In this episode, we are joined by Michael Patterson of US Cannabis, a cannabis expert with 27 years of experience. We talked with Mike about his current business plans.
If you loved our episode on Starting up in the Industry (with Chris Jones of Cannabis Xpress), you’ll definitely want to check out this one featuring Michael Patterson from US Cannabis. He has a wisdom of experience from his 27 years in the industry – it’s a must-listen!
Steve Looi 0:00
Hey, everybody, this is Steve Looi with another episode of the GrowerIQ podcast. Today we have Mike Patterson from US Cannabis with us. Hey, Mike!
Michael Patterson 0:16
How are you doing?
Steve Looi 0:18
Not too bad. Not too bad. Today is quite the auspicious day we’re recording on inauguration 2020. And it’s something I’d love to touch upon. But first of all, Mike, let us know a little bit about yourself and US Cannabis.
Michael Patterson 0:32
Sure. So US Cannabis was formed in 2014. And our mission is to move society forward through legalized cannabis. So a lot of people I get the question like, what do you guys do? And what we do is we I tell people to look at us as like a large general contractor for the planet for cannabis. If it needs to be done, if it’s something we can do partnerships or create, to do to move cannabis board, we will do it. And so Currently, we are joint venture partners with a company called MGMC Pharma Group, which is out of Seychelles, directly beside of Africa. And we currently operate in Lesotho or the SU two is the country that’s inside of South Africa. And we cultivate process and distribute cannabis-based medicine, THC and CBD to countries all over the world. Currently, we’re shipping to Australia as well as Germany. And we also in this in the States, we are creating the world’s largest hemp and cannabis research zone, which would be similar to a Silicon Valley. It’ll be based in Florida. And our goal is to become the mecca for research and development and innovation for the cannabis and hemp space on a global scale. And then we do a lot of consulting on for publicly traded companies, private industry and corporations on the cannabis space in general because as we all know, it has changed a lot in the past and with Biden coming in, it’s gonna change potentially change even more.
Steve Looi 1:55
Yeah, it’s gonna be exciting. So there is a lot there. It looks like there’s a little bit of everything that you’re touching on. Let’s talk about your international sort of production business. What brought you to the suit? That’s a great question. The short answer is LinkedIn. So speaking all over the world, pre-COVID, and I’ve been doing virtual speaking engagements since post COVID. And so I was doing a speech at the world CVD awards last in 2019, in Spain, and I met a great gentleman and Joe Oliver. And he lives in the UK. And then about three, four months later, he calls me and he says, Hey, I have this, this company in Africa who needs assistance with cannabis. Excuse me, and that’s kind of how it started. And so based on that, this company was looking to expand cannabis into the agricultural side, because that’s what their background was, and dealing with nations and Africa. And through my connections, we were able to work to do a collaboration and a joint venture with a group in the centre, which turned into having a facility that is GAP compliant, which is good agricultural practices. And we will be getting our GAP official certification by March of 2021. And so that’s kind of how it started. And then it has blossomed. So that was in 2019. And since then, we have proved concept in the SU two, we were told by the Ministry of Health in the SU two that we were the first company to get product out of the country – cannabis product. And now we’ve done multiple shipments to Australia and multiple shipments to Germany. So it literally all started via LinkedIn.
That’s really incredible. And congratulations on getting shipments out of blue two. That’s that’s phenomenal. And so now you are already selling GAP certified flour, I guess out of Lesotho to to medical programs around the world?
Michael Patterson 3:48
Correct. And so what we’re seeing is is flour now and then we have the capabilities of bringing oil through partners in Lesotho. And so what our goal is to in southern Africa is to assist other processors and cultivators to be able to get their product out as well. Because the number one challenge around the world is not having the product is having a product that is that has the right paperwork, paperwork is keen on international trade. And so you have to have that. And so if we can help other providers in southern Africa meet that need to be able to sell their product in the open markets. We definitely want to do that because it makes us better as well.
Steve Looi 4:26
So does that mean you’re you’ll be helping other facilities in the future, perhaps around the world, get their EU GMP status, or I guess GAP status is what you’ve been able to trade on?
Michael Patterson 4:39
Well, it’s a little bit of everything. So for example, we’ve been approached by groups in Paraguay. We were talking to groups in Mexico and the Philippines right now. And sometimes it’s a situation where it could be a company that’s getting ready to get approved, but further GAP or GMP certification, but they don’t have any customers. So we would go to them and said hey, we’ve got a great customer base. We need more product, let’s do a deal where we will bring your product into these accounts that we already have. So using them as a subcontractor to meet sales contracts. And then other situations would be to expand the MGMC brands, for example, we just opened up in an office in Melbourne, Australia, we’re looking to open an office in the Philippines, to where we have people on the ground who want us to come in and either partner with an EU GMP or gap pharmaceutical company, or invest to where we actually create an operation in that country. So it really just depends on a case by case basis.
Steve Looi 5:36
Gotcha. And so you mentioned you were selling into Europe, and it was my understanding that Europe needed EU GMP certification, but you’re able to send material over-under GAP. How’s that possible?
