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Utah in the Weeds Episode #107 – How to Start a Career in the Cannabis Industry with Matt Hoffman

Episode 107 of Utah in the Weeds features Matt Hoffman, a Michigan man who is dedicated to cannabis philanthropy. Hoffman started one of the few nonprofit cannabis companies, and he shared some advice for those interested in working in the cannabis industry

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:
Welcome everybody to episode 107 of Utah in the Weeds. My name is Tim Pickett and I’m the host. Here’s a podcast about cannabis and cannabis culture. We’re expanding the program today after discussing with Lissa Reed about the Utah’s uplift program, the subsidy program that helps low income and terminally ill patients right here in Utah. If you haven’t heard that episode, go back and listen to episode 106. This episode is a discussion with Matt Hoffman, who is from Michigan, spent some time growing, producing and selling cannabis there in a legal gray area, spent some time in jail actually. After that experience, decided to turn everything on its head and start one of the first and only nonprofit cannabis companies in the United States. Talked to him about that experience and what he’s doing for the cannabis culture and the cannabis community, and people who want to work in cannabis space.

Tim Pickett:
This is an interesting conversation with somebody with an entirely different perspective in my opinion about cannabis. He doesn’t hold back his opinions about what’s happening in cannabis and his experience. Great. We cover a lot of stuff too in this conversation. From a housekeeping perspective, summer is well underway. If you need to renew your medical cannabis card, or you’re having trouble finding medical cannabis access in Utah, head over to utahmarijuana.org, you can find out tons of information there, and lots of information about specific conditions. The Utah program, you can find out a lot more on our YouTube channel, Discover Marijuana. This next few weeks we have a big giveaway on our YouTube channel, so pay attention to that. Subscribe where you can if you’d like. Comment, we always love to hear your comments and answer all of them.

Tim Pickett:
Again, my name’s Tim Pickett. Enjoy this conversation with Matt Hoffman. I joke sometimes with my staff, the only requirement to be adjacent to cannabis or in the cannabis business, one of the main requirements is you have to have microwaves in your office big enough to nuke the laptops if the black Suburban show up. You always have to have stuff like that in the back of your mind. It’s stories like yours that solidify it in people’s minds. You think about where we are now. I’m 36. I thought where we’d be when I was into my 50s, well into my 50s. If you were told 10 years ago that we were going to be here, I would’ve been like, “Fuck you. There is no way it’s going to be legal in Utah and any of that.” Right?

Matt Hoffman:
Right. You and I laugh about nuking laptops and having go bags and all this other stuff, but that was my reality, like it’s movie stuff. I think that people that are part of the culture now, they’re like, “No way that’s real.” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s real.” That’s how the industry functioned back then and back then was about five years ago.

Tim Pickett:
I know. Okay, so introduce yourself. I just want to hear the whole thing really.

Matt Hoffman:
Okay. Hi, I’m Matt Hoffman. I am a legacy cannabis owner and operator. I grew and owned a dispensary for a number of years in Western Michigan. After my tenure and time served for participating in the cannabis industry, I got out and realized that I was totally fucked because I couldn’t pursue a license that many hold now [inaudible 00:04:27]

Tim Pickett:
Because you’re a felon.

Matt Hoffman:
I sidestepped the felon [inaudible 00:04:33]

Tim Pickett:
Thank goodness.

Matt Hoffman:
They stacked me up with three of them and I was facing seven years. I got off pretty easy, but my life was in shambles regardless. I wasn’t able to do what I honed my skills over the years doing. We first started, I was… If you bought a [inaudible 00:04:56] from me, you get a quarter of seeds and stems and I probably got a couple pieces of shitty schwag weed.

Tim Pickett:
This is in Michigan?

Matt Hoffman:
This is in Western Michigan. This is over here by Lake Michigan.

Tim Pickett:
Okay.

Matt Hoffman:
Over the years of just living, eating, sleeping, and breathing cannabis, we ended up winning back-to-back-to-back caregiver cups in 2015 and ended up doing 1.3 million a year in revenue through our dispensary, which we started with our family’s 401(k) of $37,000.

Tim Pickett:
How does that work? How do you get your family to say, “Oh, I know, this is a really great idea, Matt. You should take our retirement plan and invest in a federally illegal business and grow weed.”

Matt Hoffman:
I think charm and persuasion is a gift I have. Apparently I have an abundance of it because I convinced my family to cash in their 401(k) and start a illegal enterprise with me. It starts as any other pitch is feed people, make sure they have to go to the bathroom and they’ve had a relatively good day and just have a conversation and it went, “Hey, how do you think life’s going to go?” My mom said, “Oh, I think I’m going to fall over debt at my desk.” I said, “Well, I’m probably going to work in a factory and die broken and standing in a machine.” Here is this thing that is legal now in Michigan. I think we could have a go at it.” Drug dealers do it. We’re smarter than them. We’re educated, so we could do it and we did and failed for three years straight.

