Mimi Mentions: Usually, the Daikoku Discover series focuses on Licensed Producers. After all, sales agencies usually have more impact on retailers than on the person who comes to shop at the store. However, it’s impossible for me to not grasp the opportunity to learn more about OPP: while they’re based in Ontario, the first brands these ladies brought on board were Edmonton’s own Poolboy, Dynathrive and Sun Shower – even if Ontario got the soft chews before we did. I was curious to learn more about what drove them, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview Alison Gordon.
I am super stoked, because I get to talk to Alison Gordon, whom I’ve been fangirling on since… before legalization, before the store opened. I absolutely love seeing women in weed, and Alison has been one of those OG women.
So could you tell us more about yourself? And a tiny bit about OPP, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Sure! Thank you for having me. So I’m a long time weed user. Just recreationally love it, always have. Never been a drinker. I just love weed, love everything about it. And I never thought about it as a career, to be honest with you. Back in 2008, I won’t go through the whole thing but I had a close family member who was older, never used cannabis before. But had stage 4 ovarian cancer and her doctor recommended she try medical cannabis. And I was like, woah! Sorry, Canada has a medical cannabis program? In 2008, I had no idea. And I was like, I’m in! I’m getting involved! I wanna work in this industry! I’m gonna open stores! They’re going to be beautiful! I had no idea. I was so naive.
(Mimi laughs in sympathy)
So, at the time, I was still running with MJ Decoteau Rethink Breast Cancer and I loved what we were doing there, and the work with young women with breast cancer, so it was just in the back of my mind, this industry. And in 2013, I was like “You know what? Let’s go for it.” Rethink was doing just fine without me, I can go onto the board. And I wound up getting into the legal weed industry. Back then I was working with Weed MD who didn’t have a license, nothing. Just a facility waiting. There was no brand, no nothing. And we were delayed in licensing, and we wound up actually going and purchasing some US assets, so I got to work in the US, which was awesome. We owned one of four legally permitted dispensaries in Los Angeles so it was just a trip to be part of everything down there because California wasn’t even legal at the time.
Ultimately I came back to Canada and I did consulting work for a company called Delshen (Audio breaks up for a few seconds here) that had a facility built in northern Ontario, no license, and really running out of cash. I wound up taking over the company and changing the name to 48North. And then, starting from scratch! Building up the 48North team. So yeah, the last few years was building the 48North Brand, taking it public, acquiring other businesses, figuring out how to grow indoor/outdoor, extraction, all of these things. And then, ultimately, since the beginning of Covid, well, we started Other People’s Pot, which I know we’re going to talk about.
Right? Cause the first thing that I think about when I see OPP, is a deep, ingrained desire to rap. (A: “You’re not the only one!”) And I think you’re based in Ontario? (A: “We are.”) which absolutely slays me. (A: “Hehe, yes.”) I absolutely adore everything about the name (A: “Thank you.”) So tell us why? Why OPP, and what it actually means!
OK, so OPP stands for Other People’s Pot, and in essence, in the most simplest terms we’re a boutique sales agency. So I’m sure you see the sales agents coming into your store all the time, and we saw this ourselves – that would be myself, Amy Weinstein and Jessica McCann– and we were watching all this and Amy and Jess were still at 48North. And I was like… I’m not done with this yet. Like, I’m really not. Maybe I don’t want to run a big public LP (Licensed Producer), but I still felt that everything for cannabis was trying to be like alcohol and tobacco, and I just… and Amy and Jess agree, we all agree, (Mimi laughs) and it’s not!
And so watching these sales agencies come from alcohol and tobacco and doing their thing at retail, we were like… no. You know what? There’s room for a boutique agency that we will only work with brands and products that we would use ourselves, that we believe in, and that we can really be creative about how we do it! So it’s not just, you know, dropping off papers and going like “Hey everybody!” But how can we provide value for the retailers? Value for the budtenders? And then, you know, sell our products.
Well, actually, and this is a little bit off topic, but one of the biggest things you have been doing at OPP are the education sesh for budtenders. And this is some pretty high level stuff, at least the one I attended was about CBD (A:”Yeah! Wasn’t that awesome?”) and I took away so much from that! And you know, I immediately sent that message to the team, and as soon as I had the link, because after the sessions we have access to that link [for the recording]…
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Because… So for us, there’s lots of stuff we need to do for our clients, cause we have amazing clients like Sunshower [soft chews], the Dynathrive (the CBD [soft chews]). Like I said, If we keep going to people saying “Buy our products! Stock our products! Stock our products!” (Shakes head) We need to create value for them as well. So how do we have interesting online sessions that aren’t just about going through the clients’ products? And we thought CBD was a really big one, cause you know it’s huge in the US and here people carry non legal CBD products all over the city. But we know that you should be buying your CBD products from a legal dispensary, ultimately we hope that the government will allow CBD products to be sold in Shoppers Drugmart, but for now… So we know that one of the challenges for budtenders is “How do you talk about things when you’re not allowed to say things like “Oh, it helps for stress”. So we thought it was important to talk about why it’s important to know where your product comes from, and the legal market provides that. That’s why they’re called the “OPP’s How to Sell Other People’s Pot, the Series” (Mimi: “I love it.)
So of course, and you’ve mentioned this before, you come from 48 North, a larger LP. And now you’re at a HIGH end cannabis boutique agency.
Oh my god, it’s completely different. (Both laugh)
Running an LP, it’s a manufacturing business, period. The End. Right?
And when you run a startup LP, that’s a whole other world. Where you’re focused on working with the bankers, investors, roadshows. Just everything that has to do with that. But in terms of putting that aside, just being an LP everything is about manufacturing. And that’s a whole other world than an Agency, right?
