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Ep. 417: Ben Kovler, GTI

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep. 417: Ben Kovler, GTI

Ep. 417: Ben Kovler, GTI

Ben Kovler gives a rundown about the reasons behind his involvement in cannabis, emphasizing the same core goals now that he had five years ago. He focuses on distributing brands of scale as a winning strategy, thinking of cannabis as a consumer packaged good in need of a consistent and authentic branded experience. Taking advantage of capital markets on both manufacturing and retail sides provides great opportunities during what is becoming the end of a sort of Prohibition 2.0.

Transcript:

Seth Adler: Ben Kovler joins us. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com, that's two Ns and the word economy, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. First word from MedMen and then Ben Kovler, MedMen continues to expand its footprint on the cannabis landscape, opening new stores in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the iconic Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. They've also opened a 45,000 foot, high tech cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility in Nevada. The company has reached a one billion dollar valuation making it the country's first cannabis unicorn and it's just the beginning. Learn how MedMen is building the future of cannabis today at medmen.com.
Ben Kovler, thank you for having me in, very much appreciate it.

Ben Kovler: Sure.

Seth Adler: We're in the Notorious B.I.G Boardroom.

Ben Kovler: Yes.

Seth Adler: I feel like that should be pointed out.

Ben Kovler: Okay.

Seth Adler: Is this your, you know, what?

Ben Kovler: The team-

Seth Adler: The gift to the world?

Ben Kovler: No, no, no. The team does all the naming of the rooms and taking ownership of the place. Everybody likes to enjoy where they work.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Ben Kovler: Cause there's It Was All a Dream-

Seth Adler: Painting here, there's coasters that are themed as such!

Ben Kovler: All thematic. We can take you to other rooms for other themes later.

Seth Adler: Well let's talk about why and how you are in cannabis, Green Thumb Industries, GTI. You guys are doing okay, huh?

Ben Kovler: Thank you. Yeah. Every day is a new day.

Seth Adler: Exactly. I feel like I notice, well now they're in this state, now they're in this state. Give us a sense of, you know, what today is. So, Podcast land knows no time but I would imagine the outlook remains the same, which is get to as many what? Limited License states as possible. Right?

Ben Kovler: Yeah, I mean the core of our thesis remains the same from 2014 to here in early 2019, where we believe distributing brands of scale is how to win. We think this is a consumer packaged good offering a consistent experience to consumers that can be branded, and at the end of the day there's gonna be pricing power, pricing premium, and consistent, authentic brands. How that industry unrolls and where we are and what happens is gonna be interesting along the way and what we've been able to do is position ourselves in the market to take advantage of what's going on now in the U.S., in the capital markets, in various states, on the wholesale manufacturing side, as well as the retail side.

Seth Adler: So you see retail as just any other brand? Is that why you're in retail at all cause you don't have to be? Or do you?

Ben Kovler: So you don't have to be. We think it's quite an opportunity in what we sorta said is prohibition 2.0 to own both the booze and the packaged good, as well as the bar, and the place of consumption, the place where they can purchase.

Seth Adler: A unique opportunity.

Ben Kovler: So, we've really built two businesses within one business. We're producing this branded CPG products at various manufacturing facilities around the country and we're also running a growth retail chain where currently there's fifteen stores, after the acquisition there will be eighteen stores with plenty in the pipeline where those unit economics are very attractive, and core to our business model is while we are vertically integrated, it's sort of a non connected vertical integration, meaning all the products we make, we're selling to all the stores. So, in Illinois, you can find Rhythm and Dog Walker in every store in Illinois. Same in Pennsylvania, same in Maryland, and at our stores at Rise we're buying from others. So, it's not a pure, if in the analogy, it's not a Budweiser bar. It's a consumer experience and Rise is known for the menu and known for the curated product from all the folks.