Michael Patterson 5:55
So typically, what we’ve learned is you can be GAP or GMP compliant. And so compliance means that you’re not fully certified, but you can ship product as an ingredient. So doing it is we are not shipping final products. So we’re just shipping the ingredients. So in regards to flour, we will be able to ship in bulk, and then they would package it into EU GMP facility in Germany. So typically what we do is we look for partners who have EU GMP status and other countries. And if we can provide the product as a quote ingredient, then that’s really what they need right now, because most of them can package in those countries that it sent to. So it just depends. And so ironically, I keep hearing going back and forth between the GAP and GMP is required in Germany. Some people say yes, some people say no, we just tend to be cautionary and just try to stay within the certification because we want to partner with GMP facilities no matter what. And so we want to keep that standard because that’s a whole nother area, meaning in the fact that we’re moving into a pharmaceutical space. And we need to make sure we have the same level of certification as other pharmaceutical companies who may not deal with cannabis.
Steve Looi 7:05
Right, right. Okay, very good info. that clarifies it a lot for me. And so keeping on the international side here. Sounds like you have a really interesting footprint and, I guess, connectivity around the world, what are some of the jurisdictions you’re looking at? And I guess, also, what are the jurisdictions that you think are getting it right, in terms of setting up their legal framework for cannabis business?
Michael Patterson 7:35
Well, I think if you’re talking from an entrepreneurial aspect, I think, right now internationally, there are not many, many countries that you can come into for not a lot of money. And all of a sudden, you know, do very well financially, I think we just need to be realistic. In that respect, we get calls a lot from other countries in Africa, and people who want to start up. But what people don’t may not realize is if you’re in a brand new country, and you’re gonna start cultivation, it’s going to take you two to three years to get certified through the gap system. So a lot of money that’s coming out, but I think internationally, the best country has been your country in Canada, I think you guys have done a pretty good job to where somebody can actually come in and get a license fairly cheaply. And I say that in quotations. In the international market, what we’re finding is, there’s a lot of companies that have had to go public in order to just start and operate. And I think you’re seeing a lot of that in Australia, Australia, they’re putting in dollars, but the challenge in Australia is you’re not having a lot of pharmaceutical companies who have experience in making pharmaceutical medication, actually get into the cannabis game. And I get I totally understand why what we’re typically seeing is newcomers coming into space, which is there’s not a problem with that. But a lot of times I feel there’s still a stigma in Australia, and regarding cannabis and hemp, and I think a lot of people are just slow to kind of make that transition. Whereas in the United States, ironically, you’re seeing people moving from farmer jobs into the cannabis space because the stigma is not as bad I guess you’d say or is declining. So more and more people feel more comfortable to move in. But I will tell you over the next year or two, a very exciting market, specifically with CBD is Australia because Australia is apparently going to allow over the counter production of CBD and being sold.
So if there’s a lot of regulations attached to that some people are saying you have to have production in the country of Australia. But we have a lot of white label providers from CBD who are extremely interested in contacting us about that. And so that’s one of the reasons we opened up an office in Melbourne, Australia is to be able to be on the ground and hear and know exactly what’s going on and be able to provide services for people who may want to come into Australia to operate through a current provider in Australia.
Steve Looi 9:54
Oh wow, that’s that’s really interesting. Let’s turn ourselves in. Let’s take a look to the more domestic side of things away from international. Today, as we mentioned his inauguration day 2020. Biden has been sworn in. And with that, I think there is a lot of optimism for the cannabis industry in the US. What? What are you seeing in the US now? And what are you excited for with this new administration?
Michael Patterson 10:25
Well, what I’m seeing right now is we’re getting a little bit of cannabis fever. Again, I think you saw that in Canada, back in 2017, and 2018. And everybody was like, Oh, my gosh, it’s gonna be legal, and we’re gonna make a gazillion dollars. And we’re starting to see a little bit of that since Biden got elected. And specifically, since the Georgia Democrats were elected and the Democrats won the Senate. What we’re going to see in Washington is we’re going to see the left, Democrats really try to push full legalization. Biden has come out and said he doesn’t want to have full legalization right now. He said, there needs to be more research, which we disagree upon. However, he wants to have decriminalization, which the difference, if you’re listening, is decriminalization is if you get caught with a Bag of Weed and a little bit, you just get it typically a fine at the federal level, but you don’t get arrested. And so that’s where we need to come in to the fact of figuring out what that level is going to be. And a lot of that is being pushed by the groups regarding the minority groups, because they’re saying, minorities get arrested for cannabis a lot more than an actual white America, which, which I agree. So what we’re trying to do is, is work with the Biden administration, if they will listen, and really come up with a bipartisan way to make this happen. And so what we feel the best way forward is, let’s go ahead and decriminalize, we’re all for that, let’s go ahead and allow the banks to be able to deal with this industry, because we really need that in America to really bring in stability. And then the last level is create a bipartisan committee to be able to study all the other aspects that need to happen to move into legalization. So for example, social equity, we need to figure out a federal tax structure, we need to make sure we have the international trade setup, we need to train our federal employees, as well as do public service announcements to Americans and explain it. So one of the things that we have learned in going into multiple states and helping these states pass regulation is in unless you put in an education program for your citizens, you’re having a lot more trouble and you could have some safety impact. And one of the things we found is in Colorado, for example, Colorado didn’t educate their, their population on cannabis. And they started having a quote, overdoses of people going to the emergency room, alright, because they were doing way too much cannabis, they were doing, you know, 50 100, you know, 200 milligrams of THC, which is insane for a lot of people. So I think that has come in to realize and what we’re finding is most politicians don’t really know about cannabis at a very minute level or a very granular level. And so that’s one of the things that we bring, I’ve been in the space now, eight years, I deal with people who’ve been in the legal space for almost 20 years. And so we really need to have to make sure everybody can see the 30,000-foot view because another area that I’m concerned or want to make sure they’re aware of is our Federal Insurance Program, Medicare, Medicaid. So if you’re going to make this legal, then we need to be able to make it to where senior citizens or people over 65 who have Medicare can have access to that, well, we don’t have a system to do that. And that’s what the challenge is. And so I don’t want America to make the same mistakes we made on hemp. If you’re unfamiliar, hemp was legalized in 2018, which contains CBD. And we still don’t have a ruling from the FDA on the proper amounts of CBD and products. So it’s still a big challenge. And so these are the things that I want to make sure activists realize, yes, we want it legal. But we need to make sure it’s done. done well. Because if it doesn’t, then it’s going to create more problems than we currently have now.