Matt Hoffman:
Both of us ended up working two jobs and building our grow and messing up and learning. There were resources back then, but we kept at it. It paid off. It took about eight years to get that million, but we did. After that you can’t do what I did in the time and in the place that I was doing it and not get in trouble. It’s almost impossible. I got in trouble and then went away for a while and got out and thought, “Okay, well, what do I do? I’m fucked.” We had an idea for a workforce development agency, like indeed of weed. We started a tech company. I’ve never run a tech company before. I had no idea what I was doing. It blew up wildly successful and holy crap. We were inundated with people asking for help. Can you help us make a resume? Should I bring weed to an interview? Should I bring a plant to an interview? Should I wear a tie? Will my skills translate. Help me, help me, help.

Tim Pickett:
Wow. This is something I didn’t know about you. What year was this?

Matt Hoffman:
Oh, this was like 2017, 2016.

Tim Pickett:
You get online, you create this tech company that focuses on the cannabis industry, jobs, connecting people who need to work together. The indeed of weed is a good way to put it.

Matt Hoffman:
Then people would pay to list their jobs.

Tim Pickett:
Yep.

Matt Hoffman:
What happened is we ended up making more money off of valuations and headhunting than we did off the technology. The technology was an aggregate for people to come to us because it didn’t exist at that point in time. There wasn’t people that were really out and knowledgeable that could talk with another grower and say, “Hey, this guy knows what they’re talking about.” Or they say, they’re here and they’re really here. We think they’d be good here. We did a lot of valuations and placing people.

Tim Pickett:
Boy, I feel like that’s still really a necessary thing because I still run into people and no offense, if you’re one of the… I’m not going to pick anybody out. In this short period of time I’ve been in this space, I’ve met a lot of people and there is a significant number of people who will tell you, they are God’s gift growing the plant. They know everything there is to know about the science, the growing, the cycles, the education, they’re amazing. Really, when you dig into it, they could barely grow a tomato compared to somebody who really can do it up. Set up the growth facility, put it all together, put the humidity, all the machines and the equipment and all that. There’s so much more to it. It seems like that would be a really necessary thing to do those valuations where you can take somebody and say, “Okay, well, give me your resume. I’ll tell you where you actually fit.”

Matt Hoffman:
Well, it morphed. We had a guy… I was actually talking to him today. One of our first alumni, Dane, he was one of those guys that couldn’t get a job. The word master grower is thrown around a lot. It’s a self-appointed title. There are people that are master growers, but they would never call themselves that, but I would. I would say Dane is de facto master grower. I know that because I know my business and I’ve grown for more than a decade. Also, because he proved out. He came to us where we ended up rolling that for profit, indeed of weed, company was called handgrown.jobs.

Matt Hoffman:
We rolled that into a nonprofit called Our Cannabis because the demand was so overwhelming for people like Dane, who could… He didn’t really talk the talk, he just walk the walk. He needed to be able to come in and get a job and health insurance and W-2s and all the things that a lot of people in traditional industries take for granted. When he came to us he had, no bullshit, he had 11 page resume. It read like a novel. He had been looking for a job for a year. It was readily apparent to us and my team within five minutes of talking to him like, “Whoa, this guy’s awesome.” The problem is that our recruiter, a headhunter, an HR person, they would never read the novel that he wrote as his resume. He didn’t know how to get their attention. We do. My mom’s background, her master’s degrees in education and workforce development. She worked at multiple nonprofit agencies, helping refugees find work.

Matt Hoffman:
She doesn’t speak a second language, by the way. She helped mentally and physically disabled adults find work rather job training. She did program development for the State of Michigan. This is kind of our thing. We said, “Okay, well, we have this cannabis background and we’ve got all these people that are asking for help. Then we have mom’s workforce development pedigree. She’s been doing it for 30 years, so let’s start a nonprofit that focuses on helping people write resumes and prep for interviews and go through the negotiation process, which most people don’t even know that they can do and support them throughout their careers. That was formed in 2018. We’ve rolled everything into that. It’s a robust suite of services that helps people now. It’s built on her professional background and our professional background and in the cannabis field. That’s what I do now is chair and then fundraise major gifts for cannabis charities.

Tim Pickett:
How did you get a 501(c)(3) approved?

Matt Hoffman:
Fuck if I know. It took four years.

Tim Pickett:
What people don’t realize is normally when you set up a 501(c)(3), it’s a six-month waiting period. You do the application process, you turn it in and then you got to wait six months. I don’t know why. Sure there’s reasons the governments like you can’t start a nonprofit if you have a million dollars. You need to sell all your stocks and put it in a nonprofit, whatever, tomorrow you can’t do that like a normal business. You have to have this whole application process. Then typically wait six months. In the cannabis space, it’s not, and it took you four years to get it approved.