Seth Adler: Ben Kovler joins us. Welcome to Cannabis Economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on canneconomy.com, that's two Ns and the word economy, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. First word from MedMen and then Ben Kovler, MedMen continues to expand its footprint on the cannabis landscape, opening new stores in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the iconic Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. They've also opened a 45,000 foot, high tech cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility in Nevada. The company has reached a one billion dollar valuation making it the country's first cannabis unicorn and it's just the beginning. Learn how MedMen is building the future of cannabis today at medmen.com.
Ben Kovler, thank you for having me in, very much appreciate it.

Ben Kovler: Sure.

Seth Adler: We're in the Notorious B.I.G Boardroom.

Ben Kovler: Yes.

Seth Adler: I feel like that should be pointed out.

Ben Kovler: Okay.

Seth Adler: Is this your, you know, what?

Ben Kovler: The team-

Seth Adler: The gift to the world?

Ben Kovler: No, no, no. The team does all the naming of the rooms and taking ownership of the place. Everybody likes to enjoy where they work.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Ben Kovler: Cause there's It Was All a Dream-

Seth Adler: Painting here, there's coasters that are themed as such!

Ben Kovler: All thematic. We can take you to other rooms for other themes later.

Seth Adler: Well let's talk about why and how you are in cannabis, Green Thumb Industries, GTI. You guys are doing okay, huh?

Ben Kovler: Thank you. Yeah. Every day is a new day.

Seth Adler: Exactly. I feel like I notice, well now they're in this state, now they're in this state. Give us a sense of, you know, what today is. So, Podcast land knows no time but I would imagine the outlook remains the same, which is get to as many what? Limited License states as possible. Right?

Ben Kovler: Yeah, I mean the core of our thesis remains the same from 2014 to here in early 2019, where we believe distributing brands of scale is how to win. We think this is a consumer packaged good offering a consistent experience to consumers that can be branded, and at the end of the day there's gonna be pricing power, pricing premium, and consistent, authentic brands. How that industry unrolls and where we are and what happens is gonna be interesting along the way and what we've been able to do is position ourselves in the market to take advantage of what's going on now in the U.S., in the capital markets, in various states, on the wholesale manufacturing side, as well as the retail side.

Seth Adler: So you see retail as just any other brand? Is that why you're in retail at all cause you don't have to be? Or do you?

Ben Kovler: So you don't have to be. We think it's quite an opportunity in what we sorta said is prohibition 2.0 to own both the booze and the packaged good, as well as the bar, and the place of consumption, the place where they can purchase.

Seth Adler: A unique opportunity.

Ben Kovler: So, we've really built two businesses within one business. We're producing this branded CPG products at various manufacturing facilities around the country and we're also running a growth retail chain where currently there's fifteen stores, after the acquisition there will be eighteen stores with plenty in the pipeline where those unit economics are very attractive, and core to our business model is while we are vertically integrated, it's sort of a non connected vertical integration, meaning all the products we make, we're selling to all the stores. So, in Illinois, you can find Rhythm and Dog Walker in every store in Illinois. Same in Pennsylvania, same in Maryland, and at our stores at Rise we're buying from others. So, it's not a pure, if in the analogy, it's not a Budweiser bar. It's a consumer experience and Rise is known for the menu and known for the curated product from all the folks.

Seth Adler: I mean but why would you do it any other way, right? Why would limit your assortment for your customer and have them [inaudible 00:03:37] street, right?

Ben Kovler: It might seem obvious but there's several folks doing different business models.

Seth Adler: Yeah, fair enough.

Ben Kovler: For example, Starbucks sells only Starbucks coffee, and so there's one model that potentially do that.

Seth Adler: That's a good analogy for the opposite of what I assumed. So, you know, shouldn't assume for obvious reasons. As far as prohibition 2.0, I know that you've been through this before but I would please like to have this conversation with you again. There is a family legacy in the liquor industry, I'm just going to say that and how would you reply?