Steve Looi 14:02
Right, right. So I want to come back to the research side of that. But what would it mean to American business right now? If cannabis went legal federally, so now we have, you know, pockets where certain states are allowed to do recreational or medicinal cannabis. And then we have some budding so-called multi-state operators, but they cannot truly operate across state lines. What do you what are the implications of erasing those barriers once things go legally? Federally?
Michael Patterson 14:44
Great question. But let me use a disclaimer as I give an answer. And the disclaimer is it really depends on how the federal law will be written. So let’s just put that out. Because what we’ve learned and watched all these states do this is it really just depends on the lobbyists or whoever’s in the ear of the congressman or the legislator when they write the law. So we have such a disparity in this country. For example, if you go to Oklahoma, there’s, there’s no limit on the number of cannabis licenses you can get in Oklahoma. So you all you need is 30 $500 70% of the license holders have to be Oklahoma citizens. And you have to pass a background check. So currently, there’s 4 million people in Oklahoma and there’s over 10,000 licensed cannabis businesses either processing Yeah, so To put that in perspective, go to a state like Florida where I live, we have 22 million people, and we only have 22 licensed cannabis businesses.
So the huge disparity so so with that said, I think what you’re going to see is you’re going to see consolidation on a major scale, you’re going to see companies that are the pharmaceutical companies are going to start coming in, you’re going to see tobacco companies start doing major purchases, because then it’s going to be a 21st century or 2021, or 2026, land grab whatever the date is, it’s going to be a quote, land grab, because curaleaf said, the world and the GTI eyes and the true leaves, these big companies, multi state operators in the stakes, in my opinion, they’re all kind of waiting for Big Pharma to come in to sell out or a bigger company. Because if I’m, if I’m Pfizer, and I have to pay 6 million $6 billion for cannabis company, that’s a drop in the bucket if it goes federal, because then they can use their advanced network to bring that medication and do research, also. So I see a consolidation there through merger and acquisition. Also, I see the distribution changing dramatically. So companies are going to look to buy other companies that have strategic advantages. For example, you would want to buy something in the Midwest. So you can cultivate mass cultivation in the Midwest to be able to service the Midwest, I would want to do the same in the southeast, the Northeast, the West. So now you have an entire US global us system of transportation for one and also production. So depending on what your business is, because America is all about. so large, like Canada, you really have to have a good distribution system for product.
Also what you’re going to see, you’re going to see a lot of international companies coming in to try to services market because when America does go legal, there’s no amount of domestic production that will be able to keep up with demand. And to give you an idea on on numbers. Right now, the in the United States in states that are legal for cannabis for recreational about 10% of the population use cannabis on a monthly basis. And this is new, you know, new data because it hasn’t been around that long. But it fits with other vices such as alcohol. Currently, in the United States, alcohol consumption is about 15% of the population. So if we go legal federally, we have about 330 340 million people in the States. So you’re looking at 34 million to 40 million people using cannabis and legal markets almost immediately. So with that, we perceive the challenge of there’s not enough flour to be produced in quit as quick enough, because that’s right now we have in a system, we have probably access to three to 5 million users a month across the United States and legal markets. So you’re going to go up exponentially in a short amount of time. So what we see is domestic flower will most likely be used for smoking cannabis. And then we will need a massive amount of import of oil and extracts to be able to keep the processors busy here in America because if we do not, the concern is the prices are going to skyrocket. And you’re going to have people flooding the black market. And that totally defeats the person that defeats the purpose of legal cannabis.
Steve Looi 18:41
Right, right. Interesting. And then so you see the US as a net importer of cannabinoids, let’s say?
Michael Patterson 18:47
Yes, currently 90% of all legal sales happen in America, even though we’re illegal, which is kind of crazy. So I foresee that the global markets will not be able to keep up with the American consumption. America is the land of consumers. I think China has figured that out. Most companies that figure that out. So I don’t see that changing. Also, what I see is we’re going to need massive amounts of of raw product in order to do research and development through all these companies who want to discover all these cannabinoids that we still have not discovered, and be able to just try to start patenting those in specific ways. That’s what I see the green rush profit long term being for pharmaceutical companies is to create certain formulations that they can patent and be able to put those into the medicinal markets around the world and have socialized medicine cover those medicines.
