The Science of Marijuanomics: Talking Shop with Marijunaomics CEO Chris Gromek
Author – Max Richardson-Davis
Edited by Noah Persin & Jon Russell
We had a chance to sit down with Chris Gromek, CEO and founder of Marijuanomics, to discuss investment in the cannabis industry. Gromek, originally from California, was kind enough to sit down with GreenSea’s Maxwell Davis and discuss what it means to be a cannabis investor today and what it will mean should federal legalization of cannabis occur. Discussing his past, his company’s mission and general advice for cannabis investors and entrepreneurs alike, Gromek sheds light on how to maintain profits in a highly competitive industry.
Maxwell: Thank you for taking a moment to speak with me. For those who may not be familiar with you or your company, would you briefly introduce yourself and Marijuanomics?
Chris: Sure, thanks for having me!
Marijuanomics is an online media outlet that exists to serve the cannabis economy. News, reviews, culture, regulatory stuff, all of that. We’re starting to focus on making the “economic case for cannabis”, which is a big, important story that hasn’t been totally realized yet.
The operation runs on advertising revenue – we offer really affordable advertising through social media. We never pay for followers or reviews or anything like that – we’re really just interested in the organically grown community and being able to help entrepreneurs that are on a tight budget.
Maxwell: That’s really interesting, can you tell us how you got involved in the cannabis industry?
Chris: I started trading cannabis stocks when Colorado legalized. I got pretty good at it and was also learning web development at the time, so I built a web presence that helped other traders and investors track them. I ended up selling that website and subsequently moving to Oregon last October to really dive into cannabis full-time.
Maxwell: Is true you are an American veteran? If so, how has cannabis helped you personally in your days after service?
Chris: I hesitate to use that term because it gets so conflated. Fortunately, I never saw combat and my time in the service was wonderfully boring. Lots of folks I served with weren’t so lucky.
That being said, cannabis has been incredible for helping me with dealing with general anxiety. I think there is something particular about cannabis in regards to neuroplasticity – specifically helping people break habit and addiction cycles – that is incredibly therapeutic.
Maxwell: What effect do you think cannabis plays in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Chris: First, I’d encourage anyone struggling with PTSD to please reach out to a doctor immediately and to tell a friend, parents, whoever is in your support network. In 2014 we lost 20 veterans to suicide, every single day. That number is similar now, and every single one of these deaths doesn’t have to happen.
The trauma some of our vets experience is really beyond the pale for what most humans experience in their lives. In that context, I think cannabis can really help people cope with traumatic memories in ways that self-medicating with alcohol and opioids just can’t. Booze and pills are the status quo for most vets, and that’s a very dangerous way to numb pain.
Cannabis is a safer alternative. It relieves pain but it also inspires self-reflection and new patterns of thought, which I think are so important for coping with trauma. Shoutout to Grow For Vets for the incredible work they do.
Maxwell: Now, you are a full-time cannabis entrepreneur. Tell us about a little about Marijuanomics and the other projects you’ve got going on in the industry.
Chris: Yeah the last year has been a wild ride.
Marijuanomics started as a pet project that gained traction faster than I anticipated. I wanted to build a brand that celebrates what cannabis is doing for the country and for millions of Americans. And it really isn’t much more complicated than that. It’s just about providing a voice to an issue that people have fought, died, and rotted in prison for.
We built this incredible following on Twitter – the community is so motivating. We get messages everyday from all over the country from people that are advocates, or patients, or just curious about cannabis.
Most recently I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing with the good people at Hifi Farms, here in Hillsboro, OR. They cultivate using a living soil methodology which really does produce better, cleaner cannabis. I think Hifi Farms is really at the forefront of the movement to produce cannabis in an eco-friendly way and they’ll be a household name in the near future.
There are some other irons in the fire. Keep an eye on the team at Agzaar, I think they are building a pretty special company but that’s all I’ll say.
Maxwell: You’ve invested in pot stocks too, is that correct? What kind of successes have you had investing in OTC cannabis stocks?
Chris: Sure, so I founded Pot-stocks.com and subsequently sold it in 2015 to the good people at MJIC, who run the Marijuana Index.