Ben Kovler: Sure. My story ended so long before me, and I take no real credit for it, but my great-grandfather partnered with the family in Kentucky to start Jim Beam out of prohibition the first time, and our family owned and operated that brand and that business for forty years roughly, and then in the late sixties, if you think through history and the capital markets, what happened is the tobacco companies started to feel like smoking cigarettes was bad for your health and they wanted to diversify, and so you saw Phillip Morris buy Miller Beer, and you saw a company called American Tobacco buy Jim Beam, and that was that cycle of the late sixties when that happened and I think in the parallels of history and when we say history doesn't repeat, it rhymes the way we think what'll happen, and this cycle is you'll see other businesses like alcohol businesses, or beverage businesses, or consumer businesses buy cannabis businesses.

Seth Adler: I've heard you say history doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes. It's something that I appreciate being that I like words. What does that mean to you though? Can you unpack that?

Ben Kovler: Sure. So brands and alcohol is how to win when they're branded alcohol in a bottle, we think branded cannabis products. There's no longer gonna be weed in a baggy which rhymes with moonshine. Right? So, that's essentially-

Seth Adler: I gotcha.

Ben Kovler: What we see there.

Seth Adler: I gotcha.

Ben Kovler: The rhyme of consolidation and of industry diversification whereas tobacco companies bought alcohol companies in the late 60s, we think alcohol companies and other kinds of businesses buy cannabis companies in the 2020s.

Seth Adler: Now, just for the next part, the next question that I have: your family no longer has a stake in Jim Bean, is that correct?

Ben Kovler: Correct.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Ben Kovler: In the late 60s it was bought by a company called American Tobacco which became Fortune Brands Chicago Company which then spun it off as Beam, which is now owned by Suntory, a Japanese private company.

Seth Adler: Absolutely. Suntory times. Makes me think of Bill Murray for obvious reasons. So, knowing that you don't have a stake, and understanding that that is where you see the industry going again, what are you doing now to make sure that either your brand thrives or in other words are you setting yourself up for acquisition purposely, or not necessarily?

Ben Kovler: No, definitely not. We're building a business for our shareholders, for the medium and longterm. We're building and operating as an owner operator here but we're studying history and we're aware of who the players are and we're studying capital markets, that's why you saw us position ourselves early to go public and that's why we've been able to take advantage of that, cause if you're not studying what's happening, I think you're missing a lot of what's going on. So, what we're doing is building a business by investing in the infrastructure in order to execute the plan. We have an unbelievable advantage right now where all these other companies cannot invest in U.S. cannabis. We have positioned a portfolio of coveted assets around the country with real proprietary distribution to license stores, totally legally, in order to manufacture and distribute these brands. So that's really what we're doing. We're investing that infrastructure to execute on it, we're investing in the brands, and we're investing in the consumer retail experience, and at the same time building a massive company around that to take advantage of it.

Seth Adler: That's the U.S. and when you say these other companies can't invest in the U.S., you mean companies that are not based in the U.S.?

Ben Kovler: Correct.

Seth Adler: And so I wonder what your thoughts are as we make our way further into 2019, how do you see global cannabis? What do you see as signals as opposed to noise?

Ben Kovler: Yeah, I think you can say for sure, all the way through 2018, no U.S. listed company would invest in U.S. cannabis, and you're starting to see the beginnings, it's only the beginning of 2019, where it's getting more murky, and so I think we're at the place where it's gonna become a worldwide cannabis market, and you need to be thinking about that. At the same time of how we position GTI, we're focused on the U.S. This is a market we understand, we have an edge in the markets in which we play, and that's where we wanna focus. So, as other people can play in lots of other playgrounds, we really have to focus and eighty twenty our efforts, our capital, our time into what really is our edge.

Seth Adler: Okay. Your edge has a moat around it, I think I've heard you say that, and that continues some might say without the STATES Act, with the STATES Act it becomes a little bit more murky to borrow your phrase. Is that fair?

