CEO of Popular Legal Weed Consumer Website Sees Potential in NJ Market
Arguably one of the nation’s largest cannabis education and information resources, leafy, has become 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 NASDAQ Stock Exchange. The very next day, Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita was at a dispensary opening in the Garden State for the first day of cannabis sales.
NJ Cannabis Insider caught up with Miyashita in person to talk about what it takes to normalize the plant, the data surrounding the market, and the work that still needs to be done for legalization to achieve all of its intentions. This interview has been edited for fluency and clarity.
Q: How was your time in New York and New Jersey?
A: One of the most exciting things is that there is a huge billboard in Times Square and as a listed company we have to choose the artwork. We had a big happy 4/20 message in the middle of Times Square.
A gentleman working in the locker room at the NASDAQ office stopped us and said, “Leafly changed my life.
What he thanked us for was putting Leafly’s name in that room that day, it was just a huge step towards normalization and de-stigmatization.
I think that’s part of our mission. After decades of prohibition and the stigma associated with it, our job is really to unravel this. Break it down with science, information and education. Give consumers the real information about cannabis.
Q: What do you think of New Jersey’s municipal exclusions, which prevent legal weed operators from opening in a city?
A: We publish data. A few years ago we published real reports about what a dispensary does to neighborhoods and how that would impact local real estate prices and what we’ve seen especially in seasoned markets like ours. I’m based in Seattle – real estate prices where you have licensed dispensaries around you have gone up. You have reinforced security, you have cameras all around.
About the opt-out, I’ll be clear on that.
If you as a municipality don’t allow it in your community, it’s already there in your community. Do you want to grow the industry, create jobs and generate tax revenue for your municipality or do you want to continue making decisions based on faulty data, assumptions and stereotypes?
Q: What are some of the things that interest you about New Jersey?
A: Social equity is a topic that became a political issue after Washington State legalized it. You have New Jersey advertised as very progressive. Tax revenue for reinvestment. I’m really curious to see the net impact of this. How much goes to communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. How are these funds reinvested? Are they really applied to the full realization of the possibilities of legalization?
Q: How do you think these things should be compared?
A: Of course, there is data collection, transparency and reporting that are essential. It is a collective assessment. Set goals, deploy capital, [asking] what do we get for that. There must be an assessment of quantitative and qualitative data.
Those most impacted will know this. They will see it in their communities. They will feel it in their backlines.
Q: What are your thoughts on concerns about medical supply and medical patients being left behind?
A: I think it happens regularly. You have big markets, big demands, queues. You have to trust that the regulatory authorities have made the assessment.
We know that’s a problem, because the demand isn’t.
Consider home culture and its potential for medical patients. What are we afraid of when growing a plant?
Q: What do you think of those who say that local culture could encourage the power of the illicit market?
A: I think we need to be realistic about what you can actually grow at home, who will actually grow, how much work it takes, and how much volume it actually earns. Let’s disrupt some of the assumptions, concerns and fears with data and science.
Q: What’s on the horizon for Leafly?
A: We are so focused on creating the best informed way to buy cannabis. For us, that means continuing to leverage all the educational and informational content we have in our consumer shopping experience and connecting customers to all local brands and dispensaries.
Focus on the local community aspect of cannabis. This is what makes this plant and this crop so unique.
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This interview first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.