Brewbound Live 2019: Former Beer Execs Discuss Their Move to the Cannabis Industry

Three former beer executives now in the cannabis industry discussed differences between the two industries during last month’s Brewbound Live business conference in Santa Monica.

Ted Whitney, vice president of operations at Nug; Brian Dewey, vice president of sales at Kiva Confections; and Matt Gamble, vice president of operations at Theory Wellness, joined BevNET editor-in-chief Jeff Klineman for a conversation about the state of the cannabis industry, how they’ve carried experiences from their beer industry careers into their new path and how the two overlap.

“It’s a community,” Dewey said of the cannabis industry. “Sales are still sold on relationships. There’s a desire for education. There’s a ton of passion behind it, and people are striving to learn more.”

Prior to joining Kiva Confections, an edibles producer based in San Leandro, California, Dewey worked in sales for Sierra Nevada, Golden Road, Stone Brewing, and Stone Distributing.

Gamble arrived at Massachusetts-based Theory Wellness with a resume that touched all three tiers of the beer industry. As the VP of operations at vertically integrated Theory Wellness, Gamble said he noticed his new company has more oversight than brewers do.

“We oversee the whole thing from growing it down to putting it in the jar at the store, so we’re able to get the data, the feedback instantaneously from the registers, so we’re able to work that into our production schedule,” he said. “It solves a lot of the problems that the three-tier system poses to brewers.”

Another difference between cannabis and beer is that cannabis does not yet have the style standards that beer has developed over decades.

“We don’t have a canonized body of knowledge,” Whitney said.

For years, rumblings have persisted across the beer industry about the potential threat to beer sales from legalized marijuana, but Whitney said he doesn’t see it.

“If anything, cannabis has become less of a threat because we doubled our price overnight,” he said, referring to the fees and taxes customers pay on legal marijuana.

So far, only 11 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, each with their own laws governing sales and production. Gamble said a unified structure and code of laws nationally could bring down prices to consumers.

Watch their entire conversation above, and subscribe to Brewbound on YouTube to see more presentations from the conference.

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