Ben Kovler: Yeah, so the moat is obviously warm buffet, investment idle of mine that we study here at the business and think that those principles are true, and even with the STATES Act, we think the moat around STATES rights, and the limited licenses within STATES remains intact. So that's the STATE rules and then even if you zoom in a little closer to the municipalities and the location of retail stores, we think there's moats protecting those licenses and we think first mover advantage is very important.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Ben Kovler: So we are very bullish on the outlook.

Seth Adler: Cause the STATES Act just removes the fact that cannabis is on the Controlled Substances Act. If your state has legalized it, and so it basically remains the same everywhere, it's almost like nothing happening, just one line striking out the-

Ben Kovler: Yeah. The big thing for us, from my seat, is clarity around banking and financing.

Seth Adler: Well, yeah.

Ben Kovler: So that opens up the borders of states and countries for financing, for listing in different markets, and for access to capital. This whole thing has been a massive industry where we known to man, and limited access to capital, so this should clarify those rules without changing the actual operating dynamics of the businesses.

Seth Adler: Does it clarify those rules because we currently have FinCEN guidance still on the books, Cole Memo's not, but FinCEN guidance that was released the same day as that third Cole Memo, it does say, "Hey big banks, feel free to bang cannabis," and not overtly, not outwardly have we seen such a thing occur.

Ben Kovler: Yeah, so good question. The reality is the compliance officers, the bank officers are still reluctant. You're seeing that in the bid, you're seeing that in the research, you're seeing that in U.S. banking relationships that are precluded, regardless of what it says. So, the momentum is set up for this providing that clarity. I obviously haven't reviewed it. I don't even know what's written or what's not, but that's the thinking in the industry at the moment, is that this is gonna provide clarity there to open up U.S. banking relationships.

Seth Adler: Well what I'm saying is, is that the industry getting out ahead of itself because back in November, I was among thousands of cannabis industry veterans and folks that know what they're talking about who were all very confident about the STATES Act passing. When I go to D.C. and I talk to sitting congress people and folks that are actually pulling the levers, not as confident as the folks in business.

Ben Kovler: So, you're totally right. I wouldn't trust the industry on when it's gonna pass but about what's involved in it.

Seth Adler: Fair enough.

Ben Kovler: So drawing that line, right.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Ben Kovler: So, the Farm Bill, people sort of understood what that's gonna be. I think if this happens when it does, the crystal ball who knows, and which election and when and who, but what it's goal is, I think there's alignment.

Seth Adler: Okay. You saw industry competition from Canada come in to The States based on the Farm Bill, right? There is now a new hemp player from Canada and we'll just say it that way. What did that make you think when that investment occurred?

Ben Kovler: You know, all according to what we though was going to happen, and what was telegraphed by the operators here, and so you know, all going, right? We see continued growth in the industry, we see continued enthusiasm around CBD and frankly for us, as there's continued excitement and acceptance, it continues to credentialize the space.

Seth Adler: So, that's a level headed response. Obviously you have a little bit more than just the few years that you've been here. You also have more experience than the only other thing that one can find if they don't look that long, which is he's an air to the whatever. Let's get into your history a little bit. How do you know, you know, how to stay reasoned, how to stay level in what is now a large industry, right? You're running a big company now. Let's get into your history.

Ben Kovler: Sure.

Seth Adler: You're from here, right? You're from Chicago.

Ben Kovler: From Chicago. Born and raised.

Seth Adler: Where'd you go?

Ben Kovler: I grew up in the city and I went to undergraduate Pomona College in L.A.

Seth Adler: So, that's just a regular school, you know? Right?

Ben Kovler: That's just a regular school.

Seth Adler: Yeah, University of Chicago, not regular. So, I wonder how you made that jump.

