In this episode of the "Proud to Work in Cannabis" podcast, host Karson Humiston had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Darin, the CEO of Curaleaf, the largest public cannabis company in the United States. This episode was recorded live at MJBizCon, one of the most prominent cannabis conferences in the industry.
Assistant Store Manager to CEO: The Journey of Matt Darin in the Cannabis Industry
Back in 2014, Matt read about Illinois passing a medical cannabis law in the newspaper and he was intrigued by the potential of the industry. Matt and his partners decided to apply for licenses to open dispensaries in Illinois. The licenses were awarded in September 2014, but various legal and regulatory challenges delayed the opening until January 2016. Despite facing challenges and uncertainties, they successfully opened three stores throughout 2016 under the Greenhouse brand. During that first year of operation, Matt served as the assistant store manager. He describes it as a fascinating, exciting, and challenging time to be part of the new up-and-coming industry.
From there, Matt and his team saw the opportunity to expand the Greenhouse brand and become vertically integrated. They established a grow facility in central Illinois and expanded their operations to Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio as these states began issuing limited licenses. Eventually, their business caught the attention of Curaleaf, and they decided to join forces. Matt stayed on as a regional president before becoming the CEO of Curaleaf in May 2022.
Resilience and Entrepreneurial Spirit Drive Success
Matt emphasizes the importance of resilience in the cannabis industry and highlights the need for employees to have a genuine interest in the plant. There is a scrappy and entrepreneurial spirit that has been ingrained in the cannabis industry since its early days, and Matt reiterated the importance of maintaining that culture of resilience even as companies expand. At the same time, he noted that many big corporations lose this ability as they grow. Curaleaf, despite being a large company, has maintained the culture and mentality of its early days when it only had three stores. This mindset allows them to come together as a team and solve problems efficiently.
The Future of Cannabis: Optimism, Growth, and Opportunities in 2024 and Beyond
Looking ahead to 2024, Matt expressed a sense of optimism and confidence for the industry's future. He mentioned upcoming state-level catalysts, such as the launch of the adult-use market in New York and the potential growth of the European market, particularly in Germany. He acknowledges the challenges that the industry has faced in recent years, such as oversupply and regulatory issues, but reassures that companies have used this time to improve operations and become stronger businesses. This period of stabilization has allowed for a rebalancing of supply and demand, leading to a more positive outlook for the industry overall.
Lessons Learned from Matt Darin's Decade in the Industry
The growth and acquisition of cannabis businesses, as exemplified by Matt Darin's journey, highlight the opportunities and complexities of the industry. Starting a cannabis business requires perseverance, adaptability, and the ability to navigate legal and regulatory challenges.
When asked about advice they would give themselves in 2013, Matt explains the need to prepare for the unexpected and remain open-minded. A crucial characteristic entrepreneurs in this industry must master to be successful is to constantly evolve and be able to adapt/pivot quickly. This mindset of flexibility and openness to new ideas has allowed Matt himself to navigate the industry's many changes and stay ahead of the curve.
Navigating the Evolving Cannabis Landscape
In conclusion, Matt is optimistic and confident about the evolving future. Despite past challenges in the industry, such as oversupply and regulatory issues, companies have used this time to improve operations, rebalance supply and demand, and become stronger businesses. State-level catalysts continue to provide opportunities for growth. The emphasis on hiring top talent and the importance of remaining open-minded and adaptable further contribute to the positive outlook for the cannabis industry.
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