Arguably one of the largest cannabis education and information resources in the nation, Leafly, has grown into the mainstream, including Wall Street. On April 20 — the official cannabis holiday — the Seattle-based online platform was in the Big Apple ringing the bell at the NASDAQ exchange. The very next day, Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita was at the opening of a dispensary in the Garden State for Day 1 of cannabis sales.
NJ Cannabis Insider caught up with Miyashita in-person to talk about what it takes for normalization of the plant, data surrounding the marketplace and the work that still has to be done for legalization to realize its full intentions. This interview was edited for flow and clarity.
Q: How was your time in New York and New Jersey?
A: One of the most exciting things, there’s a massive billboard in Times Square and as a listed company we got to choose the artwork. We had a big happy 4/20 message in the middle of Times Square.
A gentleman who was working a coat check in the NASDAQ office stopped us and said, “Leafly has changed my life.”
What he thanked us for was by having Leafly’s name plastered across this room on this day, that was just a huge step forward for normalization and destigmatization.
I think that’s just part of our mission. After decades of prohibition and the stigma associated with it, our job is really to tease that apart. Break it down with science, information and education. Give consumers the real info on cannabis.
Q: What’s your thoughts bout New Jersey’s municipal opt-outs, which essential shutout legal weed operators from opening in a town?
A: We publish data. A couple of years ago we published actual reports on what a dispensary does to neighborhoods and how it would impact local real estate prices and what we saw particularly in seasoned markets like ours. I’m based out of Seattle — real estate prices where you have licensed dispensaries around you went up. You’ve increased security, you’ve got cameras all around.
About the opt-out, I’m going to be clear on this.
If you don’t as a municipality allow this in your community, it’s already there in your community. Do you want to build the industry, create jobs, and drive tax revenue for your municipality or do you want to keep making decisions based on faulty data, assumptions and stereotypes?
Q: What are some of the things you’re curious about when it comes to New Jersey?
A: Social equity is something that developed as a theme on the policy side after Washington state legalized it. You have New Jersey being heralded as very progressive. Revenue from taxes going towards reinvestment. I’m really curious to see the net impact of that. How much goes back into communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. How do those funds get reinvested? Are they actually applied to full realization of legalization’s possibilities?
Q: How do you see those things should be benchmarked?
A: Obviously there’s the data collection, the transparency and the reporting that’s critical. That’s a collective assessment. Set out objectives, deploy capital, [asking] what do we get for it. There has to be a quantitative data assessment of that and qualitative.
The people most impacted will know. They will see it in their communities. They will feel it in their bottom lines.
Q: What do you think about the concerns of the medical supply and medical patients being left behind?
A: I think it happens consistently. You’ve got big markets, big demands, lines out the door. You have to trust that the regulatory authorities have done the assessment.
We know this is an issue, because the demand is not.
Think about homegrow and its potential for medical patients. What are we afraid of from growing a plant?
Q: What do you think of those who say homegrow could encourage the power of the illicit market?
A: I think we’ve got to be realistic about how much you can actually grow at home, the people who will actually grow, how much work it takes and the volume it actually yields. Let’s disrupt some of the assumptions, concerns and fears with data and science.
Q: What’s on the horizon for Leafly?
A: We’re so focused on really building the best, informed way to shop for cannabis. For us, that means continuing to pull through all the education and informational content that we have in our consumer shopping experience and connecting customers to all the local brands and dispensaries.
Focusing on the local community aspect of cannabis. It’s what makes this plant and this culture so unique.
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This interview first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.