Mitchell Osak, Publisher & Writer at Cannabis Management Review- Interview Series
“There is a lot written about the cannabis industry but little of that is in my opinion balanced, unique and sophisticated. CMR fills that gap with regular content on topical industry issues, global market trends, and relevant best practices from outside cannabis. I want CMR to be the Harvard Business Review for the cannabis sector.”
Misinformation is pervasive in the cannabis industry. While this is expected of any “teething” industry, information that is being put out there has remained sentimental, biased, and misleading, even as the industry continues to mature. Take for example the cliche, “cannabis is a multi billion dollar industry” that has had many authors penning down myths of untapped opportunities in industrial and medical cannabis. The side of the story where the industry is over taxed, over regulated, and competing against a strong illicit market is often minimized or even ignored. Even where the truth is told, the amount of balance and nuance often leaves much to be desired.
My Cannabis had a conversation with Mitchell Osak, publisher and writer of the Cannabis Management Review (CMR), a weekly newspaper published on Substack.
In this brief interview, Mitchell narrates his journey into the cannabis industry that began in 2016 and how it has taken new and interesting directions over time. In 7 short years, Mitchell has served approximately 180 cannabis clients on 275 projects around the world. The rampant misinformation and bias in the cannabis industry is one thing that Mitchell hopes to rectify, through CMR.
As a brief intro, how did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?
My career and personal background inadvertently pointed me towards a career in cannabis. I grew up in the cannabis community in the 1980s. I saw firsthand the recreational and medical benefits of cannabis, including how useful yet benign the plant was when consumed responsibly.
Professionally, I did tours of duty in some very relevant industries for cannabis including stints at P&G (helpful for brand building, consumer insights and corporate cultural excellence), pharmaceuticals (learnings into drug development, regulations and clinical usage), technology (familiarity with new industries, start ups and data analytics) and blue chip accounting firms (learning about agriculture-based accounting standards, capital markets and compliance).
All of these experiences gave me the tools, confidence and mindset to deal with the complexity, dynamism and stigma of the emerging cannabis industry.
You have been actively engaged in the cannabis industry for several years and I know it can be hard to condense the significant experiences that have now become integral to your role. But how did your career evolve from a newbie in the industry to becoming that of a trusted global advisor to cannabis firms?
I delivered my first cannabis project in 2016, about 18 months prior to the legalization of adult use cannabis in Canada. It was a market research and strategy development study for an industry association made up of all the Licensed Producers in Canada at that time. I loved the work and was excited to be at the forefront of a burgeoning industry that could help so many people – patients, recreational consumers, law enforcement and local economies.
Building off this initial study, I went on to support other LPs, retailers, governments and CPG/financial institutions who wanted to achieve the following goals:
- Capture growth opportunities such as driving revenues
- Optimize their operations and business model i.e. save money
- Secure new cultivation, production & selling licenses
- Design the best regulatory framework that balances the needs of all stakeholder
- Raise equity & debt capital to build and finance cannabis companies
Now that cannabis has globalized, my consulting work has taken me to new start up businesses and government clients in Africa, the EU, Thailand and Colombia.
As of today, I have served approximately 180 cannabis clients on 275 projects around the world. My work focuses on corporate strategy, operations, organizational effectiveness and capital markets advisory services.
In addition to consulting, I sit on a couple of Boards and write and publicly speak widely on most cannabis related topics.
Briefly introduce your platform mitchellosak.substack.com and the inspiration behind it.
I publish a free, weekly and subscription-based cannabis industry journal, the Cannabis Management Review, at mitchellosak.substack.com. There is a lot written about the cannabis industry but little of that is in my opinion balanced, unique and sophisticated. CMR fills that gap with regular content on topical industry issues, global market trends, and relevant best practices from outside cannabis (I leverage my extensive work experience here). I want CMR to be the Harvard Business Review for the cannabis sector. I began publishing in December 2022. The market response has been tremendous. I have hundreds of subscribers, ranging from the leaders of MSOs/LPs and bankers to retailers and global policymakers.
I added Substack as a publishing platform to position my unique and high quality cannabis content in the same company as other esteemed substack writers. I also wanted to publish longer, more in depth articles (LinkedIn and Twitter have word length limitations while Facebook and Instagram are not canna-friendly). Finally, I wanted to expand my audience to cannabis, financial and government professionals who are not regularly active on LinkedIn and Twitter.
In one of your recent posts on Cannabis Management Review, you have highlighted the need for cannabis businesses to adopt a ‘fail fast and cheap’ approach to R&D and product innovation. Can you explain to us what this means?
I borrowed this notion from the tech sector, who use this approach to prudently develop new products and services. Currently, the cannabis industry is challenged to generate positive cash flow and profit not to mention raising capital. The hyper competitiveness of the market and fickleness of consumer tastes requires constant new product innovation as well as investments in cost saving automation, employee training and operational improvements. So, the business need is the greatest at a time when available capital is tough to get. “Failing fast and cheap” is a solution to this conundrum. It is a practical way to perform low cost, rapid, cycle time R&D and innovation while limiting downside business risk. This approach has been proven to improve the odds of new product success while reducing the cost and time to innovate.
What’s next for Mitchell Osak?
Doing more of what I love. Serving my cannabis clients, staying abreast of and prognosticating on this exciting industry at the Cannabis Management Review and playing my part in building a professional and rapidly growing industry that meets the needs of patients/consumers, governments, economies and communities.
It was a great pleasure to have this conversation with Mitchell Osak, Publisher & Writer at Cannabis Management Review. Readers who wish to keep up with Mitchell are welcome to make a free subscription to the Cannabis Management Review.