We are in an unprecedented time for change in so many regards due to the coronavirus pandemic, with businesses and people having to pivot, morph, and change their ways on many levels during this time.
There is no doubt that the cannabis industry, just like any other industry, has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. There have been reports of both the good and the bad, but one thing is clear: our industry continues to move onward and upward even in the midst of this crisis. Many cannabis industry professionals would likely agree that working in weed has prepared us for living and decision making one day at time due to the multitude of compliance and business management hoops our industry has had to deal with ever since this industry started to legalize and come above ground.
To get more insight on the trends and effects the pandemic has had on the cannabis industry, I interviewed Michael ‘BigMike’ Straumietis, the founder and mastermind behind one of the longest withstanding brands in our sector.
Who is BigMike?
BigMike has over 30 years experience and is currently celebrating 20 years of his pioneering company Advanced Nutrients. Advanced Nutrients annual revenues exceed $110 million, and the company is one of the fastest growing impact brands in the world. Founded in 1999, the company was the first to develop a complete nutrient system and, since its inception, the brand has introduced more than 50 innovations to the cultivation community. Today, Advanced Nutrients sells its line of nutrients in more than 104 countries, and employs a team of world-class cannabis-specific scientists across the globe.
Additionally, BigMike founded Humanity Heroes, a non-profit located in West Hollywood. The unique ‘direct action’ campaigns help ease the suffering of the nearly 60,000 homeless living on the streets of Los Angeles. To help stem the tide of COVID-19 in this most fragile and already-burdened community, Humanity Heroes has donated a total of 17,000 face masks to homeless shelters in Los Angeles which include 2,500 face masks donated to Hollywood Food Coalition. Humanity Heroes also donated 5,700 face masks to Homeless Healthcare of Los Angeles, who provides the homeless with a 24/7 hygiene center known as the “Refresh Spot” with access to hand-washing stations, showers, clean restrooms, and laundry facilities for Skid Row.
This is exactly the kind of outreach and community support that helps shine a light on the potential for social responsibility and involvement that not only legitimizes the cannabis industry, but also helps raise the bar for other industries who are growing are already established.
Cannabis businesses have been deemed essential and thus allowed to remain open during the closures and stay-at-home orders across the U.S. This definitely sets a tone for our movement and industry, and BigMike seemed to agree in his assessment of the current situation and gave me some other thoughts and insights as well.
Leah Maurer (LM): How are you and Advanced Nutrients doing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic? Have you noticed different trends in your product sales?
BigMike: We had our biggest month in sales in the history of the company in March, 2020. I have noticed that customers are buying large formats. Our 10, 20, 23 Liter sizes going fast, and it seems like people are stocking up just in case. I also think the Black market is going to explode and become event stronger, especially here in California, which is concerning to me because of taxation and people taking advantage of less law enforcement being out and about.
LM: What do you think about cannabis businesses being deemed essential but still not eligible for federal aid for small business loans?
BigMike: I think that a LOT of companies are going to go out of business, some cannabis companies were already on the decline and this will accelerate that process. However, those cannabis companies who survive this pandemic and its effects will be the strongest ones when this is all over. Also, all the non violent cannabis prisoners should be let out of prisons. It’s a very bad situation right now.
LM: How has COVID 19 affected NY’s plan for legalization?
BigMike: Who knows when that will happen in New York now. Medical marijuana is a reality but legalization may be on hold indefinitely there. But, I think that over the next 5-7 years cannabis will be legal across the U.S.
LM: How are cannabis stocks doing in the midst of the pandemic?
BigMike: If you’re a small time investor, I would advise not to buy stocks right now. Lots of companies will go under and people will may be sick and unavailable. Investors should wait 6-8 months after pandemic is over. Cannabis stocks are taking a beating right now. They were already going through an adjustment with hyperinflation and now we are seeing deflation…the pandemic has depleted them.
LM: Do you think cannabis legalization will still play a big role in the U.S. Presidential election or will it be overshadowed due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
BigMike: Both. The pandemic will be at the top of everyone’s list, but there’s LOTS of votes in the cannabis sector and both political parties will be preaching cannabis. We are now in a time where political, especially presidential, candidates cannot sidestep the issue of cannabis.
I look forward to seeing how this all unravels for BigMike and Advanced Nutrients as well for the cannabis industry overall.