Home Culture Part 1: Interview With The Colorado Cannabis Ranch CEO Christian Hageseth

Part 1: Interview With The Colorado Cannabis Ranch CEO Christian Hageseth

Image Courtesy of Christian Hageseth

This time around, I’m taking a break from helping you guys with your grows and giving you a special treat. I was fortunate enough to get Christian Hageseth (thanks again Christian!) on the phone to talk about his baby, The Colorado Cannabis Ranch. If you haven’t heard of it yet, I’m stoked to be the one to introduce you. Not only is it a truly epic step forward for the cannabis industry, it’s led by a guy that, despite his massive success, is really just a laid back and down to Earth dude that loves marijuana as much as you or I.

I’m really excited to have you guys dive into the interview and get a glimpse of the mastermind behind The Colorado Cannabis Ranch; so I’m not going to ramble on. As always, I welcome your thoughts with open arms. Check out the interview and meet me in the comments when you’re done!

Andrew Baker: It seems as though the center of your business is focused on educating the public about marijuana and just kind of normalizing the topic for them. Do you think that it’s safe to say that misinformation is what is most hindering the marijuana industry today?

Christian Hageseth: You know, I think what happened, and I try not to be too much of a conspiracy theorist when I saythis, but I think what happened is… When you look back at the days of the Reefer Madness period in American history, and marijuana was as widely prescribed as Aspirin was in 1850; and then something happened between 1850 and 1930. Aspirin obviously stayed on our shelves and marijuana was determined to be illegal.

There was a bunch of misinformation that was spread pretty intentionally to demonize marijuana, ya know, to scare predominantly children away from using marijuana. It was demon weed, then it was something that only colored people use, and then look what it’s doing to these hippie kids trying to avoid Vietnam.

So, through stages of history it’s been associated with, ya know, the negative stereotypes around race and negative stereotypes around hippies. There’s always been an association with these sort of marginalized parts of society. None of our story is about suburban housewives who used marijuana instead of alcohol or prescription drugs and otherwise lead well-balanced, happy, successful lives. So I think, yes, there has been a lot of misinformation about marijuana.

Really it’s about trying to… What I want to do is rid all of us of those stereotypes so we can look at marijuana, we can look at cannabis with a fresh set of eyes. I don’t want to prove that Anslinger and his cronies were wrong. I don’t want to get into the fight about right and wrong. I just want to put marijuana out there as this plant that’s lived next to us for tens of thousands of years and has medical benefits and recreational benefits. Eating it, it’s a good food source as well. That’s really what it is. So yeah, it is about trying to get over the misinformation but it’s really about almost ignoring the misinformation and just trying to put marijuana back into nature as a plant we’ve lived with for a long time and let people form their own opinions about it.

AB: That’s great man. I like your stance on not getting involved in the fight about what’s right and wrong. Just sort of focusing on eliminating that argument, presenting the facts and giving people what they need to form a real opinion.

Alright, let’s keep things rolling. The Colorado Cannabis Ranch. First of all, I love the idea dude. I’ve read every word on your website about what that project entails and what’s coming to Colorado and I think it’s just plain awesome, to say the least. So, how many new jobs do you think that the Ranch will provide?

CH: You caught me at the right time to answer that one. I literally just walked out of one of our planning meetings on this and we’re estimating it to be around 400. About 400 full-time equivalent jobs. That’s everything from working in the grow, the dispensary, onsite gift shop, restaurant, bar, amphitheater, security, grounds, maintenance.

AB: What do you think has been the most difficult hurdle in bringing this idea you had to fruition?

CH: Well, I don’t know exactly how to describe it real succinctly…

AB: That’s alright, I don’t mind a long winded answer, I’m enjoying the ease and flow of our conversation.

CH: I think this is true for anyone that’s done something for the first time. This is the first project of it’s kind in the world, as far as I know at least. We call it the world’s first weedery. I don’t know if that’s completely true or accurate, but it certainly is in our case. Everyone in our sphere of influence; this is the first time they’ve ever heard of a project like this. So there’s sort of an initial, what’s hard about it is there’s this initial curiosity followed up by further analysis and skepticism.

“Oh well yeah, that’s a really neat idea but so people are gonna come out there and smoke pot? How are they going to get home? How are they going to drive? Isn’t that dangerous? And you’re going to let kids in there?”

So, in my mind I have this very clear vision of what this looks like and how it is a place where anyone and everyone is welcome. An individual who’s a big fan of marijuana will love it obviously; but also we want a grandparent that’s there with their grandkids to feel very comfortable in this space. How do we design a facility that really is welcoming to everybody? That’s inclusive, not exclusive.

In my mind I can see how we can build this thing so if I’m sitting there… I have 3, soon to be 4, kids myself and I absolutely plan to be out there one day having a burger with my kids. I’m not going to be smoking a joint in front of ‘em and I don’t expect anyone else to be either. But I do see, in my mind, that it’s going to be a place where I’m going to be able to sit with my children and my parents, my kids’ grandparents, and feel comfortable and welcome; not like I’m in something sketchy or scary. It’s just beautiful and inclusive.

