David Rabinovitz has been involved in the marijuana industry since 2010. He is the treasurer of MassCann/NORML, a trainer for the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission Social Equity program, his thoughts on the local industry appear in several local media outlets, and he is a regular speaker and panelist at cannabis industry events.
1) How did you become involved in the cannabis industry?
Settle in, this isn’t a short answer. In 2010 I was performing some pro bono consulting work and one of the individuals involves asked if they could share my name with someone in Arizona in the marijuana business. The individual swore it was all legit and legal. The Arizona contact was a doctor working on a cannabis deal with a guy in Los Angeles. It was strategy and finance work. I assisted him, he paid his bill, and I went on my way. Three months later he called and asked if he could share my name with someone in Los Angeles. Within a few months, I was handling regular work for the west coast client. When the LA group asked me to write a private placement memorandum so they could raise money, I realized I needed to understand the history of marijuana. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. The LA group would hire me to read the law and regulations in each state that legalized marijuana for medical purposes and develop their go-to-market strategy for that state. When Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in 2012, I knew I would have felt like a fool if I didn’t put a team together to chase a medical license. The application fee was a non-refundable $50,000. We were hearing rumors of backroom deals and pulled out three hours before we had to file. In January 2014, the winners were announced. Some of the higher scoring teams didn’t get licenses and the teams with politicians all did. Lots of litigation followed. We dodged a bullet. In 2018 I decided to take another stab at things and try to get a recreational retail marijuana license. Then I became a social equity advocate and a trainer for the Cannabis Control Commission social equity program. In August 2019 I was interviewed on Weed Talk Live with Jimmy Young and Curt Dalton. I talked about how landlords were controlling the licensing process. Curt called the next day and wanted to write an article about it. The article got some traction and we collaborated on a couple of other marijuana subjects. Eventually, some other publications began to print what I was writing and now I am a contributing columnist for DigBoston on marijuana topics. Google my name and marijuana to read what I’m thinking about.
2) Name a MA cannabis organization or non-profit you admire and tell us why?
Well, that’s a bit challenging because I am a member and now on the board of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition – known more colloquially as MassCann. Aside from MassCann, I would say C3RN. Dr. Marion McNabb, DrPH, MPH and Randal MacCaffrie are doing great things and making a lot of important headway on studies, establishing cannabis education programs with Holyoke Community College, and contributing to the voice of the industry. Beth Waterfall at Elevate Northeast creates great events and knows anyone who's anyone in the business.
3) What are the top 3 questions people ask you most for advice regarding the cannabis industry?
I believe I have developed a reputation for knowing my facts and doing research. Entrepreneurs will ask about business strategy, what I think about a particular market, how I might figure out an issue having to do with their business plan or projections, or host community agreement matters. I built a database of municipal information using U.S. Census data, data sets from various state agencies, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission data, Mass Municipal Association data, and a couple of other sources. I get a lot of requests having to do with that sort of data. I’m working with the great Alan Silverman of Richards Flowers to actually convert the database to a map. If we pull that off it will be pretty cool.
4) Tell us about your involvement in the CCC’s social equity/economic empowerment programs?
Get a refill, this is another long one. My friend owns some land in Ware, Massachusetts. In 2018 when I decided to pursue a retail license we started in Ware. Their economic development director at the time had a grand idea to turn Ware into a cannabis metropolis and bring a lot of revenue to the town. This guy is smart. He had been the economic development director for the Island of Puerto Rico and then had become the EDD of Tampa, Florida. He took a job in Ware while he pursued his doctorate. His plan was to get a lot of the small farmers growing small batches of weed, attract manufacturers to the town and create a little bit of marijuana tourism. One of our team members is an educator and has experience with business incubators. We pitched the incubator idea and then wrapped in social equity. We began to sponsor MassCann Economic Empowerment events and with the database I mentioned, found more social equity and economic empowerment folks reaching out for assistance. When the Cannabis Control Commission put out the RFQ for trainers, Beth suggested we apply. She is a professional educator and teaches entrepreneurship and I had the business and marijuana knowledge. We selected the business intensive subjects for the entrepreneurship track with the Commission and were selected. A number of students have commented that they appreciate that I have been chasing a license so I have the perspective of someone who is in the trenches facing the realities of the challenges. Some days we win and other days I want to cry. Agony and defeat transcend race, religion, and other things that separate us. That has helped inform how we approach the training.
5) What are your thoughts on the upcoming social consumption pilot program?
I am curious about how people monetize the opportunity. Social consumption lounges can’t sell weed which means they need a way to create good revenue streams. The only person sharp enough to pull that off is Kyle Moon, owner of the Summit Lounge in Worcester. Too many people think of marijuana as the Field of Dreams, as in Build it and They Will Come. By the way, I’m 60 years old so if my analogies don’t make sense, look ‘em up on YouTube. Just because you build it and people come, doesn’t mean they will keep coming when supply and demand come into balance. One of the sharpest social equity operators was thinking of opening a store and a lounge next door and decided against it. They couldn’t justify the lounge expense based on revenue. So unless you’re Kyle, let’s see how this opportunity gets monetized.
If you'd like to check out Rabanovitz's latest article inDigBoston, click here Could marijuana spell the death of the funeral industry?
To contact David Rabinovitz, email him at email@example.com.