So we’re really about, I mean everything is about people. To me, your team is the most critical. In the sales agency it truly is. Bringing together incredible people who can resonate with retailers and budtenders to love the product, and authentically sell it. It’s complicated, but it’s completely different in that you’re not running massive facilities with … (Mimi *Rudely* cuts in and states it’s less overhead). Yes! In simpler terms it’s a lot less capital intensive. For. Sure. That is for sure.
And for me, it’s the most fun part. Because now that I’m doing both and I’m like… oh this is the part I always liked. Which is connecting with people, selling, being excited, talking, doing creative things. This is the most fun.
And you’ve talked about a couple of soft chews – cause in Alberta, we’re not allowed to call them
gummies we actually have to call them “soft chews” – but there’s something that’s based in Edmonton (A: YES!) and I’m super stoked about them! So please tell us more about it.
It is THE facility to see – cause it’s incredible to see a facility just dedicated to “soft chews” (laughs, ie:
gummies) at such a large scale. So that was just really exciting for us to be able to work with a company like Dynaleo who has the scale. We know we can create the demand, because we’re only going to take on great products and we want to get out there and make sure that everyone knows about them.
But there aren’t that many licensed producers who can come and, on the back end, actually supply. And so they’ve launched with two brands: The Sunshower, which is the THC gummies, and the Dynathrive which is the large 30-pack of apple cider CBD gummies. (Mimi mentions: they taste like sour green apple gummies!)
They’re all really really yummy, I swear they’re the best on the market. And nobody else is doing that large format, “daily dose” of CBD.
I won’t deny that was one of the biggest surprises in cannabis 2.0: that so many people kept the THC limits… for CBD products.
Do you have any cannabis routines?
Yes! I have lots. I mean, I am a joint smoker – which I know you were going to ask me – but that is my routine. It really is, just, that’s what I prefer. That’s what I do most of the time. I’m not someone who can do that at the during the day and then be productive and just work. I like to hang out. (laughs). So usually, once the day is done, once the work is done, then either pre-roll. Something. Anything.
I’m actually like the shoemaker’s daughter because my boyfriend is always pre-roll prepared. So it’s, like, funny to be living in the world I am living in, and then it’s like… whatever he hands me. Although I have a ton of pre-rolls that I just bought at a couple of different dispensaries cause I do like to try everything.
Bonus clip! An interviewee asks Mimi a question!
I mean it’s the only way you can really assess what’s on the market.
A: What’s your favourite? What are you loving right now?
You know, I’m a sucker for the vaporizer? The dry flower vaporizer. (A: Oh, you love that.) Uhm, it’s how I started with weed. The MFLB (Magic-Flight Launch Box) for those of people who are OG on the vaporizer scene (ahahaha). (A: Right, right.)
And a dispensary owner, I feel that I put a lot of onus on myself to make sure that if I list out terpenes I can actually recognize them. (A: Right, huh.) And I find that smoking doesn’t give terpenes and aromas their full justice. (A: Oh wow, ok!) Whereas a dry flower vape, does give me…. especially if it’s clean… (A: Right, yeah)
But on that note, legal weed or regulated cannabis, is actually great for vaporizer consumers because the weed is just perfectly dry for it. Which is an awful thing to say. (A: Yeah, that’s true)
Yes, they will get… And it is definitely still early days, it really, really is. And you’ll find, when the supply chain speeds up too, then it won’t be as dry. That’s my hope, anyways.
And we’re starting to see some brands come to market with squishy bud, and that’s always super
ecstatic, super exciting. On the other hand, people like Poolboy are bringing to (the Alberta) market absolutely wonderful cultivars that we haven’t seen yet. They brought the first Banner to market, you have King Tut.
These are people we are so excited to be working with. They’ve got some… You know, what’s the thing! So when we only want to work with the best. It’s not the best, BEST weed, I’m not saying theirs or anybody’s. I’m saying that for us we will only work with the best, BEST weed. It’s that the “best” can mean a lot of things. That it’s good weed, at the right price. That’s the thing.
I’m so excited for consumers to get more educated as y= said what there is about the terpenes, and about other factors than about THC and CBD. Because they’re really just not the only thing you should be looking at. So to me, Poolboy is incredible because the price, for what it is –and it is good. It is really good weed.
Well, yeah, I’m excited for consumers to understand, as we said what there is about the plant more than just THC and CBD, and then hopefully that can all play into pricing. But we are seeing some value brands, premium brands, mid-range brands – so there’s something for everybody.
So my last question, and possibly my most controversial question: Sativa/Indica discussion. What’s your take on the industry’s hottest debate.
I didn’t realize the industry was a debate…
(Mimi mentions: it’s at this juncture that I realize that my question is poorly phrased. Full confession: I’m actually SUPER nervous during these interviews cause I’m talking to brilliant entrepreneurs, and Alison had a slew of technical issues during the call. Notwithstanding, she was grace under pressure, taught me a BUNCH to avoid future technical issues, and all I can say is that my admiration grew by leaps and bounds during the chat.)
People absolutely… You have one side of people who absolutely hate the fact that stores and people divide cannabis into indica and sativa, and other people feel that Indica/Sativa still has its place in the industry.
That’s really the key thing: is that it is a plant, and how we use that (audio breaks up)… different effects. Sop, those plants do have a kind of different effect on me. But I do understand why people are frustrated by it, because theoretically you could list by terpenes, you could list by all sorts of things in the same way I’m frustrated with people who come in wanting the highest THC for the lowest price, when they might actually have great experience [with a lower THC product].