Ben Kovler: Yeah, well Pomona's an interesting school. I voted for Prop 215 when I was in college in the 90s, started following the space, I graduated private equity in San Francisco in the food and beverage category, and then I spent three years teaching math and a lot of what we're doing now is problem solving. I'm a big believer in problem solving. I love math, and I had a great experience doing that. I wrote a book of puzzles and brain teasers called Fundrum My Conundrum, which we sell and distribute now and a lot of secrets are in how to look at problems, and how to look at situations, and so you ask about keeping a level head, and looking at what's going on. This thing is moving very, very fast-

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Ben Kovler: And what we're doing is staying very focused on what our core thesis is in order to execute that. Started doing various kinds of operational investments when I was living in San Francisco running small businesses, and moved back to Chicago, started looking at the equity and capital markets. I started a nonprofit with a partner of mine called Invest For Kids, which is a nonprofit charity hedge fund investment conference in Chicago. We've been going now ten years and raised a lot of money for children's charities in Chicago, that's a really exciting opportunity.

Seth Adler: I wanna to get to that, I wanna talk about that, but first I wanna kinda dive into what you just shared, which is-

Ben Kovler: Anything you want.

Seth Adler: Your mind then is mathematical, so you know, yes you've got your investment thesis, yes you've studied, you know, you can see things, you can see the big picture of things, but you can also see the literal addition and subtraction of it all. Is that what you're depending on or do you see everything as an algorithm first or at least at some point in a decision?

Ben Kovler: Well it depends, I mean we spend a lot of time investing in our decision making process, spent time studying Ray Dalio on what he's put out there, which I think is an effective road map for us in principles, but at the end of the day the numbers on the business, yeah. That's comfortable for me, and that's what's kept us alive since we started in Illinois, is that had some hiccups and we've been able to allocate capital, if we talk about our core competency of keeping the boat afloat as we go. This is a tidal wave of demand and how to execute and keeping ourselves focused, so the numbers are the core backbone of what we're doing.

Seth Adler: I appreciate that you did not mix analogies there, thank you so much. With Warren Buff, we know that name, and we can kinda find out as much as we want. Ray Dalio is definitely a different name, investment circles certainly know who that is. Why is that a name that you go to as far as how he sees things and how does he see things for those that maybe don't know?

Ben Kovler: Oh. Great. Thanks. Yeah, so Ray Dalio runs a hedge fund called Bridgewater, which is one of the most successful hedge funds in the macro strategy and recently he wrote a book called Principles. I got lucky and saw it and bought it, and read it and then our entire executive team read it, and he's basically peeling back the curtain of what has been his secrets of success in how to run a business, and he focuses on things like radical transparency and meritocracy. I recommend anybody follow him on LinkedIn or Facebook, and it's very simple core principles for how to make decisions, and how to run things as a business, that we've used, and so that's what I've said, we've focused on our decision making in order to follow things, like best ideas wins, and how to be sure that we put that in process.

Seth Adler: Do you also, I find this interesting, that you clearly turn to different minds in different spaces for advice, not maybe direct but certainly advice. Are there other folks, either in theory or in practice that you turn to for inspiration?

Ben Kovler: You want all the secrets.

Seth Adler: Sure. Sure I do. Yes. This is why I'm here Ben.

Ben Kovler: You know, nobody else particularly comes to mind between from the investment styles that we've done here, and sorta who we continue to study, but I try to be a student of history and try to learn a lot on how to do this, and like I said, we think it rhymes, and so there's lot of lessons to be learned about who the people we have on the board, where we look for experience, who has experience in various categories where we're doing it or over time.

Seth Adler: What about your grandfather? Did you ever have a chance to talk to him as more than a child?

Ben Kovler: Sure. Yeah, both grandfathers really, so Everett on my dad's side ran Beam. Harry Bloom was his father-in-law that started the business. On my mom's side, Ray who I actually wrote the puzzle book with, who was an architect, learning and studying from them has certainly been a secret.

Seth Adler: Is there a difference in thought or a similarity? Basically familial guidance, what would that be?

Ben Kovler: Well, I mean really my dad, who I worked with for many days in and days out, on the investment thesis and a lot of that sort of thing. I don't know if there is one particular core family axiom or things like that, but some of the basics of keep it simple, if you can't explain it quickly, and make a quick decision and understand it, there's probably a problem.