Matt Hoffman:
I don’t think that I need all my fingers to count the registered 501(c)(3) cannabis nonprofits in the world. There’re just aren’t that many because it’s incredibly difficult to do. There are so many hoops that you have to jump through. Let’s just say, if you wanted to be a 501(c)(3), that’s an arduous task in and of itself. For us, they had a lot of questions and they move at their own time table and then there was a pandemic and so we got lost in there. It was a lot of us on the phone saying… They would go, “Okay, your name is Our Cannabis.” It was a debate between the founders and the board and I. They thought, “Hey, let’s do like Americans for prosperity.” I said, “Fuck that.” Can I curse on your show?

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, podcasts have no rules basically. You know, no rules. We haven’t broken enough rules yet to get in trouble. I should put it that way.

Matt Hoffman:
Okay, good. I said, “Fuck that. We’re planning the flag at the top of the hill. We’re call ourself Our Cannabis because fuck them”.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, like “We’re going to do what we’re going to do.” We’re obeying all the rules. This isn’t illegal, what we’re doing. We can call it whatever we want. We have this conversation all the time.

Matt Hoffman:
It was future forward. I was looking forward and it was saying, “Hey, in 20 years, this thing that is a liability because it is a fucking liability right now, this thing in 20 years is going to be a massive asset.” To be that explicit, to be that at the top of the hill planting the flag, that’s over the horizon posturing. I said, “Well, I’m from cannabis.” We fought with the state and local and federal government, like, “I’m not really afraid of anything or anybody because I fought the biggest guys in the room and they pummeled me, but I didn’t die.” I went, “Well, so what? Let’s do it.” We still had challenges with it. In my view it was worth it.

Matt Hoffman:
My board still disagrees with me. As far as the naming and trying to go all the way… Yeah, they said, “Matt, why do you want to go pick a fight?” I said, “Because I can, and because we can win, and because we were winning guys, we’re winning.” That’s something that I think is lost on cannabis in general is at some point in time we stopped asking and start conquering. It was a conquering mindset.

Matt Hoffman:
It’s a winning mindset of we’re going to call ourself something explicit like Our Cannabis, because it won’t be taboo in a very short… When we started this interview, one of the first things we said was imagine 10 years ago where we’d be today and we’re only accelerating from this point forward.

Tim Pickett:
We have to remember that. We are only accelerating from this point forward, despite the periodic, what looks as setbacks, right? There has to be. I do a lot of medical evaluations. I see a lot of patients. That’s our primary… That’s my primary thing. I teach people how to smoke weed for a living and nice. It’s extremely rewarding that I come from a medical background and I teach at the University of Utah Medical School, their cannabis program.

Tim Pickett:
When we go up there, I have to really focus on… It is not all awesome, right? Cannabis isn’t all the answers to all of your problems. There is a significant like psychosis. There is a significant correlation between psychosis and cannabis, especially in young people. We don’t know the answer, but we know there’s this five times more likely thing that’s correlated between heavy cannabis use and young people developing psychosis, like, “Look that might be a setback for the industry, but if you don’t acknowledge it, it will come up as a skeleton later and you’re going to be dealing with it later if you’re not dealing with it now. You can’t get legitimacy for all of the wonderful things that it does in opioid reduction and benzo reduction and sleep medicine reduction. Literally 79% of our patients use less prescription medications within six months, right?”

Tim Pickett:
Well, I can’t get to that legitimacy without acknowledging the hiccups, but you are absolutely right. In my opinion, it’s accelerating. I respect your board, but I tend to lean on your side. That’s the point of a board is feedback. You go in a closed room and you argue it out. There’s the quorum and it’s professional. At times is passionate. That’s the point of the board.

Matt Hoffman:
For sure.

Tim Pickett:
Are you into all the states?

Matt Hoffman:
As far as what I do exclusively, everything is focused on the nonprofit. I don’t grow, I don’t sell, I don’t do that anymore. I don’t have the desire. A real quick aside, I don’t have desire because anybody could do that. More students that come through the programs, more people that are trained up and mentored, anybody could grow weed and do it consistently and do a fine job. Okay. Not anybody can do what I do because they don’t know what I know when they’re not in the position that I’m in. I’m solely focused on cannabis philanthropy, impacting people’s lives and through workforce development and enriching them that way. Finding meaningful work. To answer your question, we are all across North America. We have worked with people in Australia and India, all across Europe. We don’t have the capacity right now to support Spanish job seekers. We have in the past I brought… My aunt is a fluent Spanish speaker. She’s a Spanish teacher doing it for like 20 years. We brought her in to help some Spanish speakers.

Matt Hoffman:
Yeah, we’re all over the place. Anywhere, there’s a medical or recreational cannabis program, we are forming relationships with state agencies and making them aware that a resource like ours exist and programs with proven track records are there to support the workforce. That’s [inaudible 00:20:54]

Tim Pickett:
When you go into a state, like here in Utah, would you go to the regulators and say, “Hey, we have a platform that not only will connect people, professionals, and you want us really to be successful because you want a professional program.” Do you also offer with the classes and education, it standardizes that level of the budtenders, the patient advocates or the people who work in the dispensaries. Are you training them as well?

