The man who built Canopy Growth into the world's biggest cannabis grower before being ousted told us why he picked pet-food CBD and psychedelics for his next ventures
- Bruce Linton, the former Canopy Growth CEO, is pursuing a number of new ventures, both inside and outside of the cannabis space.
- He'll be taking on new positions as the executive chairman of Gage Cannabis Co., a Michigan dispensary chain; special advisor at Better Choice Company, a CBD pet food supplier; and as a director at Mind Medicine, a company developing psychedelic-based drugs for FDA approval.
- Business Insider caught up with Linton on the sidelines of the Cannabis Private Investment Summit in Midtown Manhattan.
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The ex-CEO of cannabis giant Canopy Growth can't sit still for long.
In July, Bruce Linton was ousted from the company he founded and built into the world's largest legal cannabis producers after the Constellation Brands-controlled board pushed for a focus on quarterly profits, rather than splashy acquisitions. Now, he's ready to discuss his next act.
Linton is taking on new positions as the executive chairman of Gage Cannabis Co., a Michigan dispensary chain; special advisor at Better Choice Company, a CBD pet food supplier; and as a director at Mind Medicine, a company developing psychedelic-based drugs for FDA approval.
Apart from his active roles, Linton will become an activist investor - the "good kind," according to a statement - at SLANG Worldwide, a cannabis company, and DNA Genetics. Canopy Growth inked partnerships with these companies under Linton's tenure.
Business Insider caught up with Linton on Tuesday afternoon on the sidelines of the Cannabis Private Investment Summit in Manhattan. We discussed how he chose the companies he wanted to work with and talked about the burgeoning opportunity in psychedelics, and he shared some insight into the issues facing the Canadian cannabis sector including the highly public meltdown of cannabis grower CannTrust.
'I'm cheering for the entrepreneur'
Linton said he was initially reluctant to get back into cannabis, and he spent some time after he was fired in July thinking about how he could potentially get involved with companies working on climate change issues, instead.
"I thought about something totally different to do," says Linton. "If I never do anything in cannabis again, people will say 'Man, that guy was a genius. He was there, it went boom.'"
But in the first few weeks after his ouster, he said he was fielding a lot of calls and emails from cannabis companies eager to bring him on board.
"I said 'no thanks,' and they thought I was negotiating," says Linton. "I was like, I'm f------ busy. I'm not negotiating."
Then, says Linton, they came back and doubled their offers. He says he selected the companies because he wanted to have a comprehensive view of what's going on in cannabis, both geographically and category-wise.
Linton spent time with the leaders of a few different companies, having them come and visit with him and his family in his hometown of Ottawa. He went for long, "four-to-five hour" drives with the entrepreneurs, so they could talk and see if they aligned.
"I'm not really cheering for money, I'm cheering for the entrepreneur," says Linton. "So I don't want to cheer for an idiot."
Psychedelics, dispensaries, and CBD pet food
Linton said he picked companies to fit a "short, medium, and long-term" growth cycle. Gage, the dispensary chain, opened its first store on Saturday, and Linton said it's set to grow rapidly in the near future.
While it's still early days in the psychedelic field, Linton says that's a long-term opportunity because Mind Medicine is focused on drug trials and FDA approval, which can take years.
"I think the intellectual property is going to be around dosage control systems," for psychedelics like psilocybin-containing mushrooms, says Linton. One of the key areas that the company, Mind Medicine, is working on is a plant-derived product that can help wean people off of opioids, he said.
Linton is also nearing a deal to work with a US cannabis company or multi-state operator. While speaking to Business Insider, he was wearing a shirt with the logo of that company covered by a blank piece of paper attached with clothespins, as he said the deal hadn't closed yet.
CannTrust let the Canadian cannabis sector 'take punch after punch'
Now that Linton is not running a publicly-traded cannabis company, he had some harsh words for his former competitor CannTrust, the Canadian cannabis company that has been at the center of a series of corporate scandals over growing illegal marijuana in unlicensed facilities.
In his view, Linton says people at CannTrust wanted to "get rich quick."
CannTrust let the Canadian cannabis sector "take punch after punch because of their bad behavior," says Linton. He's not wrong: A recent poll conducted in Canada by the market research firm Ipsos found that cannabis companies are suffering from extremely low favorability ratings, just ahead of mortgage lenders and tobacco companies and well behind oil-and-gas, carbonated soft drinks, and the alcohol industries.
"It's one of those cases, where on every level, there failed to be good governance and good execution after an issue," says Linton.
As the CEO of a company, if you "learn something you didn't want to know" - like illegal cannabis in your facility - "then you have to be strong enough to say, 'I now know something I don't like and we're going to change it and identify it to the authorities and move on in a regulated way,'" says Linton.
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