Steve Looi 19:39
Yeah, that’s something I’m waiting for as well. And I think absolutely correct will unlock this potential, the potential of this plant for pharmaceuticals and therapeutics that will really, really make this industry take off. So…
Michael Patterson 19:55
And one last comment on America in Mexico being legal. If you haven’t followed Mexico’s legalizing right there. They just put out their rules for medicinal. They’re only doing medicinal for now. But they do have plans to go ahead and move into recreational. This is going to put a lot of pressure on America because now North America has two legal countries and the US is sandwiched in between them. It’s going to put even more pressure on and we proceed down the road where the old adage of all the cannabis coming in from Mexico illegally, we see it coming in, in in regards to where we can do cultivation cheaper, we converted it into raw crude, ship it in legally, and then have American producers be able to do extracted products, just like kind of how we do cars. Now in America, a lot of cars are actually manufactured in, in Mexico, and they’re brought in and put together and assembled in the United States. So we kind of see the same type of trade portal working down the road, but it will take some time.
Steve Looi 20:53
Right, fair enough. Fair enough. Maybe one last point on that one. I think there seems to remember quite a bit of cannabis tourism popping up and businesses surrounding that why when you have this sort of unequal legalization framework across the US. Do you think that disappears once the barriers come down and people can consume in their home states? And what kind of impact do you think that has on on that part of the industry?
Michael Patterson 21:26
I think what’s gonna happen is the rich are going to get richer and the poor, poor states, meaning state wise, and the poor states that really don’t have don’t have a tourism economy, they won’t see much change. So what we see in the Midwest is if you’re if you live in North Carolina, and you want to go on vacation, are you going to go to Arkansas? Or are you going to go to Disney World, or LA or New York or Chicago or something cool, or go see a sports team in a big town. So we see domestic travel and domestic tourism related to cannabis. Pretty much going back to the states where people like to travel anyway. So we don’t run out to people just going to Vegas to be able to use cannabis, because they’re going to gamble. And as an aside, as a bonus, they get to use cannabis. So we see that staying the same what we do see a dramatic increases increase in his international tourism. For example, in Hawaii, if we’re legal, we expect a lot of people coming from Asia to try cannabis because it’s the closest place.
We were there in 2015. And so in Japan and these other countries that are extremely strict, they imagine them coming in for tourism and be able to use and using cannabis. I can already tell you Hawaii is looking to move to that realm because they’ve already approved reciprocity for medical cannabis, which means if I live in Florida, and I travel to Hawaii, I can show my medical marijuana card in Florida and I can get cannabis in Hawaii. So they did that to increase tourism. So what I see is the countries that allow recreational instincts that allow recreational will benefit if they are tourist destinations already. But I don’t see a lot of people moving to Arkansas or Montana to be able to use cannabis.
Steve Looi 23:15
Right, right. Yeah, that is super interesting, and makes a lot of sense. So let’s move on to the research piece. So as we talked about, I think most the most exciting part of this is once we begin to understand this plant, which is going to require a lot of dollars, a lot of effort poured into research, and you’re quite active in this space. Tell us what what’s going on in Fort Pierce.
Michael Patterson 23:40
So Fort Pierce is an area in Florida. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s on the east coast. And it’s about an hour north of West Palm Beach, two hours north of Miami. And so one of the things that we found in the space is there’s really nowhere of a mecca to where companies can either move or be associated with to do research and development dealing with cannabinoids in hemp. So our team has a plan to create the world’s largest hemp and cannabis research zone based out of that Fort Pierce area. And long term it would cover about three counties it would be 100 miles by 60 miles. And the goal is to be able to have companies come in to be and to collaborate with each other and literally figure out who each other are because the industry is so new, is to put a real strong foothold in this area. And if you’re not familiar with this area of the state, it’s somewhat rural for Florida standards. There’s not in the county there’s about 300,000 people and there’s still a lot of room for agriculture in this area. This is an area that is famous for growing citrus, whether it be oranges or grapefruits.
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Michael Patterson 25:07
The industry, the citrus industry has taken a big toll here because of a bacteria called greening is actually decreased the amount of crop that is produced per year by 80%. Since the 90s, oh my gosh, yes, it’s really taken its toll because it was a it was almost like a cancer to where they couldn’t cure it. So it started to stabilize, but it’s left a lot of farmers who have been out of business for centuries, and there’s a lot of Ryan’s still be able to, to be able to produce primarily hemp. But we really need an area for r&d here, instead of the current area we have is, is an industrial park as a Treasure Coast industrial Agricultural Research Park. And so currently, there’s a US Department of Agriculture who oversees the Hemp program in America. And we have the University of Florida agriculture division there as well. There’s 100 acres there that have been vacant now for over 10 years, because the park was in was envisioned to be a researcher for agriculture. But in our opinion, they had challenges in marketing it to companies to be able to come there. So our plan is to work through the by the administration to be able to offer federal grants through the state of Florida, to be able to get companies to come in and get grant money to start their operations there to do r&d to create a certain amount of jobs for medical cannabis, but primarily at first is going to have to be industrial hemp, as well as minor cannabinoids, not associated with Delta nine, because of the federal requirements as of right now. So we do have companies very interested in this, we I gotta tell you, in the last couple of weeks, we’re starting to get more and more calls on this research side, because as you mentioned, it’s very financially prohibitive to do because we’re not going to get recent, you’re not going to get results for a while. And so a lot of people have been very resistant to that. But I have noticed that that larger firms are looking at this to where maybe they can have it more of a real estate development side, bringing in landlord or lease tenants to be able to start getting that moving. And so from our conversations with groups overseas, they are very interested because of the reasons we talked about before 90% of all legal cannabis sales are in America. And something that I’ve learned through this process, if you look at the global pharmaceutical markets, a lot of the research on drugs are actually done in the United States. But then the actual production of those drugs is farmed out to other countries. So that model, then the United States needs to become the leader of the research side, because we do have the people in the infrastructure here to be able to study this plant, not just in Florida, but we could use the hub outside of New Jersey where a lot of pharmaceutical companies operate, to be able to start studying this to be able to to bring more benefits to humanity.
