“What most concerns me is that we make sure we all keep our eyes on the true prize, in terms of cannabis activism. It’s not just about getting rich off marijuana. It’s about making sure everyone has equal access to this bold and transformative new industry.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing celebrated chef turned cannabis entrepreneur and executive Jaime Lewis, who boasts more than a decade of experience leading dispensary operations, business development ventures, and infused-product operations in cannabis markets around the country. Jaime is CEO of Coldwater Consulting, which provides experience-driven licensing, startup and operations consulting for cannabis businesses nationwide. She is also founder and executive chef at Mountain Medicine, an award-winning medical and recreational cannabis edibles producer in Colorado, where she oversees strategic planning, business expansion and product research and development to provide patients with artisanal, hand-crafted edibles of unparalleled quality, consistency, and flavor. Jaime formerly served as vice president of operations at Toronto- and New York-based iAnthus Capital Holdings, which provides investment capital and management services to licensed cultivators, processors, and dispensaries throughout the United States. A passionate advocate for medical marijuana access and cannabis corporate responsibility, Jaime is a founding member of the Cannabis Business Alliance, an influential trade group that functions as the Colorado industry’s chamber of commerce, and serves the chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the National Cannabis Industry Association, where she’s functions as a national spokesperson for the regulated cannabis industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
I just kind of fell into it, actually! I trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and began my career as a chef. While working as executive chef at the Michelin-rated Front Porch restaurant in San Francisco, I began crafting medicated edibles for local HIV and AIDS patients. That side project evolved into a full-fledged career in cannabis!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
I recently launched a new cannabis consulting firm with celebrated cannabis attorney Henry Wykowski. But for a while, we struggled with what to call ourselves. We finally settled on the name Coldwater Consulting, which was perfect for a number of reasons. The cold water evokes our longstanding ties to San Francisco, as well as the old-school process of making cold-water hash (it’s perfect, since we’re old dogs in the industry). But it’s also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that both Henry and I tend to throw cold water on people’s craziest, most unrealistic ideas. We like to hit people with a dose of reality!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
First off, my partner Henry Wykowski has long been one of the most prominent attorneys in the cannabis space, having won major federal court victories for prominent clients like Harborside Health Center and the Berkeley Patients Group. While I’m no lawyer, I have more than a decade of experience in running dispensaries and cannabis operations, a background that I have mined as chairwoman of the National Cannabis Industry Association’s board of directors and vice president of operations at iAnthus Capital Holdings. Now I’m using that on-the-ground experience to inform our consulting work. I know how to work with cannabis operators, how to help them be successful and efficient, because I have walked in their shoes. I know what it’s like to drain your bank account to chase your dreams.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I cannot pick one specific canna-sister for fear of all my other canna-sisters being jealous! There are so many lovely ladies who come to mind. So many woman have helped me, from providing mentorship to reminding me that with every failure comes new opportunities for success.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I’ve got a few pots on the burner! We are working on some interesting opportunities on the East Coast, specifically in Massachusetts, since that’s where I spend a bulk of my time. I’m also working closely with several owner-operators in California, helping them through the state and local compliance processes.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I am really excited about all the recognition legal cannabis is receiving these days, especially at the national level. It seems like we have changed the conversation. It is becoming more and more normalized.
What most concerns me is that we make sure we all keep our eyes on the true prize, in terms of cannabis activism. It’s not just about getting rich off marijuana. It’s about making sure everyone has equal access to this bold and transformative new industry.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
-You need to be quick on your feet! Things change quickly in this business — you have to learn to move just as fast.
-Always keep your sense of humor. Nothing seems insurmountable when you’re able to laugh about it.
-Think about the cannabis industry like clothes shopping. You are going to need to spend more money than you originally planned.
-Similarly, success in this business takes time. Whatever you sketch out for your business timeline, add in several months of wiggle room.
-Keep your ladies close. I use the woman in my life as a major resource, a sounding board, and a circle of trust.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does you cannabis passion come from?
My passion comes from being in this industry before it was cool, from having to fight tooth and nail for every iota of recognition and respect that many folks in the business now take for granted. I know how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
I’ll keep it simple: On up the mountain!
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
I work closely with Susannah Grossman, COO of my edibles company Mountain Medicine and founder of Verdant Communications, a leading cannabis communications firm. When it comes to integrating cannabis branding, operations, and marketing, there’s no one better. I also have to give a shout-out to Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. She is building the association into a powerhouse operation.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
There’s so much growth opportunity in the edibles sector, especially as legal cannabis expands and the market reaches more and more consumers who aren’t interested in smoking. I am excited to see what sort of brilliant products emerge as brands move far beyond the typical candies and chocolates.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to grab breakfast with Warren Buffett. I could swing by the McDonald’s he eats at every morning in Omaha. I would even offer to pay, since Warren has to save his pennies.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com