Matt Hoffman:
God, no. We’ve veered right away from that because we looked at it and went, “Okay, the universities are going to come in and we would like to be a resource in what we know and flip a coin in the jar collectively for that.” The standardizations and the certificates and all that is in my view, too big of a thing for any one individual to tackle. When it comes to accountants, if I went to the University of Nebraska and I got an accounting degree, it would be acknowledged in Miami, where with certificates and things like that in cannabis that is more often than not the case. Our view was let’s let academia catch up and then be a resource for them and let them collectively use their might to tie everything together.

Tim Pickett:
We’ve run into that same type of thing. I’m sure in the beginning, people were constantly saying, you should develop a program. You should develop education. You have all these people that need your services. You could charge for it, but it does not standardize.

Matt Hoffman:
Then you got to work for it. You got to go sell it. You got to standardize it. You got to compete.

Tim Pickett:
That’s not the wheelhouse you want to be in.

Matt Hoffman:
No. Why would somebody want a red cup certificate when they could go to the University of Michigan?

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, when you speak of master growers. In Utah, we have the Utah State University, which is one of the best agriculture and farming and growing universities, probably in the world. They have really, really good programs. Why not go there? Right? They’re going to figure it out.

Matt Hoffman:
Exactly.

Tim Pickett:
They’re going to develop a program, probably ought to just let them do it.

Matt Hoffman:
Well, what the savvy universities are doing is they’re finding guys like me that are keen on education and sharing the knowledge. They’re bringing us in to be guest lecturers, which I’ve done for a number of years. The other side of the fence, the guys from my side are getting their credentials up so they can become educators themselves at some of these programs. That’s where you get people that have real world practical in the field experience that can come into an institutional framework and provide the maximum value for the students. That’s exciting to me. When you talk about Utah and their ag program, I’m like, “Man, if there were some guys that were legacy growers that would come in, that’d be cool.” The state would have to get the license, which is starting to happen. Mississippi had a cultivation license, a research license for a number of years. We’re starting to see that where some of the universities from the state level are being given special licenses, special uses to actually cultivate cannabis at the facility.

Tim Pickett:
Mississippi, you used that example. They were producing like a 100 marijuana cigarettes for the veterans and they’d ship them all over the country. You’d get your allotment of a 100 marijuana cigarettes, Mississippi weed. I don’t know what type of research they still do, but I think Penn State has some research in medicine that they’re doing. I know…

Matt Hoffman:
North Carolina’s hemp. I know that.

Tim Pickett:
Utah has tried to incorporate and change their laws to allow the University of Utah to do some medical research because we have a big cancer research facility here. You fit well into all these places because I’m thinking, “Well, where do you get the person who knows how to set that up, right?” You have to be you.

Matt Hoffman:
The way that it was done and the way that it’s still done now is if you want the guy and I’m not the guy, but let’s say, I’m the guy. If you want the guy, guess what? The guy is getting mega bucks either because he’s either a part of a leadership of either a regional or a multi-state operator or he is at the helm of his own company or he’s still underground. There’s not many incentives for that guy to come and be a part of anything because to be a part of cannabis is the pursuit of ferocious independence. We’re a wild bunch. That’s why we do what we do. The prospect of coming in and playing well with others is not one for most guys. What we’ve done is we’ve found people that have this particular skill set and then we match them and we fill in their weaknesses with other people’s strengths, where you could have the guy come in and do three roles, you’ll have four or five other people come in, assemble and do the role of the guy.

Tim Pickett:
Interesting way to look at it. I wouldn’t have thought about it this way. All the people that I know who you could hire to do this, they’re not interested. They already have either their own thing underground on the secondary market as I would consider it, right? Or they’re in a multi-state operation and they’re making great money on that side, or they’re in jail. What was that like? How long were you in jail? Do you want to talk… Do you talk about this a lot?

Matt Hoffman:
Not really. I was there for four months and to be honest, it was a vacation. It was wonderful. It was hell, don’t get me wrong. It was hell. At the time my company had just… We had just crest it and I was working so much that the only time that I would get a break was… I drove a Lincoln, and I got one of those monthly passes to get a car wash. The only time that I would get a break was I would go to the car wash and turn off my phone, turn off my radio and I just closed my eyes during the car wash. I did it so much that it actually removed the paint off my car. I was so burnt out because it was a criminal enterprise. It wasn’t like I could bring on, I had a staff of 12 people that I paid cash and that were like my ride or die people. I couldn’t scale because of the nature of my business. It being a criminal enterprise, it was operationally gray area.

Matt Hoffman:
There were no protections. There really weren’t incentives unless the local or state or federal police wanted you. I was burned. I was just strapped to the outside of a rocket ship. When they came and got me, everything was in place. Everything was fine. It ran without me. I ended up getting a job in jail where I go and make 19 pots of coffee for the East Grand Rapids road commission and clean their bathroom and read a book every day. For me it was… I would’ve never stopped. I would’ve had a stroke or a heart attack and probably died from the stress. Going to jail and having to fist fight somebody or watch people fist fight over a remote control or play cards or watch people steal it, fuck each other up. I didn’t care because I was from the world. I was from the underground. Unfortunately, that is a currency in that world. It didn’t phase me, but I didn’t have the burden and the stress because my team was at the helm. I had strong people. The team was at the helm of the business, which ended up being taken.