Seth Adler: Got it. Do you keep saying focus on the solution? Focus on the problem solving? You've said it three times, I believe.

Ben Kovler: Either decision making or problem solving, you know asking the right questions and figuring out how to execute what we're doing, frankly this is whether it's GTI or how we make decisions as people, and how you feel comfortable with the decisions you've made over time is sort of what people, I think, strive for and want to feel good about. That's what we're trying to do with the business.

Seth Adler: There's an open endedness to the thinking, I feel like that. I'm feeling, meaning wherever it goes, we will go, as opposed to like it feels like a Ray Dalio is out there and he kinda pulls everything with him. Maybe that's not actually how he does it.

Ben Kovler: Well, I mean one of our core thesis in the business and the GTI has been maintain optionality and so we've looked for ways to keep optionality for shareholder value, and whether it's through real estate, or through the retail, or through the wholesale, of continuing those levers of maintaining optionality and not tipping anything over. So, that is some of the open endedness. Obviously the counter balance of that, is that we need to bring in is extreme focus. Focus drives excellence, and that's one of the core things that we try to work on.

Seth Adler: Interesting. I like how that dove tails. Let's talk about the kids. Why do you care about the kids, Ben?

Ben Kovler: The kids well, Samantha, and Alex, and Andrew, are my daughters and I love them.

Seth Adler: Oh, I don't mean your kids, but fair enough.

Ben Kovler: That's what popped in my mind.

Seth Adler: Here's to them, exactly.

Ben Kovler: No, look. At the core, I believe opportunity is the way out and if we can maintain equality of opportunity across our communities, we can offer people an equal chance, so through education, we've really hurt a lot of the opportunity. Particularly in Chicago and some of the inner cities were really not affording people with that opportunity, so I spent three years in the classroom teaching, you know, gotta offer people excitement about ideas, and ways to think about what their doing, and then here in Chicago, got lucky with my partner Ron Lavin, we started Invest For Kids, We knew the people wanted to hear great investment ideas, and I thought, to your point of learning from people with experience, let's get ten people, great investment ideas, fifteen minutes each, you must give an idea. We charge people to come. You get the investment community in Chicago, they pay for tickets to come to hear these ideas, and then a hundred percent of the money we raise, as Ron and I cover the overhear, we invest in children's charities in Chicago, and track those results, and try to really inflect the good for what's going on in the city here.

Seth Adler: That's wonderful and thanks for doing it, just as a human. It occurs to me that somebody that would do such a thing, wouldn't use the word oligarchic, which I think I've also heard you use. Can you dove tail those two principles? How that makes sense in your mind?

Ben Kovler: So, oligarch, you mean oligopoly maybe?

Seth Adler: Sure.

Ben Kovler: So oligarchs are usually from like the old world, the Communist era. That's not my world. I don't know anything about the oligarchs. What I do know about are oligopolies-

Seth Adler: Fair enough.

Ben Kovler: Which are sort of multiple players in controlled environments, which is really a lot of the markets we play in. So, the states are unrolling new licenses, new programs, and they want to rely on trusted industry operators because people have seen what's happen in Oregon, or Colorado, or California, and you can evolve, so we think about that as cannabis 1.0. We think about cannabis 2.0 in these state regulated oligopolies which actually function very well in markets.

Seth Adler: And just to fill in on Colorado, Oregon, California, you're talking about states that have many, many, many licenses and for different reasons things haven't been perfect in Oregon and California, and I guess the worst thing in Colorado would be the price. Right?

Ben Kovler: Yeah, I think as we talk to some folks, and I'm not positive on it, but how much product is tested, how clean are those tests, and how much product is not going through those systems, and I think just your point to connect it to invest for kids and great investment ideas, and a lot of what I built in the business, and as we think about it is building a long term sustainable business based on the core principles based on all these investment luminaries that I got to learn from. So, I got really lucky and then we can put these ideas in place in the business, so learning that being in a controlled supply, high demand market, well it seems real obvious, but learning that over time makes sense, and seeing those other industries, aside from prohibition 80, 90 years ago, think about wireless, think about TelCom, think about cable, cell towers, as those industries, which are very similar to what's happening here, which are regulated, limited supply, huge demand, and how they unroll, and where to be investing on the cusp of that change.

