Apr 28 2017 . 11 min read
Elevating the Conversation with Greta Carter
Elevating the Conversation with Greta Carter
In 2009, entrepreneur Greta Carter began her career in the cannabis industry. Having left the worlds of banking and real estate, her skills transferred easily to the new industry which was just starting to be regulated. A former VP at Citibank with an expertise in start-ups, Greta founded multiple businesses in the cannabis space including Hope Clinics, Life Gardens, and Cannabis Training Institute. During her entrepreneurial endeavors, she became a nationally recognized cannabis activist and consultant applying her depth of knowledge of business and corporate disciplines to guide others in the cannabis industry.
I believe we are all on a journey, and that journey is laid out for us. I was at a point where I was affected financially, just as many people were in 2008 and 2009, and it was an opportunity for me to reinvent myself. So with cannabis having been in my life, but only in the closet, since I was 18 I was really not ready to come out loud and proud until my son encouraged me to check out the industry and see what was going on in Northern California. Only after meeting many leaders in the industry and speaking with them, did I understand that this was really a medicine and had healing qualities to it and was bringing a lot of relief to people who didn’t have other sources to go to for it. That was a crossroads in my life that was my destiny. It showed me I could help speak up for the people who can’t and it just emboldened me and my passion, creating a path of no return.
It wasn’t attractive, it was awfully scary. What has evolved since then have been the disciplines that are built around a highly regulated industry such as banking and real estate. Those disciplines have transitioned really nicely into a legal cannabis market which is all about regulation, safety and being transparent so the transfer of my skills really prepared me for the success I am enjoying now.
Back in 2009 when you said cannabis that was a real far left wing, crazy person proposition. You just didn’t talk about it openly like you do today. There were no sources, no cannabis events, no educational materials, very little on the Internet, not a lot was understood about cannabis at that time. It was a real subculture where people were growing cannabis deep in the woods or in the basement and they were, rightfully so, paranoid about talking about it. Then you look at a 50-something Republican woman coming out about cannabis -- I presented a very different face to cannabis and the passion I spoke about before really emboldened me to walk into state legislators’ offices and start having a conversation with them. I was completely amazed and still am at how open their doors were to hearing what I had to say so that really got my political path started and I helped to write and educate people about the new legislation that was about to come out in Washington.
In my career at Citibank they trained me to start businesses. So one thing I really know how to do and do well is bring organization to chaos. I am all about starting businesses and then two or three years later, when they are successful, transferring those to whomever I am partnering with or selling them. That is the path I am on for cannabis, I want to help people who want to get into this industry. I want to share with them the lessons I have learned along the way. I want to build that discipline and regulation that I have learned throughout my career into the cannabis industry so it becomes normal and profitable for people and it becomes another product just like any other agricultural product out there.
There are still so many myths out there. There are still people who want to talk about cannabis as a gateway drug that leads to a spiraling down in life. I don’t know how they are not seeing what’s really happening with it and seeing thousands and thousands of patients, year after year, telling their stories of how they are getting off of their prescription drugs and how their quality of life has been improved. Those stories just keep me motivated and fired up to keep going forward. Cannabis Institute Training, which I sold two years ago, was my attempt to break myths from all of the propaganda out there by offering quality training.
Hands down, there is no question we are displacing workers who for decades earned their income and put their kids through college and bought homes and everything else with money earned from cannabis. I am highly sensitive to that, and know we need to make sure we can transition that workforce into the legitimate market. As for Big Pharma, there has been an ongoing struggle with pharmaceuticals and natural herbs for as long as I can remember. We have groups like APHA (American Public Health Association) that has been out there for 30 years embracing cannabis as just another herb. Many groups see it as something that is natural and something that should be available to people for a balance in their life or for an alternative to pharmaceuticals.
Owners David (Goldwater) and Chris (Olsen) reached out to me when they first started considering seriously getting into the cannabis world in Las Vegas. Because David and Chris didn’t come from that environment, they knew they needed a cannabis expert on their team. They were having a hard time finding someone with that balance between business and cannabis. I was an anomaly who had both the business sense and background into the cannabis world so it was a good balance and a good fit for them. We helped with the application, we do that really well, we win licenses. We won the three that Chris and David are on with me. Then we helped get them started and transferred that knowledge and passion about the plant to their staff. Now David and Chris run the operations and I am there for consulting and support.
I hope I have been able to shift the paradigm by taking the approach with lawmakers and law enforcers of presenting a model that makes them proud and they can stand behind their decision to let cannabis be a part of their community. I like to keep that bar high to lessen their fear about what we bring to the communities and to turn that fear around to the point of them not only being welcoming, but proud of the decisions they made that brought us to their community. I think Inyo is a really good example of that – giving back to the community and having patient levels and standards that are high.
Yes, absolutely. They really do overregulate us at first. We saw that happen up in Washington, and we saw that start to happen in Nevada, and it’s starting to happen in California. But having been here for a while, that’s okay if they overregulate us because if that’s what makes them comfortable in the community then so be it. Being at the forefront of a movement that is becoming an industry, it is our path to embrace those regulations and go through the process and laws our country is built on to something more reasonable. One good example is Washington, they put a 75 percent tax on cannabis, and if that’s what it takes for us to get it legal then let’s take the 75 percent. Then the next time it came around, we were able to reduce it to 37 percent. That’s just progress.
The biggest surprise is also my biggest disappointment, which is the realization of how far behind our political machine is from where the people are. We have gotten overwhelming support for cannabis as a medicine and almost as much support for it to be adult-use but, yet, we have got this crazy machine out there trying to breed fear into people whether it’s the DEA regarding Schedule I or the DOJ. One example is our banking issues and the bizarre filing of our taxes because of cannabis being 280E and a Schedule I drug. Also, there is still the idea that some politicians rank it up there as being as dangerous as heroin. As a citizen of this country, I am really concerned that our elected officials are not truly representing the people who voted for them. So that is a surprise to me and it still continues to be.
Every one of them have progressed normalcy for this plant, and each one has built on the last one. Today, what I do is consulting work with High Road Consulting. I am really honored that I am at a point where I can transfer the knowledge that I have gained and the lessons that, in some cases, have beaten me down and made me stronger in others. I think it’s been a beautiful journey and accumulation of all of the businesses I have started that has led me down the path to High Road Consulting.
There’s a fallacy out there that there’s tons of money to be made in cannabis and that it’s really easy money. Yes, the math looks really good but for smart, traditional business people you can probably make more money easier in other businesses. We are a brand-new industry so you must find the tenacity somewhere in your heart to stick it out because the rules and regulations are developed in almost real-time so it can be frustrating and so very expensive when those rules change rapidly. So come to this industry with enthusiasm, but also with the knowledge that you can’t give up when things get difficult.