Matt Hoffman:
I think the effect it had on me was one, it forced me to take a break, but I didn’t get the punishment until afterwards, when several asset forfeiture was leveraged and all of my assets were taken. I don’t know how they didn’t take my house. I think it was because I was remodeling at the time. They thought that it was like a [inaudible 00:30:49] or something. They didn’t take my house, which was great, but they took everything else. When I came out, I was financially destitute. I don’t listen to good advice. I act on it. I was very lucky, or fortunate or blessed, whatever you want to call it early on to get tied in with some very smart people in finance and illegal. They said, “Matt, we love you bud, but you’re going to burn. You need to go bury some cash in the yard type of stuff.” They showed me how to protect some of my assets. I was able to restart when I got back out and it was the most gnarly brutal thing that I’ve ever gone through.

Matt Hoffman:
I thought, “Oh my God, I have all the advantages of the world.” I am haggard, like my guts are hanging out. I’m wrapped. It took years for us to get back on our feet. I thought other people that don’t have even a fraction of what I have are so fucked, it’s not even funny. These are my people, like, “What can we do to help them?” That’s where the idea for indeed of weed came through. Also, all I’d ever done professionally was grow a cannabis companies. I didn’t know how to do anything else. It was shocking for me to go, “Okay, well the State of Michigan’s issuing licenses. I’m connected. I’m respected. I have resources. I’m a known entity and people are throwing money around left and right, but I couldn’t even own a fraction of a share of company.” It just killed me.

Matt Hoffman:
I thought, “Okay, well in service of myself, how can I service others?” I went down a different path in life that it’s so challenging. One running a cannabis nonprofit is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, which is fun to me. It’s been so enriching because I can share what I know and the resources that I have and help other people live better lives. If I was growing weed and selling weed, I’d have a private jet and do whatever I want, but it’s money. At some point in time and I’ve been at this point. At some point in time, you make so much money, you don’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t enjoy my life because I was too focused on making money. To answer your question, what jail did for me, was it reset me?

Tim Pickett:
Sounds like it almost just completely reset the paradigm that you were living in and yet it kept you… What’s interesting about that is it changed your outlook, your paradigm, but it didn’t change your skillset necessarily, right? You knew how to grow cannabis. You knew how to grow a business in that way.

Matt Hoffman:
I understood all the components of business from the branding to the to… Branding like this to the marketing, to customer relations. All of it. All the things that a business needs, I learned. I wasn’t too worried because I understood the systems of business and enterprise. I knew that I could make money one way or another. I was angry for quite a while because I was excellent at what I did because I paid my dues and then to be able to… I’m not saying I’m Michael Jordan of weed, but this is the first one I’ve grad. It would be like Michael Jordan having to sit on the bench and watch others play. It just killed me.

Tim Pickett:
What was the rules that made it so you can’t because I think these rules exist in Utah in most states. What were the rules that made it so you couldn’t be a license holder in Michigan?

Matt Hoffman:
It was pretty cut and dry. They just said if you’ve got a conviction of any type, then you’re excluded from holding any portion of a license. At the time it was so that I couldn’t even be an employee without going before a board and having a board review and then approve or deny my employee status.

Tim Pickett:
Yep. This is very, very similar to the Utah law originally. They wouldn’t let anybody be any part of it. Then they modified it I believe last year to allow people to work in the industry, maybe not be an owner. I don’t know if that ever changed or if that has changed yet, but, at least now you can work in the space. It’s incremental, it is so tragic that you could get in trouble for something that was really a legal gray area at one point or against the law. Literally you want to do the same exact thing legally, and you’re good at it, but you can’t because you did it before, like literally your experience is what is keeping you from the job.

Matt Hoffman:
My experience qualifies me for the job, but excludes me from having it.

Tim Pickett:
Keeps people in the black market.

Matt Hoffman:
It does. What’s interesting is we’re starting to see companies, not just mom-and-pops. We’re starting to see companies shuttering. Terrapin had a location here in Michigan. They have a few, but they liquidated all of their assets. They employees came in, they said, “Hey, Friday’s going to be your last day. Will you work through Friday?” By Friday, they shuttered the store and they completely removed themselves from the Michigan market. We’re starting to see the cooling down of the market. It’s not because of the demand in weed. The demand in weed is still up there. It’s that bills are coming due and runways have run out and yields are not what they meant to be and then price per pound is down.

Matt Hoffman:
All the market factors are starting to come into play. The people that are able operators are doing just fine, but everybody else is suffering. For me, I’ve got a dozen people right now that were laid off and I’m going, “Oh my God. The companies that are doing well, don’t have high turnover because people are happily working there, but they’re not hiring either.” We’ve got all these experienced people that we take them from one sunken ship and put them on another burning one. It’s a very tumultuous period that we’re entering.

