Promoting Collective Success in Cannabis
I recently connected with Brad Basar, a cannabis insider with a passion for the cannabis plant and a compelling perspective on the future of the industry. Brad is the founder and CEO of Leaf Traders, a development company dedicated to the cannabis and hemp industry. The first Leaf Traders platform, CSM (Cannabis Survey Marketplace), is scheduled to launch in late September 2019.
When we spoke, I was able to ask Brad a few questions about his business, discuss the upcoming launch of CSM, and get his take on the cannabis industry.
I think you will find that Brad has some valuable perspective on the cannabis industry. In particular, I love what he has to say about the precedent of driving collective success in cannabis and the potential to carry this aspect of the industry into the future.
Dedication to the Cannabis Industry
At the beginning of his career, Brad worked for the music industry. So, as he puts it, “I’ve been around cannabis for a long time.”
After living in various US regions, including Texas and South Carolina, Brad moved his family to Michigan in 2013. For the first time, Brad was living in a state with a medical marijuana program. He became a medical marijuana patient himself and then subsequently became a caregiver. He spent several years in the caregiver role and helped to register other medical marijuana patients.
As fulfilling as this position was, Brad knew that the existing medical marijuana caregiver model would change once cannabis was legalized in Michigan.
He says, “you had to be blind if you didn’t see the writing on the wall that the whole caregiver model was going to go away, especially once adult and recreational was going to pass.” So, Brad started considering other opportunities in the cannabis industry so that he could continue to participate in Michigan’s cannabis story.
In 2017, Brad looked into the possibility of creating an edibles company for medical marijuana patients. However, he and his potential partners realized what many small business owners in cannabis face: the enormity of capital investment required to start a cannabis business (particularly challenging for businesses with a “plant-touching” business model).
The potential of owning an edibles business was also complicated by the constantly changing state and federal laws concerning the sale and commoditization of cannabis.
As a result, Brad and his team decided to establish an ancillary company through which he could provide value to the cannabis industry without having to jump through all the loopholes associated with owning a plant-touching business. Brad, who has significant tech experience, then decided to blend his two passions, technology and cannabis, and created Leaf Traders.
Leaf Traders’ first platform, the Cannabis Survey Marketplace, will provide self-serve B2C and B2B qualitative research about cannabis/hemp while also supporting the first “paid-survey" site in the industry (consumers will be able to earn cash rewards for participating in cannabis surveys). Additionally, in order to support marketing for cannabis business owners, participants in the service can also submit branded surveys that are intended to both 1) market to targeted customers and 2) obtain customized consumer insights.
Brad’s goal for this platform is to provide both startup and established cannabis companies with custom insights into customer data while also rewarding the community for engaging with the industry. He is a firm believer that a strong, successful cannabis industry is reliant on an educated and engaged community.
The Cannabis Survey Marketplace (CSM) is scheduled to launch in late September 2019. Once the service is up and running, the Leaf Traders team will continue to develop on future projects in their pipeline, including the “Cannabis Black Book”, a global directory for the cannabis marketplace.
Visit leaftraders.com to learn more about their product offering, create a free account, and sign up for their newsletter, “Cannabis Inspired Innovations”. You can also follow the company on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook by searching @leaftraders.
Promoting Collective Success
In contrast to the 14 other industries that Brad has worked in prior to landing in cannabis, Brad has noted that people within the cannabis industry are generally committed to bolstering one another’s success. Rather than mirroring the competitive, cut-throat mentality that dominates most other business sectors, he has noticed an understanding that helping others in cannabis ultimately helps to further legitimize the cannabis industry in general.
One of the aspects that makes the cannabis industry so unique is that most cannabis professionals work in cannabis because they have an inherent passion for the plant.
During our discussion, Brad highlighted that joining the cannabis industry - and staying in it - isn’t necessarily easy. The implication is that those working in cannabis are dedicated to being there. When people have a strong “why” for working in cannabis, a strong passion or “raison d’etre”, they are better primed to overcome the obstacles that come with owning a cannabis business.
Looking back at the formative years of the industry, Brad says, “You really couldn’t be in the business without being an advocate of cannabis… If you had a business, you were fighting for the rights to have that business. And because of that, when everybody is fighting to get the startup industry going, you just can’t help but have that communal attitude of helping everybody. The more businesses that are successful in fighting the propaganda, the better for all of us.”
Additionally, Brad pointed out that it’s relatively easy for people with experience in cannabis to identify others who are not in the business for the right reasons. “It's clear when you talk to someone who’s really in the industry for the right reasons. They’re not in for the quick buck, but they’re there to spread the truth of this incredible plant.”
Maintaining Compassion in the Industry
As most cannabis insiders know, things have already started to change with the ever-growing presence of “big business” in the industry. But Brad, always a businessman, reminded me that there is no reason for cannabis professionals to be afraid of this transition.
Ultimately, Brad sees the onset of big business as something that is going to continue advancements in cannabis which will, in turn, increase the number of consumers who will be able to have access to the cannabis plant.
However, Brad points out that during this transition, as more and more large corporations enter the cannabis space, it’s more important than ever that cannabis professionals continue to perpetuate the attitude of driving collective success. As such, it is imperative that cannabis professionals educate new-comers on what it means to be an invested member of the cannabis community.
“My hope is that there are enough of us in the industry to help us continue that feeling and the promotion of communal success. Maybe it’s a pipe dream - I don’t know. But I still see enough of it that feeling and it makes me think we can hold onto it.”
Additionally, Brad shared with me that he and his team have a deep reverence for the people who came before them in the cannabis industry and made personal sacrifices, including the of risk incarceration and persecution. Brad said, “I’m so thankful for all of the sacrifices people have made that have allowed me to be in the industry.”
Brad then expanded on how people new to the industry should keep this fact in mind. “You have got to be aware of the sacrifice that is allowing you to do what you’re doing right now. Keep that in mind as you operate your business. That alone promotes helping others.” Brad solidified this point by highlighting that there are still people in jail who were put there for possessing two joints while others are out there making millions selling the very same product.
To those new to the cannabis industry, take note! The cannabis industry has been built on compassion as well as social and environmental responsibility. And those individuals who have been in the industry for years and are truly passionate advocates for cannabis, like Brad, can quickly spot the difference between someone who believes in cannabis versus someone who’s entering the industry to solely make money.
Based on Brad’s comments, I would argue that the cannabis industry professionals with true dedication to the cannabis plant will find greater success in the long run. Those who posses a real passion for cannabis and are committed to helping others will be able to overcome the obstacles and challenges associated with working for a cannabis business.
“We’re all here to make money, don’t get me wrong,” Brad says. “But the important thing is that this is a plant that can really help a lot of people, it can produce products that change the way that humans operate in the world. In my mind, you have got to love the plant.”
Thanks to Brad for taking the time to speak with me in the weeks leading up to the big Leaf Traders launch. From my prior experience in tech, I know how insane things can get leading up to a substantial implementation!