“The New York Legislation is in limbo because it faces a two-front war, but it should pass in 2020.”
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Landon Dais is an experience cannabis executive, attorney, political strategist, & public speaker. Dais is the Chief Strategy Officer for PIF, a multi-state cannabis company that is POC owned. We caught up with him to find out about his journey with cannabis, and his opinion about the state of weed in New York.
How did you get involved in cannabis? This is an excellent question because my origin story in cannabis is random and amazing. I was on vacation with my family on a beach in the Dominican Republic, sitting on a hammock, smoking a fantastic Cuban cigar. While relaxing, I get a call from Marijuana Policy Project founder Matt Kampia. He was working on marijuana legalization in New York, and he was seeking a person with Democratic and Republican connections.
A political insider's recommendation led him to me because of my work at the Forchelli, Deegan, and Terrana Law firm in Long Island. After a one-hour phone interview and a writing sample completed in 2 hours, while on vacation led MPP, offering me a job as their new Political Director of MPP NY. This began my journey into marijuana. Because marijuana is such a new industry, my 3-years in the legal marijuana industry makes me a grizzled veteran in the legal cannabis industry on the east coast.
You do a lot in the cannabis space. Can you elaborate on your most exciting projects? The last three years have been a wild ride in my cannabis career. My first role at MPP was my baptism by fire into the marijuana industry. While working at MPP, I caught the attention of MedMen CEO Adam Bierman. Adam recruited me to work at MedMen as the NY Political Director and Compliance Manager. Here, my job was to expand the medical marijuana program and pass adult-use legalization.
Working for one of the largest cannabis corporations taught me a lot about the industry. I saw first hand the intentions of the cannabis leaders in the industry, and the constant reminder that I was often the only minority in the room. As the MedMen political director, I represented MedMen at corporation round tables. Here, I learned that many in the Cannabis industry do not care about social equity, social justice, nor criminal reform.
The other companies "support" social equity as a means to get what they want from elected officials. This revelation and support from Adam led to my most exciting adventures. Currently, I am the Chief Strategy Officer of Plant Inspired Future "PIF". PIF is a Black and Latino owned Multi-state cannabis company. As a co-founder, I am privileged to be in this position because I understand how few minorities are in the legal cannabis space.
Our goal is to be the largest minority-owned multi-state cannabis company in the country. We are currently hold marijuana and/or hemp licenses in Michigan and New York. We are also looking to expand into Oklahoma, Illinois, and Missouri. I believe PIF will be a premier cannabis brand! Additionally, I am helping to build the Cannabis Law practice at Forchelli, Deegan, and Terrana. Here, I hope to help minority companies obtain licenses.
What's your opinion on the state of cannabis in New York? The New York Legislation is in limbo because it faces a two-front war, but it should pass in 2020. Even though NY is a deep Blue democratic state, there are large swaths in the suburbs that have rallied against marijuana legalization. A lot of their fears are based on misinformation and miscounted fears. Anti-legalization groups used fear-mongering to gain support against the bill.
Additionally, the Black and Latino Caucus have issues they want to be met before putting their support behind the law. The black caucus, specifically, feared minorities would not have an opportunity to get into cannabis. The current Medical Marijuana program had 10 companies, and they were all white-owned. Plus, some of the cannabis companies had racial PR issues in other states. The black caucus wanted assurances from the governor that a large percentage of licenses will be held for minorities and communities impacted by the war on drugs, expungement of marijuana convictions. Within the legalization movement, there were two large factions. The existing 10 cannabis companies want to corner the market.
The marijuana activist, such as DPA, wants to take power from the existing cannabis companies. DPA wants to ensure minority companies and communities impacted by the war on drugs, will have access to licenses and capital to run their businesses. This dynamic creates a fractured alliance behind legalization. Ironically, both sides need one another to pass the bill and to make it feasible for social equity licenses.
Lastly, the governor is not pro-marijuana but he sees that politically marijuana legalization is the movement of the future. Additionally, the NY state is facing a large deficit, and the potential tax revenue from marijuana sales will help fill the state's coffers. New York has the largest illicit marijuana market in the United States. Therefore it will create billions in tax revenue and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. Thus, this will lead to the governor pushing the bill through with vital minority benchmarks.
Do you have any advice for cannabis entrepreneurs in New York? The cannabis industry is tough and highly regulated. Therefore you must put together a good team, and have access to capital. Additionally, I would begin lobbying lawmakers now, so they are familiar with your company. In NY, you will have to raise at least a million dollars to run an effective operation. Because of federal law, access to capital is challenging. However, if you are a lucky winner of a NY license, I believe a lot of financiers will be willing to underwrite your license. In curating your team, I stress having a diverse team will help your chances of getting a license. Having women and minorities from communities impacted by the war on drugs in your C-suite and Board will help your team obtain a license. Lastly, the application process will be extensive. You must put together a great application.