Tim Pickett:
You feel like we’re entering it just now? We’re just coming into it. You feel like we’ve been in it for a little while?

Matt Hoffman:
We’ve been in it for about six months.

Tim Pickett:
When you see the Curaleaf stock graph, is just one big slippery slide down. I love those guys and I’ve got some friends who are great people, but the stock price is getting crushed.

Matt Hoffman:
Yeah, I think it was… I don’t know if it’s a reckoning.

Tim Pickett:
It kind of is. Investors will look at the tech money, Uber… What did I read the other day? Uber subsidized all the rides. We’ve been taking for so long now, “Hey, you got to pay for that ride.” What used to cost you $15 to get downtown is now 40, because that’s what it costs. That’s always what it cost. We’ve been subsidizing it. Now we got to pay the piper a little.

Matt Hoffman:
What’s interesting is I was talking to somebody about this earlier today and I said, “Look, what you guys are experiencing in the legal market has been at play in the black market forever.” Guys like me… Oh man. Okay, I’m not going to say something crass. Okay. Yep. It’s unfortunate what’s happening to the staff. That’s all I’m going to say. The people that rode into town and thought they were going to just show all the cannabis people, how to do it, they’re laughing stock. The problem is that they weren’t wise enough to listen and heed the advice to the people that have been around, and it’s destroying people’s lives. That’s not funny to me. A bro losing his money, that’s funny to me, without the consequences that’s funny. I think what will happen is we’ll start to see companies do things that are unique to them. For example, if I was operating, I would only carry what I grew. I would only grow what my people wanted, because that’s what I found success doing. I didn’t grow everything.

Matt Hoffman:
I grew what my people wanted, several thousand people and my people solicited feedback. We said, “Okay, tick it on the Excel sheet. People liked Night Nurse, so we grew the crap out of Night Nurse. We grew only what our people wanted and we stopped taking on new customers. We only focused on servicing the people that we had and that we focused on servicing them so well that they never even thought about going anywhere else.

Tim Pickett:
Ah, old school business. Instead of trying to take over the world, try to take care of your community, right? The local doc down the street, he doesn’t need 14 providers, he just needs to take care of the people that he takes care of and he can still live in a nice house and go on vacation twice a year. That’s okay.

Matt Hoffman:
No, if we think about conquest, conquest takes decades. It doesn’t happen fast. The ones that try to do it fast, they overextend… I love playing the board game Risk. You get the guy that he get a good roll and he’ll run across the board. Okay, cool, he spreads something. I’m going to eat him up. I won’t push into his territory, but I’ll make him pay for his mistake. It’s understanding that keeping the cost of goods grown low, keeping the cost of goods sold low, keeping a consistent and happy customer base builds strength. Then when I want to move on something, when a company is begging an investor to come and buy their $4 million investment for $300,000, okay, here’s the cash. Thanks for the assets. Good rent. “Hey, you know what? You’re really good at this. Go start another company.”

Tim Pickett:
Call me when you needed… Call me when you need another buyout.

Matt Hoffman:
Yeah, so it’s been something where-

Tim Pickett:
It the MedMen’s story, right. Get too big, too quick and you can’t keep up with everything.

Matt Hoffman:
The truth is that growing cannabis is incredibly lucrative. Anybody who’s not making money in this is doing it totally wrong. It’s totally wrong. Understanding having a growth plan for the business itself because even when times are lame people still buy. Even when the price is low, people still buy. It’s having that plan and then running it for years. That gets people to the position that they can start to make bigger moves over time. It’s a matter of perspective.

Tim Pickett:
If somebody was going to go out… What do you think is needed in the cannabis space now that you’ve been on both sides, really before and the nonprofit side. Do you have any advice really for the whole industry now that you’ve seen both sides? Is there something other than you’re growing too fast and here’s the reckoning?

Matt Hoffman:
Put your money where your mouth is? We’ve put year to date. I wish it was year to date. So far to date, the Hoffman family has put in over 350,000 of our dollars into our nonprofit. We put our money where our mouth is. We don’t just say, “Hey, we might do good later.” We gave when it when it was a pound of flesh for us and we kept giving. I think the people that are new to the culture don’t understand that generosity of cannabis. People that are from cannabis are incredibly giving in time and money and in spirit. That’s something that is lost on the new age of licensees. They’ll say, “Matt, we love what you’re doing, but we’re just not in a position to give.” I have a response for that, and the one that I’m going to say now is not it, every dollar matters. It’s the act of giving. It’s the act of charities. It’s the act of supporting other people who, while one person is struggling… While I may be struggling, there may be somebody who’s having a harder go than I am.

Matt Hoffman:
The cannabis community, because of the nature of the war on drugs, we supported each other.

Tim Pickett:
Yep.

