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Scott Grossman, Head of Corporate Development at Turning Point Brands- Interview Series

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“Like many in the industry, I’m proud to be part of a relatively small group that is doing more than just focusing on dollars—the industry is fueling massive job creation, unwinding 50 years of systemic racism and ending the futile war on drugs, providing a real solution to our opioid crisis and other health issues, and is helping to raise much needed tax revenues for our government.”

-Scott Grossman

37 states and counting have legalized cannabis for medical use, but there is still lack of movement at the federal movement. This of course complicates matters for cannabis businesses that have to face the repercussions of cannabis being “legal yet illegal.”

  1. Marketing is a challenge due to the numerous restrictions on online marketing platforms.
  2. Federal prohibition also limits access to financial services meaning that most businesses in the space have to operate on a cash basis.

Legalizing cannabis at the federal level will eliminate some of these setbacks and bring greater stability to the industry. As Scott Grossman puts it, legalization has been a state-led initiative and eventually the federal government will be compelled to reconsider their hard stance. But meanwhile, canna-businesses have to keep swimming against the tide.

Scott Grossman is the head of Corporate Development at Turning Point Brands (TPB). We spoke to him to not only get a peek into the bedroom of TPB but to also get a bird’s eye view of what it takes to run a successful cannabis brand.

As an intro, how did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?

I’ve been an institutional investor and advisor focused on consumer companies in the public and private markets for over two decades. As the green wave started, many of the management teams and Boards I was involved with started to deeply analyze cannabinoids as way to fuel growth but also protect their valuable franchises. I saw this as a generational opportunity to leverage my background and experience to move the needle within the cannabinoid industry.

What's the inspiration behind TPB?

Turning Point Brands (TPB) is a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded consumer products in the active ingredients space led by our iconic core brands Zig-Zag® and Stoker’s®, and its emerging brands and investments made within our NewGen segment. TPB established itself as one of the first public companies to deploy capital in several non-plant touching cannabinoid companies to help fuel future growth.

Tell us more about your role at TPB.

As the head of Corporate Development at TPB, I’m responsible for leading strategic initiatives and M&A. My main priorities included sourcing, evaluating, executing and monitoring our investments and large-scale commercial partnerships.

The Zig-Zag brand is one of the most recognized brands in the cannabis industry. What's one thing that you can ascribe your success as a company to?

The Zig-Zag brand is an iconic 150-year-old brand that clearly resonates with today’s cannabis consumer. We’ve been able to leverage our authentic voice to not only deliver a trusted, high-quality product, but also introduce innovative new products and marketing campaigns to push our company and the industry forward in the right way.

The cannabis industry still struggles with regulation, especially at the federal level. What can be done about this?

I understand the frustration with the lack of movement at the federal level. However, the fact is that we’ve come a very long way in a relatively short period of time. I firmly believe this will continue to be a state-led issue to eventually force the federal government’s hand. In the meantime, we as citizens can continue to make our voices heard by voting and supporting candidates that are pushing the right agenda. For me personally, that also includes supporting social initiatives such as the release of thousands of prisoners serving time for cannabis-related crimes that are fully legal today. We need to hold our elected officials accountable for their promises made on the campaign trail.

The many years of cannabis prohibition stalled cannabinoid research. With more states and countries moving to legalize cannabis, is the industry making significant strides in this direction?

Although we’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time, we’ve yet to make meaningful strides here in the U.S. mainly because cannabis research takes significant time and capital to prove out. However, I remain highly optimistic now that research restrictions are falling away. Experts in our network highlight several studies where the activation of endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors may combat several inflammatory-related diseases, treat psychological disorders, and combat several common issues like sleep deprivation. GW Pharmaceuticals (now owned by Jazz Pharmaceuticals) is potentially a harbinger of the future—the company leveraged over two decades of cannabinoid research legally performed in the UK to launch its Epidiolex product used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Today, Epidiolex has the potential to be a new standard of care for these tragic diseases while achieving blockbuster status. My sincere hope is that this case study will wake up the scientific community to further develop novel therapies.

You are very much involved in the tobacco industry. How do the two industries compare and are you planning to exit tobacco for cannabis at any point in the near future?

There are many parallels that we can draw between the two industries. For one, cannabis, much like tobacco, operates in a heavily regulated environment. TPB is uniquely positioned to apply the lessons learned in the tobacco industry to further differentiate us from many others to create a fair and safe marketplace. Second, like tobacco, we firmly believe that there will be winning brands over time that gain nationwide acceptance. While it’s somewhat of a “land grab” due to individual state markets and regulations, today there are in fact several impressive brands that have built strong customer awareness and share of wallet across the country. With respect to TPB’s future plans, we view cannabis simply as an extension of our overall strategy to be a leading player in active ingredients by leveraging our existing franchises like Zig-Zag to participate in the future growth of the industry.

What's next for Scott Grossman?

Like many in the industry, I’m proud to be part of a relatively small group that is doing more than just focusing on dollars—the industry is fueling massive job creation, unwinding 50 years of systemic racism and ending the futile war on drugs, providing a real solution to our opioid crisis and other health issues, and is helping to raise much needed tax revenues for our government. Although my path may ultimately take different directions, my destination is crystal clear: I hope to be considered one of the many strong voices in the industry who is laser-focused on moving this industry forward and changing our culture at large.

It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Scott from Turning Point Brands. Readers who wish to learn more about TPB should check out their website.

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.