Konsider recently spoke with Executive Director of the Alaska Cannabis Institute, Cory Wray. He shared insight on how entrepreneurs can bring value to the industry, run smart businesses, and define success for themselves in the cannabis world. Wray is also general manager of the NW (Northwest) Cannabis Classic, Taste of Terps Festival (scheduled for summer 2016 in San Diego), and co-owner of Green Box Nutrients.
A long-time cannabis consumer, Wray says, “Its helps me stay focused and grounded.” He founded the Alaska Cannabis Institute in 2013, with the goal of educating people on rules and regulations of the industry—and other practical matters, such as the science of growing marijuana in a clean, pesticide-free approach. Wray currently serves as executive director, with Conrad Daley working as director of horticulture. The Alaska Cannabis Institute also provides resources to guide entrepreneurs to success. This includes making them aware of the industry’s risks. As such, a significant amount of time is spent reviewing Alaska rules and regulations, then advising entrepreneurs on how to operate within those restrictions.
Believing that all individuals must eventually decide what they want to center their lives around, Wray feels that passion should guide one’s career path. He says, “I truly believe that in this world you have to be the change you want to see. It’s hard to experience change if all you do is talk about it.” His passion is fighting for personal freedom, being far from convinced that governments must “protect” the public from itself via cannabis prohibition. It’s a perfect example of the debate over personal freedom. He adds, “If I want to buy some weed, and you have some weed to sell me, then that is a mutual agreement—not a crime. Who is the victim in a marijuana transaction? That is why I got involved—because to me, the right to use marijuana is none of the government’s business. If somebody chooses to use marijuana, that’s a personal (and sometimes private) matter.”
The NW Cannabis Classic is a competition and tasting festival which promotes the industry in Alaska, Washington and Oregon, while providing it with a platform to build brand awareness. By awarding growers for their achievements, their products are given a boost in the public eye. Attendees are provided with samples of these products. The festival also hosts a seed swap, job fair/business expo, live music, and seminars.
Since recreational cannabis became legal in Alaska, Wray has seen pros and cons come to light. He says the marijuana community is becoming a legitimate presence in the public eye. Unfortunately, he has also witnessed in-fighting in the industry. He says, “Now that money is involved, people are marking their territory. Friendships and partnerships have broken up before they ever got started. People are overhearing ideas and claiming them as their own. Before recreational was talked about, the marijuana community was far more united.”
Wray advises that cannabis businesses in the first six months of life should carefully examine the people whom they intend to go into business with. He says, “Do the hard work of filtering out the folks who are going to pull their weight up-front, so you don’t have to do the work on the backend.” He adds that well-established businesses must maintain their integrity—“doing the right things for the right reasons.” This means growing safe, quality cannabis and discarding plants that aren’t going to fully bloom before spraying pesticides.
Wray believes that as long as cannabis entrepreneurs (including himself) learn from their mistakes, they are heading in the right direction. He says, “That’s where the real learning happens. That’s another quality one has to have in this industry—resilience to make mistakes with the energy to learn from them and make the necessary adjustments.” He also has faith that being honest, promoting unity and striving to improve will lead to success—whatever one’s definition of it is. He concludes, “The best attribute is to be a good person. People are the most important asset in life. So be a good person by adding value to every scenario and situation you find yourself in.”