Like, if you were to take your partner out to a winery on a beautiful day. You sit there and you pour the wine for her, you hit the tasting room, maybe you stop and get a little snack and you just sit there and take in the place, the moment. It would be similar to that. The big challenge has been getting people, because it [The Colorado Cannabis Ranch] doesn’t exist yet, is getting people over what I would call their own initial misconceptions about what this project might be.

So people hear about it and they’re like, “That’s great, but…” Now I’m dealing with whatever “but” exists in that guy’s head. Not in the real world, but what the person I’m speaking with thinks might be a problem with all of this. So that’s been the biggest problem, trying to address objections and speculations that are purely hypothetical. So yeah, long way of saying it but that’s been the biggest challenge for me.

AB: That makes a lot of sense man, especially what you said about not really having anyone that’s gone before you. I know when dispensaries, bakeries and other types of marijuana businesses; when they were first opening, it was all just kind of in a flurry, ya know? No one really knew where the boundaries lied; rules and regulations were, and still are, constantly changing. There was no road map, so to speak. So I can only imagine the hiccups a project of this size would experience.

I think it’s great that the focus of your answer was about the public, the people. That’s been a recurring theme I’ve found while doing research into your business and everything, that you guys seem to be putting the public front and center.

CH: It is man. I want to hold us, the marijuana industry, the potential of what marijuana could be in society, I want to create a very positive image for that. So if you think about it, the legalization of marijuana will be less scary to people when they can identify good operators and good brands and they can say, “Well, you know what, if those guys are doing it then it’s probably ok.” I think that will put a lot of people at ease.

You know, I’m somebody’s son and four kids’ father. I really care about our society. My parents did a good job of giving me a good world to inherit and I want to make sure I do that for my kids. I want to set that up. I’m not here to take advantage of something or to, ya know be a drug dealer. I’m here to grow and sell legal cannabis; which I believe is a great recreational intoxicant and an even better medicine. I’m excited to be a part of the expansion of this industry and I want to hold up the best possible front we can on behalf of the industry so that it opens the doors, ya know, it opens the doors for other people to follow. For society to turn towards, and re-embrace, cannabis.

AB: I know you said it doesn’t exist at this point, and I’m sure you’re knee deep in the Colorado Cannabis Ranch in Denver; but do you guys have any plans to expand outside of that city or to another state even?

CH: Yeah, yeah it’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The first phase of the plan is 5 weederies. So yeah! We’ve got plans to put more of those up. I mean, there’s wineries and breweries in every state. They’re brewing it in every state and you can go tour and taste it and do all that. I have a similar vision that one day, weederies will be the same thing. You know, what we’re seeing here is a sort of “microbrewery revolution”. With marijuana, we’re not starting with the macro brewers. We don’t have the Budweisers, Millers and Coors yet. So what we’re really starting to see is a bunch of little cultivators. I say little, but it’s much bigger than what the industry currently is, but it’s nothing compared to where the industry is going. We’re talking about putting 150,000 square feet of greenhouse up and we think that’s really cool. But dude, my vision is that in 10 years, that’s going to be a joke. We’re talking about millions of square feet under glass. Because, ya know, it’s legal to grow in Colorado and get the expertise here, but if we can start transporting across state lines that will be a game changer. It’s much more efficient to grow at one megafacility where you can grow a lot of product and really bring down your cost of goods sold but still put out a really good product. We’re going to see macro cultivation facilities with millions of square feet. Even as the weedery as a current vision as the next generation, it’s certainly not the end. At some point, we’ll be able to look back on it and think that it’s quaint in how it’s sized.

AB: That’s incredible. It’s difficult for me to even visualize a garden of that size. Just a small closet grow is beautiful, so I really look forward to the day I can experience something of that magnitude.

CH: Yeah, it’s amazing man. But you know, marijuana in the U.S. is a 50 billion dollar a year illegal industry. Last year, as an industry we did 5 and half billion dollars of legal weed. Which means we’re only selling 11 percent of what the current illegal industry is doing.

But that 50 billion dollars are people that are willing to go down to the ATM, call their drug dealer and do a deal that might get them arrested. To use a product that, if their employer found it in their urine, would get them fired. 50 billion dollars are being spent on that! What happens when it’s legal, it’s more readily accepted?  

Imagine this: Now you have a friend that has you over for a dinner party. You get there, there’s 8 people and you walk in the door and there’s 8 little wafers sitting out. Each of them is a cannabis supplement that has THC and CBD in it. They’re sublingual so you put it under your tongue and it dissolves. It sets in in about 10 minutes and you have a nice little buzz, you’re not totally baked, it increases your appetite, you enjoy the music, you enjoy talking to your friends and after about 2 hours it just sort of goes away just as quickly as it set on.

This is the future of marijuana, man, and we’re real close to that. We’re getting closer to that every day. When we can sell that kind of marijuana in addition to the 50 billion dollars worth, we’re going to see this market become a 100 to 300 billion dollar a year industry in the U.S. When it is, we’re going to see macro providers. We’re going to see the Budweisers emerge. Someone is going to be growing in millions and millions of square feet, being the dominant market player.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this exciting interview with Christian Hageseth.