Seth Adler: Yeah, mob bell turned into baby bells, which turned into Verizon, the goal being be Verizon and not one of the baby bells that didn't quite make it I guess. That's a fascinating analogy, I appreciate all of the analogies you've shared. I will ask you the three final questions, I'll tell you what they are and ask you them in order.

Ben Kovler: Okay.

Seth Adler: What's most surprised you in cannabis, what's most surprised you in life, and on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's gotta be on there is the last question. First things first.

Ben Kovler: Wow, I didn't know these questions were coming.

Seth Adler: What's most surprised you in cannabis?

Ben Kovler: What continues to surprise me is how fast things are changing.

Seth Adler: Okay, can you unpack that because that has been the same answer since 2015. When you see that and when you say that, what do you actually mean?

Ben Kovler: Well, look, we've drawn it out. We see what exponential growth curve looks like and I keep saying the rate of change should continue to increase but living it is amazing, so what's happened in a month's time is a year's time as this thing influx. The capital markets move fast. The animal spirits, right, I mean Ben Gram, and Adam Smith, I mean that is real because there's monstrous demand.

Seth Adler: Good old Adam Smith.

Ben Kovler: Yeah, you've got me going with all these old names.

Seth Adler: Absolutely. I yearn to learn, Ben. What's most surprised you in life?

Ben Kovler: What's most surprised me in life? Just you know, that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I've heard a lot of people say that but if you actually put your head down and grind on it, anything is possible.

Seth Adler: The percentage, and I'm not kidding when I ask this question, the percentage of hard work versus smart work, if you are just putting your head and grinding it out. What would you put that percentage at?

Ben Kovler: For me or to recommend?

Seth Adler: Either one, or both actually.

Ben Kovler: Well we'd all like it to be much more smart work but we're learning as we go. I hope over time, the smart work portion of my day increases and-

Seth Adler: I see. At the beginning then, at the onset, what would you suggest for the inspiring-

Ben Kovler: Hard work.

Seth Adler: Yeah. Work hard.

Ben Kovler: That's all you can do.

Seth Adler: Keep going.

Ben Kovler: Hope you're smart occasionally.

Seth Adler: And with just a touch of luck, I would imagine, helps as well.

Ben Kovler: A lot of luck. It's better to be lucky than good.

Seth Adler: There we go. On the soundtrack of your life, Ben. One track, one song, that's gotta be on there.

Ben Kovler: Wow. Soundtrack of my life ... I don't know, that's quite a good question.

Seth Adler: Well what were you listening to at Pomona?

Ben Kovler: What was I listening to at Pomona? Well, we were listening to a lot of hip hot, we were listening to a lot of Grateful Dead.

Seth Adler: Did you ever go to a Grateful Dead show by chance?

Ben Kovler: Sure. Yeah, I went to lots of Grateful Dead shows.

Seth Adler: Yeah? What would be your preferred Grateful Dead show? If there were any. Were they in the 90s?

Ben Kovler: They were in the 90s, yeah.

Seth Adler: Did you catch any in the 80s?

Ben Kovler: No, no.

Seth Adler: Yeah, me too. We're on the same, we saw it, kinda. I guess Traffic opening for the Grateful Dead would be my favorite, that tour.

Ben Kovler: Yes, I think I'd do that as well, and maybe The Wheel from the Grateful Dead.

Seth Adler: There we go. That's beautiful. Well done, well played. Ben Kovler.

Ben Kovler: Thank you.

Seth Adler: Thank you so much, look forward to checking in with you down the line.

Ben Kovler: Alright, thanks for coming.

Seth Adler: And there you have Ben Kovler. Very much appreciate his time, very much appreciate your time, stay tuned.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.