I’ve done well trading cannabis stocks rather than strictly investing in them. You have to understand that the OTC market is incredibly fickle, and many of these stocks are simply bad bets for a variety of reasons. Some are scams, some are really just shell companies that don’t have any actual cannabis related operations. Many go through periods of illegal paid promotion.
So you have to be really careful with long-term investing there. However, if you are interested in short term technical trading, cannabis stocks can be great – tons of volume and volatility as we head into November. And there are some good companies on the OTC, they are just diamonds in the rough.
Maxwell: What would you say to someone interested in investing in OTC cannabis stocks? Is now the time to invest?
Chris: Just get educated before you dive in. Check out the Marijuana Index, 420 Investor, and Marijuana Stocks for coverage and education there. I think the time to catch this wave was in August, but there are new opportunities to make money in these stocks, every day. If you think you missed the boat and these prices-per-share are too high, look at your options for shorting them. It really just depends what your risk tolerance is.
Maxwell: How do you see cannabis investment changing if the federal government decides to declassify cannabis?
Chris: All bets are off if the federal government declassifies cannabis. A lot of people will make a lot of money, very quickly. We’ll see cannabis brands scale at unprecedented rates. The Wild West, the roaring 20’s, whatever you want to call it.
But I think we’re much more likely to see incremental progress and probably a lot of regulatory hurdles. There is a theory that if California goes recreational, it will cause a sort of cascade effect throughout the rest of the country, but we’ll see what actually happens.
Maxwell: Where is the big money in the cannabis industry going to be? Which business models will succeed?
Chris: I think the “big money” will look at mergers and acquisitions in California and other large markets. There will be a lot of startups that successfully vertically integrate their operations and that will be appealing to those investors.
I don’t think there’s any one model to success, you just have to really think about the foundation of what you’re building. Entrepreneurs should be consciously thinking about those potential buyouts and what you would want an ideal exit to look like.
Maxwell: What is the biggest opposition facing cannabis companies today?
Chris: The biggest opposition is regulatory compliance. You have to pay attention if you want to succeed. We are lucky in Oregon – the OLCC isn’t perfect but they do listen to the industry and I think there is really healthy dialogue there.
I think a lot of cultivators and dispensary operators get too cavalier with the regulations and imagine they can get away with 75% or 80% compliance or whatever – those folks are going to hit with violations at some point and many won’t recover. Don’t be that person – just pay attention to the regulations and comply to the best of your ability.
Maxwell: As an entrepreneur in this industry, what have been your biggest personal setbacks?
Chris: I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t had any real sleep in like 4 days because I had been working too much. It was at that point I decided to schedule sleep and family time more rigidly. You have to schedule and protect that time.
It took me a while to allow myself time to disconnect, enjoy life, and just relax a bit. I still work like a madman but I’m happier and so is my family.
Maxwell: What advice, if any, would you give to someone just jumping into the cannabis industry now?
Chris: People underestimate how much time and focus it takes to build a business in this environment. We have so many restrictions. You can’t sell cannabis online or across state borders. Entrepreneurship is already hard, and those limitations mean you are playing a game that is inherently at top-tier difficulty.
If you aren’t focused 100%, then I strongly encourage you to do something else. That being said, if you are mentally prepared, there has never been a bigger opportunity for our generation.
Maxwell: Last question. Of course, you know I have to ask, what is your favorite strain? What about cannabis product?
Chris: Shameless plug time: My favorite strain is currently Orange Crush from Hifi Farms. It’s relaxing and a little heady, but not incapacitating. You can actually get that flower in individually wrapped, Clean-Green certified pre-rolls throughout Oregon now and they come in these beautiful little boxes, which I am proud to say I had a hand in designing.
And my favorite product is probably just the grinder I got from Sabertooth. It’s so durable and gives such a nice grind that I can’t speak highly enough of it.
Maxwell: Ha! Thanks Chris, you’ve been a great sport. I appreciate you agreeing to sit down and talk shop with me. I look forward to sharing your answers with the cannabis industry insiders. Thank you!
Chris: Thank you for the opportunity, Max!
Editor’s Note: This was a written interview conducted over e-mail. None of the answers have been altered from the original response.