Business Insider Journalist Jeremy Berke’s Cannabis Outlook | Infused Summer S’more Recipe | The Latest from Azuca
From an early age, cannabis fascinated Jeremy Berke, but he never imagined that one day his job would revolve around the topic, spearheading the department for one of the leading business publications. In his relatively young career as a journalist, he is already blazing a trail in the media and starting in-depth conversations about the burgeoning industry. From the bumpy rollout of Canada’s cannabis legalization to the boom in cannabis companies going public, Jeremy’s had a front-row seat to it all. We turn the tables this time, and ask him the hard questions — from creating a cannabis beat at Business Insider, to the industry’s handling of social equity and more. Then we share the ultimate campout recipe with an Azuca twist, legalization updates and how Azuca is making headlines.
6 Questions with Jeremy Berke, Business Insider Senior Reporter
Q: Why were you tapped for the cannabis beat at Business Insider? Did it stem from a personal passion, too hot of an industry to resist or a combination?
I actually pitched and established the beat at Business Insider. I had been interested in cannabis throughout high school and college, and passionate about cannabis policy, but I never thought it would turn into a professional interest. I started at Insider covering politics as an intern during the 2016 runoff election. It was a quick trial by fire, and I realized that I didn’t want to cover politics. It wasn’t engaging to me— there was a lot of toxicity. From there, I spent time at Insider trying to figure out what my passions were. In 2017 I wrote a one off story about a case at Harborside, then a dispensary in Northern California. I received a lot of feedback that people were yearning for this type of mature coverage of the cannabis industry. There were a lot of product reviews at the time, but not a lot of business or policy coverage. From there I spent about 20% of my time on cannabis stories , which quickly turned to 50%. After a few months, we saw enough demand that we thought to pitch the beat to our higher ups. There weren’t many publications taking it seriously at the time, especially on the East Coast. They basically gave me a trial period to see if it worked, and it did! It was a marriage between something I was interested in for a very long time and that filled a gap in coverage.
Q: Name a few “ah ha”, game changing industry moments?
Besides Colorado legalizing almost a decade ago (I was still in college then), the first thing that sticks out is Canada legalizing in 2018. It was a huge signal to the world that major countries are taking cannabis seriously. At that point it forced a reckoning across the globe that with Canada being legal, publicly traded companies were going to be dealing with cannabis, along with investment banks, consulting firms, law firms and other very serious, large institutions. They realized the stakes were high and this was going to become a multibillion dollar industry. More recently, since the November election, several states have legalized cannabis, including New York which is the financial and media capital of the world. It’s a snowball effect that is culminating before our eyes. So, Colorado, California in 2016 and New York in 2020, all show the power of this movement, power of the industry and just how popular legalization of cannabis really is.
Q: Is the industry getting social equity initiatives right? What states are doing the best job?
The long answer is that they’re trying. The short answer is no. They’re really hamstrung by federal regulations. There are some very interesting funds in the works, from the former NBA player Chris Webber to Jay-Z, that are putting real money into backing entrepreneurs of color and people that were affected by the war on drugs, to share in the economic benefit of legalization. It’s difficult to get a loan if you want to start a cannabis dispensary, costing upwards of $150,000 for a license. That means that those who are succeeding most likely went to a fancy college, or maybe their parents, siblings or friends work in industries like finance where they have a disposable income and oftentimes, those aren’t people of color or people those equity initiatives target. To put a data point on this, right now, 70 percent of the highest paid executives in the cannabis industry are white men. It’s not representative of the population at large, and still they’re seeing the majority of economic benefits. That being said, in 2021, we have at least five to seven years to look at these issues to see what worked and what hasn’t. I am hopeful and optimistic that states like New York and other East Coast states will get it right in their legalization efforts. A lot of companies are starting to implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, and that should lead to more positive changes. These things take time, and there are some specific challenges in California, Illinois, Oregon and other states that were trailblazers in legalization. Some of those issues will persist as long as there is federal illegality, which prohibits access to business loans through banks and other knock-on effects that stem from the state-federal conflict.
Q: Who will be the last “company” standing? One run by savvy business people or those more passionate about the flower?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but from my coverage of the industry and what we’ve seen, it will bifurcate. I think at the top you will have publicly traded companies run by people with experience across CPG – alcohol or food, and even pharma. The industry will become consolidated. Cannabis, when, or if, it is legalized federally, will function like any other commodity. That said, I think that still leaves a lot of room on the opposite side for craft or artisanal cannabis, with people running smaller scale grows in places like Humboldt County and upstate New York, where they target a core audience. Their customers would be people who want to support organic cultivators, people who are attached to the culture of the plant and cannabis consumption. I think we will see both ends of the spectrum, and I do think they both can learn from each other.
Q: What do you think the long term market for CBD is?
I’ve seen some really bullish projections from the Brightfield Group. They recently released a report showing that by 2026 it will be a $16 billion market in the US alone. That’s gigantic! Right now CBD has a lot of brand equity among consumers: people will buy products because it has CBD in it. But there are a lot of hurdles to get to a point where you can buy CBD in a Walmart. The FDA has not carved out fair guidelines yet, and a lot of retailers don’t want to stock it because the federal status is still murky. So it will take more time for CBD to reach the market potential that a lot of projections think it has. I do think we may move into a world where CBD is more like Vitamin D or Omega-3, where you see it as an ingredient in a lot of different products. But again, in order for us to get there, the FDA needs to clarify what CBD is. Is it a drug? Is it a food ingredient? Is it a supplement? How are they going to regulate it? I think these are open ended questions that will dictate how far the industry will go.