Steve Looi 27:46
Yeah, I mean of any country, like the American research and academic institutions are, you know, the best and probably have the most capacity. It’s a shame that or maybe not, but I feel like countries like Israel, that have moved forward with their regulations allowed their their institutions to research this. They’re somewhat eating the America the USA is lunch on on this potential new industry.
Michael Patterson 28:18
They are that this is and I agree with you 100%. I think Israel, the best research in the world comes out of Israel. So but we need to have the the the power of America behind Israel. And so what we want to do is we want to bring a lot of companies from Israel here to bring everybody up to speed, so to speak, because the opportunity here can be massive for Israeli companies to partner with Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, all these major names, once we become legal. And this is one of the things that we see all this r&d and research and data basically, that Israeli companies are tabulating right now is going to be worth dollars. Because they’ll come out and and Pfizer or Merck will say, okay, we want all your data for the last 10 years, you’ve been working on this, and we’ll pay you $2 billion, or you’ll get a royalty or whatever. What have you this is what I’m starting to see is a lot of my it friends go by the saying whoever has the data wins, and so to me research. And so if you have that data, then you’ll be able to command a price on the open markets. And that’s kind of where I see Israel evolving towards to where a lot of those divisions will have. They’ll have divisions in America, and they’ll work together. But one of the challenges of Israel, it’s just to say it’s just a small country. So it’s a great place to do beta. It’s a great place to do research. But to do mass delivery of something new you really need a market like the US who’s has the population base as well as the technology and the knowledge base to implement what Israel researches.
Steve Looi 29:54
Right, right. So that’s a really interesting way to coopt is not the right word, but to take advantage of the headstart that the Israelis had to develop the domestic and, and maybe, let’s say, initiate a global industry based out of the US.
Michael Patterson 30:12
Yeah. And also, I gotta say the governor here and the Commissioner of Agriculture in Florida have made multiple trips to Israel. And there’s a very good strong bond between the government of Israel and the government of Florida, believe it or not, there’s a lot of is there’s a lot of Israelis and a lot of Orthodox Jews, Jews in Florida. And so Florida, you know, then that’s one of the reasons we want to put the research down here is, anybody in the world pretty much knows where Florida is? They may not know where Kentucky is, or West Virginia, but they work Florida is. And so if we’re going to create a worldwide destination, we need to have an area where people first of all know where it is. But to that if they have to move their family or their families not going to hate them, you know, right. West Virginia, they’re not going to be happy coming from Germany. But if you put them in Florida with great weather and your Disneyworld and your South Beach in Miami, you know, that’s the what the place that we chose. It’s about two hours from Orlando. It’s about an hour from West Palm and an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale, Miami. So it’s a win win close distance to drive in event and here. They’re actually building a high speed rail between Miami and Orlando so far. And that should be done, I think next year or 2023. And so they’re expecting to really change the tourism here in Florida because Florida before pre COVID. We had we were we had record breaking record breaking tourists. We had over 140 million tourists in 2019.
Steve Looi 31:40
Wow. Yeah, I’ve heard that Orlando actually hosts more people for conferences than Vegas.
Michael Patterson 31:47
Yeah. And what I’ve heard is that Orlando has the most held hotel rooms per capita of anywhere in the world. I know that we have the second most amount of convention space behind Las Vegas. But in regards to hotel rooms is huge. And so me being so close to Orlando, it’s very nice, because a lot of major conferences are out of Orlando, so it’s almost an hour.
Steve Looi 32:09
Yeah, that’s amazing. And so that rail, what does that how does that change that that commute from Orlando to Miami?
Michael Patterson 32:16
it so right now they’re talking about it probably be about two hours, because it’s going to stop in multiple places. Currently, if you drive Orlando to Miami, it’s about four hours, depending on where so and also what it does is it’s going to connect the Miami International Airport with the Orlando airport and also connect Disney World. So imagine being flying to Miami, if you’re coming from Europe, take the High Speed Rail for a couple hours see the inner inner workings of Florida, so to speak, and you end up at Disneyworld theoretically. So that’s what they’re trying to do is is Orlando is going to benefit Orlando, and it’s going to benefit Miami and South Florida. And so we’re all for it because we can only build so many more roads here. And we have the Everglades here in South Florida. And so there’s no more there’s no more physical load space in order to bring people in. And so we’re all for the high speed rail. Also, we find people coming from Europe are used to high speed rail, so they’ll they’ll definitely use it. And that’s something that they’ve thought about as they move forward with this project.
Steve Looi 33:16
Right, right. And so I guess another benefit of that is the mobility of labor. Both towns almost become suburbs of each other, and almost commutable.
Michael Patterson 33:30
And I think what you’re going to see is I think you’re going to see that in between places. For example, in where we are in Fort Pierce. It’s about an hour and a half by car to Miami. But yeah, you can get on the high speed rail in the morning, you could try you could commute down there probably in 30 minutes on the train. And I see that happening to where people were in this area for Pierce and Melbourne area that are not as populated. Think about taking a job in a city maybe an hour and a half away by car if you can get there on a train in 30 minutes, and is relatively relatively cheap. But I think the main thing is, is because we have 140 million tourists, I think there are primary looking at it as a tourist use for tourists. But also we all know it’s all going to benefit everybody. But the tourists are going to be the ones who actually offset the cost because those are the people who will be using it the most most likely.
