This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Cannabis Dispensary. To subscribe, click here.
Serial entrepreneur Pete Kadens was already onto his second mega-successful business —the commercial solar energy installations company SoCore Energy—when a colleague, Ben Kovler, called him with a proposition: to launch a cannabis business in the wake of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2013 decision to sign into law the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which would allow medical marijuana in the state.
Kadens, though he’d recently sold SoCore to Edison International and signed a contract to stay on as an executive, jumped at the chance. As he describes, it was a question of morality, not opportunity.
“The reason I was interested is—truth be told—not because I have an intimate connection to the plant, but because … I have an anthropological fascination with poverty,” Kadens says. “What I have learned is that of all the permutations of poverty, the vast majority of the people—with whom I have interfaced—have gotten there because of some non-violent drug crime.” He wanted to change that.
“With so many communities crushed by the war on drugs, we believe that we have a moral imperative to not only help rebuild these communities, but also to help the individuals who have suffered rebuild their lives through gainful employment opportunities,” Kadens explains.
“When I have the opportunity to invest my own money in this mission, I’m like, ‘I’m in,’” he says.
“But when we wrote that first six-figure check, I told my wife, ‘You might as well burn this money because we will never see it again.’” Kadens wasn’t sure they’d win a license, let alone build a successful brand. “And she said, ‘Then why are we doing this?’ And I said, ‘Because this is the right thing to do,’” regardless of whether they’d win a license.
Not only did Kadens and Kovler snag a license and launch Green Thumb Industries (GTI), they have since successfully opened 13 dispensaries in five states, most under the name RISE, with another seven expected to open by December. The company has also secured 25 additional licenses across the country, and those dispensaries are slated to open in 2019.
The 13 existing dispensaries opened as medical facilities, though many are incorporating recreational as state laws shift. For example, its two Nevada dispensaries (Carson City and Spanish Springs) converted to include adult-use in January, following Nevada’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana beginning July 2017. This July, Massachusetts dispensaries will be able to legally sell recreational cannabis, and RISE’s Amherst store is prepared.
To read the full article in Cannabis Dispensary's June 2018 issue, click here.
Top photo by Melanie Zacek