Q: Comparing the industry to a pregnancy, what month are we in?
If we’re talking a nine-month period, I think we are in month one, maybe month two. Definitely the first trimester. We are possibly starting to show! It’s in the public consciousness and everybody knows about it, but there is a very long way to go. There’s a long road to get to where we want to be. A lot of things need to happen from here to make sure the industry actually prospers and doesn’t get cut short.
Jeremy Berke is a senior reporter at Business Insider where he focuses on the emerging cannabis industry. At BI, Jeremy has covered the bumpy rollout of Canada’s cannabis legalization, the boom in cannabis companies going public in 2018 (and the resulting fallout), multibillion-dollar mergers between cannabis companies and corporations from other industries, the ongoing health effects from vaporizers, the mislabeling of CBD products, and how the world’s largest financial, legal, and political institutions are reacting to and planning for legalization. He was born and raised in Toronto and is based in Brooklyn.
Legalization Successes & Struggles
Connecticut: It’s official–the Nutmeg State is the latest to join the green wave in legalizing adult-use cannabis. Beginning on July 1, possession of 1.5 oz is legal outside the home for 21+. Sales are expected to begin as early as May 2022, and MJBizDaily estimates the state will reach $700 million in sales within the program’s first few years.
New Mexico: On July 1 the state of New Mexico’s adult-use law that passed earlier this year also took effect. Those 21+ can now possess up to 2 oz of cannabis outside the home. Under a timeline published by the Cannabis Control Division, regulators must establish an advisory committee and begin accepting certain marijuana business licenses no later than September 1. Sale of recreational cannabis will begin in 2022. (Source: Canna Advisors)
Rhode Island: The smallest state in the country could be next in legalizing adult-use cannabis. Following neighboring state Connecticut’s lead, Rhode Island is on the cusp of passing a similar law to allow possession of cannabis for adult-use. Members of the Senate voted to approve the bill, they now wait on the House of Representatives. (Source: VapingPost)
Delta-8 THC: This hemp-derived product is causing a lot of discussion in the cannabis world, as many states are considering banning the substance in favor of preserving the current market. But while some states have banned delta-8 THC, others are considering provisions that would regulate it similarly to delta-9 THC. For more information on the status of the issues click here.
Azuca Partnership Spotlight
Redefining Happy Hour: Three new all-natural Wana Quick Fast-Acting gummies are hitting shelves this month in Colorado with our partner Wana Brands. These new additions keep the happy hour theme, with flavors inspired by your favorite cocktails, but up the ante from 5 mg servings to 10 mg. From Sativa Colorado Sunrise, to Hybrid Appletini and Indica Island Punch there is something for everyone–and with Azuca’s TiME INFUSION™, you’ll feel them quickly! For more information on where you can find these fresh flavors check out their wana brands.
Besides Colorado, you can still enjoy the original Wana Quick flavors in California, Oregon, and Canada.
Promotions at Azuca: Congratulations to William “Will” Widmaier, who was recently promoted to Vice President of Partnerships and Production. In the last year alone, Will has been responsible for executing licensing partnerships with Wana Brands, Revolutionary Clinics, and Columbia Care. Will’s been an integral part of the Azuca team since joining in 2018. Read more here.
Roadmap for IP Licensing: In the July edition of MG Magazine, CEO Kim Rael authors an article on how companies can benefit from licensing their intellectual property. From expanding market reach and increasing revenue, learn why licensing is vital for growth and competition in the booming industry. The issue is available here.
Summertime S’mores: Homemade CBD Graham Crackers
Some of the best summer nights are spent circled around a campfire, and is there a better treat to make on a campout than s’mores? That’s why Azuca has developed the perfect homemade graham cracker recipe to accompany your marshmallows and chocolate. It’s a match made in heaven that will leave your taste buds ready for a night under the stars! Bonus: All Azuca CBD recipes can be easily made with THC by partnering with us and utilizing AZUCA TiME INFUSION™ in your edibles kitchen!
Makes 12 servings, 10 mg Azuca CBD each
- 1½ cups whole wheat flour
- ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp water
- 4 Tbsp (½ stick) butter, softened
- 4 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp Azuca CBD Sugar
- 1 egg, well beaten
- ¼ cup honey
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a food processor, combine the flours and salt. Pulse once or twice to combine, set aside.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda with water and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and Azuca CBD sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add honey and baking soda mixture, and beat until just incorporated.
- Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until almost combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a generously floured surface, gather the dough into a roughly rectangular slab about 1” thick. Roll the slab until ⅛” thick, and 12” x 14” in size. Cut into 12, 3½” x 2” rectangles. Be sure to gently flip the slab every so often to prevent sticking.
- With a fork, poke each rectangle several times. Place each rectangle 1” apart on your prepared sheet pan.
- Bake crackers for 8 minutes, then flip them over (the underside should be lightly browned). Turn the oven off and open the oven door. Loosen the crackers with a spatula and let dry out in the oven for 2 more hours.
Last Prisoner Project
We are committed to help make the CBD and cannabis community a fair and equitable place for all. A portion of all Azuca proceeds are donated in support of Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working to bring restorative justice to the cannabis industry and dedicated to releasing those incarcerated for cannabis and helping them rebuild their lives. Learn more and support this great cause here.