Steve Looi 34:20
Yeah, that’s fair enough. So then just tangentially on the labor pool being available, or more available, let’s say, if I’m a firm that’s looking to participate at the Research Park, what are what are the benefits that I’m looking for or being sold to me?
Michael Patterson 34:40
Well, I’m looking at it. That’s a great question. And it depends on where you’re coming from meaning if you’re a US based company, and we can do federal grant money and be able to source that for you because part of our team, that’s what they do. Then we really cool. We could literally come to you and say hey, there’s there’s $6 million in grant money that’s been allocated from the federal government to the state of Florida for hemp research, but part of the requirements are it has to be done in this research zone or near the research zone. So this is what we’re trying to work on. But imagine if we’re able to get the grant, even if you’re not able to the labor force is astronomically intelligent in this area. And the reason I say that is NASA, or Cape Canaveral, is about 3535 40 miles north ears. And so we have, I don’t know if you’re even Following this, but the rocket ades has definitely taken off in this area right now. They’re going to have over 50 rockets take off this year for satellites and all these different things. And eventually, it’s going to be into tourism. So not only do we have the whole entire space industry, here, we have a huge defense contractor network, because they are building, they’re called the U two spy plane, it’s a new $42 billion project for the federal government is being built about 20 miles north of Fort Pierce. So the engineers and the scientists that are involved in that project has attracted a bunch of subcontractors into this area. So the science and technology, labor force is definitely here. And then on top of that, we have some amazing agriculture.
Because Florida is primarily an agricultural state, ironically, and through the university system, here they are, that every university that we have talked to, is definitely interested in being a part of this. And so that’s one of our goals, too, is we want to create an area of learning for students in middle schools and high schools to make agricultural technology cool again. So we feel ag tech is the future. And we really need to work with our students. So even if you’re in business, or you’re in it, or if you’re in ag, we want to make this an area because we feel agriculture, specifically hemp and cannabis are going to affect humanity moving forward. And we need to harness as best we can. Because we keep having more and more people and less and less agricultural capabilities.
Steve Looi 36:55
Right. So I mean, astronomical is an apt adjective to describe your local labor force with all that expertise nearby. So that’s really interesting. And I guess, you know, once the park is up and running, you sort of have a silo, their center of excellence, as a company locating there, I mean, there’s probably intangibles. Just being in proximity with other great minds looking at these, these kind of things and problems.
Michael Patterson 37:27
And you’re absolutely right. And so we took the model off of an area called Research Triangle Park that was developed in the late 60s and early 70s, in North Carolina. And so this park was developed based off a collaboration between three universities, their University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke University. They’re all about eight or 10 miles apart from each other. And the thought was working with the state legislature is how do we monetize his brain power. So they came up with this Research Triangle Park, where the state of Florida she stayed in North Carolina donated 500 acres to this public private partnership. And then the first customer was the federal government through grant money, did a grant to do biotechnology research to a few companies. And that’s how it got started. Now, there’s more PhDs per capita than anywhere else in America, America in that Raleigh Durham a recent Wow.
And so we modeled it off of that. And then Harvard and Duke University did a study on Research Triangle Park and study their success. And they came up with with three to four major things. Number one was proximity to others. Number two, what political will and number three was the talent pool. So those three main areas or one of the reasons that they felt that area succeeded so well, is because they had a payer source to the federal government that had political wealth and the state legislature, and they had the technology in the labor force to make it happen. And so of course, that those are those are high level generalizations. But that’s what we have in this area. In Florida. We have amazing workforce, we have a state that’s that’s willing to work with us and make this happen, because we’re going to create jobs. And then we’re going to have everybody in a central area to which this area can handle very large growth of population for the next 20 to 30 years. That’s another reason why we chose it because if you do it in Miami, there’s just not enough land is too expensive. If you do it in Orlando, it’s too tour space. It’s away from the job centers and the high tech atmosphere of the Space Coast where they shoot off the rights. So we felt it was a great place that sandwich kind of in an area of the state which has been agriculturally based. But there’s still enough services in the ability to get products to market because it has a rail system going through Fort Pierce that can go directly due to all the major ports on the east coast of Florida, meaning Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. And also it’s in between the intersection of two major roads, which is the interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike. So we envisioned this to be a 30 to 40 year for major project to where we can increase commerce through this area and then increase exports to 100 hemp based products of all types.
Steve Looi 40:03
Gotcha. Gotcha. And so one of the major partners, I guess, or to be partners on the research part, are universities and academic institutions. With legalization in the US, and in Canada. Maybe I’ll just comment about Canada, Canada, I’ve been seeing a lot of programs that are academic institutions aimed at cannabis. And so trying to train people to enter this new industry. You have a unique POV on this in terms of the American schools. Tell, tell me a little bit about why is that and what you’re doing there and and what you see in that in the academic side of this industry?