Matt Hoffman:
That’s something that’s lost on this group. They don’t understand that we can’t give $100,000. We can’t give a million dollars. Okay. Can you give $200? Can you give 50 bucks? Can you give a dollar today? What can you do today to help somebody else? They say nothing. Nothing. I say, “Okay. Well, that tells me what I need to know about the culture and how these people understand or don’t understand the community of cannabis.” It’s not about taking. It’s about giving. Most of the companies are not into giving.

Tim Pickett:
Interesting. I can totally understand where you’re coming from. I have much less experience in the cannabis industry than you. I’ve much more experience, my background is all medicine and even that industry is very reticent to give back. They know how to make money in medicine.

Matt Hoffman:
Think about the risks that you have taken and the stigma that you have faced doing what you do now, that’s a sacrifice for you. You’ve sacrificed whether you know it or not. You’ve given whether you know it or not, that to endeavor into this space is a personal risk. That’s part of the charity. That’s part of the generosity is you say, “Hey, you know what? There may be ramifications for this action, but I’m going to [inaudible 00:46:21].

Tim Pickett:
I’m going to go out there. I’m going to put the flag on top of the hill and say, “Hey, you need good info on cannabis. You can come through me. You need a job in the cannabis space, I’m Matt Hoffman, here you go.”

Matt Hoffman:
You need to learn how to smoke joints?

Tim Pickett:
You can call Tim.

Matt Hoffman:
[inaudible 00:46:38] Tim.

Tim Pickett:
Right. Call Tim. I’ll show you exactly how to do it. Maybe I’ll tweak that a little bit and help you feel better. I like the idea. I think you’ve definitely made me think about every dollar, right? The charity needs to happen now as you’re going, not when you’ve reached the end. It’s now. Any advice for somebody who wants to start a nonprofit in or adjacent to the cannabis space other than good luck.

Matt Hoffman:
Okay. Yeah, good luck. Okay, so couple of things, go and read every… Okay, this advice is for board members or would be founders, okay. You’re not going to be able to and if you can, if I’m wrong, I have to eat my words then bully for you. For the most part, you’re not going to be able to hire a professional fundraiser for a couple reasons. One is you can’t afford them. Two, professional fundraisers, they’re like first round sport draft picks. They can go do anything they want to do. They’re not going to want to come and work at some plucky startup that’s got no money. Ask me how I know.

Matt Hoffman:
My first bit of advice would be, don’t spend a dollar until you’ve done a couple things. One, see if there is a problem to be solved and if you’re the person to solve it. If there’s somebody else that’s already solving that problem, then go and volunteer and help them. Make sure there’s a clear demonstrateable problem that you can clearly solve. The next thing is go and build a board. You don’t want to board more than 12 to 15 people, but go and talk to a dozen people and say, “Hey, I have this idea of this problem. I’m the guy to solve it. I think you’d be a great contributor to that. Would you consider if I did this coming on and being a board member?” Before you do that, go and read what the role of a board member is. Then lay out a couple expectations.

Matt Hoffman:
The real point of a board is counsel and those passionate debates. Also, they are the people that can introduce you to people who may be open to supporting the cause. Okay. Raising money is the crux of it. If it were… Well, it was me. What I did is I read every single fundraising book there was, and then I hounded as many people as I could and I just annoyed them with page after page after page of questions until, I think they respected me enough to take me seriously and they would engage with me. Then I took classes with a lady named Amy Eisenstein. I took all of her classes, all her podcasts, all of her one-on-ones. It was the best money that I ever spent.

Matt Hoffman:
There are universities, the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Saint Mary’s School of Philanthropy at Minnesota. Go and study… Actually spend the time and do the coursework and learn how these function because a nonprofit is a totally… Okay, dolphins and giraffes are mammals, but they have nothing in common, other than they’re mammals. That’s where the commonalities end for for-profits and nonprofits. Just because I was a beast that my for-profit enterprise did. The things that made me really good at that business were actually hindrances as a nonprofit operator. If you’ve got the luxury to go and take curriculum at a university, do it. If not, join the association of fundraising professionals and then just read. Go on Amazon and buy literally every book and read it, cover to cover about a dozen times before you spend any money. Then endeavor. Go for it and then strap in for a couple years because you’re not going to raise any money right away. If you do, great for you.

Matt Hoffman:
Typically, most nonprofits start with a group of wonderful people that like me said, “Hey, this is a problem. We’re going to solve it.” The world’s going to say, yeah, that’s a great thing and they’re going to throw money at me. It doesn’t work that way.

Tim Pickett:
In the cannabis space, you can’t take donations from cannabis companies with 280E.

Matt Hoffman:
I’ve stopped having that discussion. I’ve said talk to your tax professional and however you want to support us, we will take the check. That’s how I’ve done it because of the 280E application.

Tim Pickett:
Right.

Matt Hoffman:
That’s the Godzilla stomping around the field without a doubt.

Tim Pickett:
At the same time, there’s always creative ways to donate if you want to get it done, right? You want to contribute, there’s ways to do it.

