sucker for a good label. Design isn’t just about the end result either. It’s about the process, the materials, the environment and maybe what’s most important, its about what happens after you’re done with it.
Good design keeps me coming back to brands I love and keeps me away from others. I remember sitting down in a new, trendy restaurant recently, looking at the poorly designed menu then immediately putting it down and walking out the door. My wife still won’t let me live that one down.