Michael Patterson 40:48
Sure. So one of the challenges that we see here is in the American setup, I guess you’d say the American university system, no American University is going to doing to create run out and create a cannabis degree right away for a lot of different reasons. And the number one reason is in anytime you get, you do a new program, it has to be accredited by an accrediting body. So if I’m Florida State University, and I want to do a new degree in cannabis, well, had to go to the whoever accredits that university, and have to go to them and show them all the different classes and what they’re about and how they work. And so that takes a long time. So what we’re seeing here is a lot of universities are partnering with different media companies, one of which is called Green flower media. And they’re doing these certification courses. So a certification course is like a pre degree course. So you can go on to a course like a cultivation course at the University of Cincinnati, who has a whole profile for that. And then you can take this course and pay them money, and they’ll give you a certification. Well, does that certification is that accredited by any any regulatory body? No, it’s not. However, if you’re going for a job as a cannabis dispensary technician, and you have all these certifications, and somebody else doesn’t, then you’re probably going to get hired. See, I’m saying so it’s one of those things to kind of help out. But what we starting to see is we need to help the universities in America start developing these programs. And the only way to do that is to educate the people not only in the school, but also educate the students and educate them about the plant. And so once the university that’s really taking the lead with this is the University of Maryland, they have developed a debt, the world’s first that I know of master’s program in cannabis science and therapeutics. And their first graduating class is going to be in I believe, May of 2021 this year. So.
So this class, this is the beginning of having degrees, I think either Eastern Michigan or Northern Michigan has created a cannabis science class, but it is basically for chemistry majors. So you really have to be a chemistry major in order to take it but we our company is very bullish on education. So I personally do a lot of q&a with students all over the US, whether it be virtual, or whether it be in person, depending on COVID. So we’ve done University of Cincinnati, James Madison University, which is the state school in Virginia, Florida State University Law School for State University entrepreneur Business School. So we want to get as many schools as we can, because we really need to educate the kids coming out of college for this industry, because this is going to be a multi billion dollar and eventual trillion dollar industry. So we need to start training the next generation because we’re just we’re just warming up. I mean, technically, we’re still in prohibition. Look at it that way, the game really hasn’t even started. So we we have to do a lot on the on in America. And that has to help curb bleed over into other countries. And they have degrees. And I do the Netherlands has PhDs in cannabis science. And so they’re a leading country doing that. But remember that the Netherlands is a very small country. And so to have this on a global stage, you really need a company, a country like America to say, okay, it’s legal, we’re good with it. And now they put all that entrepreneurial and money behind this industry to really help it grow around the planet.
Steve Looi 44:16
Right, right. So yeah, just like any other legitimate industry, we need our experts as well as, yeah, any other industry. And so we got to train them up.
What? So you’re interacting with a lot of students, a lot of younger folks that are curious, curious enough to take masters courses, etc. What kind of questions or conversations are you having with them? Are there any trends that you can see that sort of unify those kind of conversations?
Michael Patterson 44:47
Well, I can, I can tell you a couple and I’m smiling right now because in this in this program and math in Marion, University of Maryland for the master’s program, everybody had an advanced degree. And when I say advanced degree, I mean PhDs, medical doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, Masters in Public Health, there was a couple of bachelor’s degree. But the number one thing that we’re seeing is I did a q&a with all their students, it was about 160 students on zoom. This was a few months ago, and I asked a simple question to every single student who asked questions. And I said, What are you going to do with this degree? and zero? I repeat zero knew what they were going to do.
Steve Looi 45:31
Wow. Right. So. So they didn’t did what did they? What were their expectations going into the program and that kid?
Michael Patterson 45:39
Well, it was it was good. And the fact that all of them said, I really don’t know. But I know this is going to be the future. And I know, I need to learn more about it. So they’re pointed in the right direction. But one of the number one problems I see with people coming into the business is that they think they provide no value to the industry.
So let me give you a perfect example. So I was talking to a guy on the program, and he has a master’s in finance. And I said, What are you going to do with this degree? He goes, Well, I can’t tell anybody what I’m doing. Because in the financial markets here, I would be fired. I said, Okay. You didn’t answer my question, what are you going to do? Agree? And he goes, I don’t know, I’m thinking about doing a grow or maybe doing a processing plant. And I asked him another simple question. In all of your years, have you ever run a cannabis cultivation or processing plant? said, No, I said, Okay. Let’s, let’s, let’s think this through, I said, right, now you’re sitting on a golden ticket, and you don’t even know it, because what are you talking about? I said, you need to go back into the financial service industry. And he just said, I can’t because I, you know, I can’t get fired. I said, No, you go to a headhunter and you don’t you send out your resume, without your name on it. And you say, This guy has a master’s in finance. And he knows everything about the cannabis space, because the financial markets are coming in, and they’re coming in strong, and they don’t know anything about this whole industry. He goes, he has, right, they don’t know anything. That’s it. That’s why you have golden tickets. So you’re going to take this degree, and you’re going to go back in the financial services area, and you’re going to kill it, because you’re going to rise through the ranks, because none of your peers know anything about it. And literally, the light went off, and he got it. And so now he’s focused. And so that’s where anybody listening, if you’re coming into the cannabis space, late, you want to learn as much as you can, but you want to take that knowledge and use it with what you already have. Another example I had was a lady who had a master’s in public health. And I asked her the same thing, what are you going to do with this degree? So I don’t know. I said, Well, a suggestion would be to go to all the regulatory bodies who oversee cannabis in America, and specifically, eventually the federal government and go to them and say, Hey, I have a Master’s in Public Health, I can help you with that, as you start this new cannabis space are you needed, if you apply to a program at the state level, you become a director of a whole entire state medical cannabis program. She’s like, I never even thought about that. I was like, right, they’re not gonna hire me. They want to hire somebody who’s been in government type jobs, Master’s in Public Health, working for Department of Health and Human Services or state agency. Those are the types of people they like in those bureaucratic governmental roles. So then she walked away, she’s like, Oh, my gosh, this is great. So so so what I find is, people have the right intentions, and they’re moving in the right direction. And they just need a little bit of a nudge, so they can see the whole picture.