Matt Hoffman:
There is, and it’s not about the money. It’s not about somebody giving $2 million. It’s about the fact that they gave. Okay, so here a bit of statistics about nonprofits and fundraising. One is 8 out of 10, first-time donors only make a gift one time. That’s horrible because the largest gifts come from the seventh or eighth gift. Nonprofits spend a lot of time acquiring new donors and they do a terrible job keeping the donors. It’s called stewardship. Showing the donors the impact. Here’s how many cups of water we fed to dehydrated people. Wells, we dug. Penguins we clean. People we got jobs in cannabis… Cats we neutered. Nonprofits, if you show the impact, then donors have a higher propensity to give again. Then you’ll get to that seventh or eight gift where we’ve seen many times where someone will make a gift of 100 or $200 for a number of years. Then they’ll be asked, “We’ve seen that you really support the mission. Would you consider making a gift to our capital campaign so we can build an extra 20 wells?” They go, “Yeah, absolutely.” Then they’ll cut a check for $100,000.

Matt Hoffman:
A way to get to that seventh or eighth gift is stewardship and that’s show the wells. Show the cats. Show the people working. Show the impact. Then people are 74% more likely to make a second gift if they’re thanked within 24 hours. If you sent us a check for 100 bucks. I just texted you and I said, “Hey, Tim, we got your check. You’re awesome. Thank you.” That would increase your likelihood of making a second gift by 74%. Longstanding statistic and philanthropy and that’s the nice thing about nonprofit work is that through the reporting to the IRS, because everything’s transparent, you can see the data sets and the data doesn’t lie. If somebody makes a gift or does anything for you just in life, if you thank them immediately, they’re more likely to do something kind for you again in the future.

Matt Hoffman:
Those are just some things to consider going in that I wish that I knew because I was an eager beaver. I was calling everybody I knew and just bombing because I didn’t know what I was doing, so get trained.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. What’s your favorite strain? You still have a favorite strain?

Matt Hoffman:
I do. Honestly, I’d have to say Night Nurse. That was the one I grew that I’m smoking right now. I don’t even know right now. I had some buddies come up from Florida and they got a bunch of joints and they didn’t want to fly with it so they left it. I’m just grabbing one and smoking it. You know what it is?

Tim Pickett:
That’s funny, Night Nurse though, huh?

Matt Hoffman:
Night Nurse, anything that’s going to be really like a tranquilizer.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah.

Matt Hoffman:
For some reason, cannabis is a bit of like an upper for me, which I don’t particularly enjoy because it makes me manic and I don’t particularly enjoy that. Something that would be more of a couch lock or a sedative going to bed, hits me where I’m just chill. I can go mow the yard, do whatever and I’m good.

Tim Pickett:
Cool.

Matt Hoffman:
What about you?

Tim Pickett:
Fatso. My favorite strain altogether is Fatso. It’s a high THC strain, can be very high. If I use a lot of it can be almost hallucinogenic to me, so it’s really creative. I’ll almost consult it, right. I’ll consult the Fatso, if I’ve got a problem to solve. When I’m outpacing and I pace and I have a whiteboard to see if my whiteboard behind me, I’ll write on the whiteboard. I write out stuff, shitlike, and it’s… I always save a little bit.

Tim Pickett:
There’s a guy who grows it an hour away for the medical market, and his particularly Sugar House Select is the brand. When he grows it, it’s the way, I’ve become a big fan of that one strain. I am like you, I get pretty paranoid. Sometimes I have to even set a timer on my watch. That’s like, “Okay, I didn’t have chest pain an hour ago. In two hours if I don’t have chest pain, I won’t go to the ER, but certainly right now I think I’m having a heart attack.” I get that way with sativas, so for me, I’m same way. I like a little more sedative chill type experience.

Tim Pickett:
I hurt my back in February when I was using it. I realized that when you hurt yourself, you’ve got to use a lot more. If you’re really using it for acute pain, you got to lay into it pretty heavy. I learned a lot that period of time. Anyway, where can people go to connect with you to get more information, to get jobs in cannabis?

Matt Hoffman:
Yeah, the best way to reach me directly is honestly on LinkedIn, Matt Hoffman, H-O-F-F M-A-N-N. I think I have an unhealthy obsession with LinkedIn, so I’m on it constantly. The best way to get a hold of the organization is to go to our O-U-R cannabis.org. You can sign up for classes when we’re running them. Right now we’re doing one-on-ones and we’ll walk you through the process. Everything is no cost. At no point in time we say, “Hey, Tim, we need 50 bucks to finish your resume or $200 to do this negotiation training.” Everything is no cost because when someone asks for help, you just help. We don’t want any barriers, especially one being money to helping people have access to the more often than not transformative opportunities of finding a new job.

Tim Pickett:
Cool.

Matt Hoffman:
That’s the best way to get hold of us.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. Well, thanks Matt. It’s been a real pleasure and honestly I hope that we are able to continue our conversation and work together. All right, everybody stay safe out there.

By David Wells
Content Producer & Analyst at UtahMarijuana.org
Published August 2, 2022
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