And that’s one of the things is I have the benefit of of being in this game for so long, for over eight years, that I can see all the moving parts, and I can see all the dots connect or other people can’t. So if I can come out and help them quickly to say, well, you may want to look at this, and this and this. And this, because I’ve been down that road, I want to help them as much as I can. Because when I started, nobody helped me at all. And so I had to go through trial and error. And if I can help more people, I want to be able to do that because we this is bigger than me, it’s bigger than you. This is for the next generation and previous and subsequent generations after that, they will look back to this time in history and say, Hey, you know, who were the people and that helped move this industry forward. And I want to be looked at one of those people who really helped humanity move this forward.
Steve Looi 49:24
Right. Yeah, absolutely. And with these initiatives, I think you’re really really helping out help legitimize the industry. And so I want to come back to that the students you know, meanwhile there they are taking courses at legitimate academic institutions, but the whole time It feels like they still have a foot in the in the older or I guess maybe it’s still current thinking that cannabis is not a legitimate industry yet. And so it does not have the need for these experts in all functional areas. You know, law, research, all that stuff. They still haven’t put that together yet or don’t feel comfortable thinking about it that way.
Michael Patterson 50:05
Well, in a lot of that state, it really depends on where you are in America. If you took the West Coast, we all know I love the West Coast people listen, but y’all just differently out there. Okay. We all know, you’ve been having cannabis legal since 96. And yes, what I’m hearing you say is the purists don’t want all the corporate people coming in. And the corporate greed, that’s one side of it, too. Yeah. People don’t want the purists. And I’m on the fence saying you need both. And you don’t understand. And so for example, I was working with a couple pharmaceutical companies. And, and I, we were talking about a price it was it was dealing with a medical education program. And they said, Hey, you know, we come from pharma, we know what we’re doing. We want to set the price for this class. It’s almost $2,000. I said, Great. How many people want to take it five? Like, what are you talking about? I said, nobody in the industry right now would pay $2,000. For a medical education class, I said, if you need to bring it down to say, $500, because I know my market, I know my target audience, the target audiences, people who want to learn who are nurses, who are therapists who are PA, maybe doctors, and they’re willing to pay money, but they’re not willing to pay farmer money, because they can’t see all the value yet. And so they said, you know, well, you don’t know, we know everything about pharma. And I said, Well, good luck. Six months later, they came back, you know, we’re not selling a lot of these classes.
So I was looking at that I was like, but but that that the stereotype is real. And it’s real. On the other side, for example, when people I go to places and talk, the first thing we’ll say things they say is like, you’re not what I expected. I said, Why? Because I don’t have tattoos and a nose ring or green hair like Yes, yes, that’s exactly why you said you need to change your perception of cannabis. And so I’m trying to help ya perception. But also, I’m trying to work with the purist to say, look, we need to work together. Yes, I love what you’re doing. But we need to tweak it here and here. And here for public safety. You, you know, you want to be a purist. But you also want to make money. Well, if you want to make money, this is the way you need to do it. Because you have to work into the corporate structure, you have to work into that infrastructure. So it’s kind of that battle of the soul of cannabis. And so I want to keep that soul. But yet we need to bring in the systems to make this safer, and to make it an industry that can be global, that us can benefit from outside of its borders.
Steve Looi 53:23
Right. Right. Very interesting. And so I think I just want to close off with, you know, we touched on a lot of different things here. But what what makes you what, what maybe is the single most exciting thing that you’re looking forward to in the future for cannabis.
Michael Patterson 53:42
Wow. That’s tough because I’m looking forward to so many different things. And I think number one thing I feel is bringing, bringing more people together. The latest poll in America, as you know, here in America, we’re pretty divided right now.
Michael Patterson 53:58
Yeah, the latest poll out of 2019 from Quinnipiac University, which is in the northeast said that 93% of Americans want medical cannabis legal, and the latest polling for recreation, found that 68% of America want recreational cannabis legal. So I’ve been saying since 2013, that cannabis will unite this country, it helps save humanity from itself. And so that is my number one goal is to keep pushing that forward to have other people realize that this plant is going to save us from ourselves, through the environment, through through jobs, through economic development through treating each other better, to having more empathy, being able to work with each other. So that’s the thing I get most excited about is because the reactions I used to get when I say that is one of me being crazy. Now the reaction when I say that more people are like, Huh, and then when I start saying it in two or three years being like he was right all along, because history will prove me correct. And I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen.
Steve Looi 54:59
Right well had a fantastic sentiment to end on today, Inauguration Day. And how cannabis legislation cannabis attitudes can hopefully be a point of unification for for the country, which sorely sorely needs it. Yeah. Mike, I really want to thank you for being on the show today. It was fantastic talking to you and the stuff you’re doing is amazing. And I’m looking forward to another interview in five years or so where you’ve completed this stuff, and we can talk about all the good stuff that’s come out of these efforts.
Michael Patterson 55:33
Absolutely. I’ll be I would love to talk to you whenever you like.
Steve Looi 55:37
Awesome, awesome. All right. Well, thanks Mike and have a fantastic rest of Inauguration Day 2021.
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