Emily Paxhia’s dad was a hippie. You can see him in the audience in the Woodstock documentary, as Jimi Hendrix plays the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Emily’s mom and dad preferred cannabis over alcohol, but for the sake of the children, they kept it to themselves.
“My dad grew his own because he liked to know where it came from,” she shared. “I never witnessed him smoking, though – he was worried about the repercussions and gave it up for the kids. I was a D.A.R.E. kid, so that made sense, as I was taught to believe it was harmful and ultimately a gateway drug.”
When both her mother and father presented with cancer, she and family witnessed firsthand the toll taken after being prescribed opioids and myriad pharmaceuticals. When a hospice nurse brought up the subject of cannabis, everything changed.
According to Hospice Nurse, Marcie Cooper of Denver, Colorado, fifty percent of all in care are already using cannabis, with successful outcomes.
“When they have a nurse that looks at them and says, yes, this is OK, it changes everything—they have respect for my knowledge—and their families listen, too,” she said. “That’s huge, as families are divided on cannabis use, and they need to hear it from a medical professional in order for it to be real.”
Emily Paxhia’s D.A.R.E. education became moot quickly, as the nurse educated the family on the benefits of cannabis in care; specifically, patients who add cannabis are said to need less pain pills, are more alert, and have a better overall end of life experience.
“Hospice nurses are great, because they don’t have an agenda – their entire goal is to make the patient comfortable,” Paxhia said. “That changed everything, and we gained a newfound knowledge of help from the plant.”
The D.A.R.E., or, Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, began in 1983 under Pres. Ronald Regan. The Justice Department has long since found the program to be ineffective, and thought to make the drug abuse problem worse by subjecting children to the information at all.
As each state legalizes, cannabis has been removed from the Federal program that encourages police officers to participate, by subsidizing paychecks via Federal funds from the equally failed War on Drugs.
Interesting to note, the war is run by each administration’s Director (or “Drug Czar”) appointed by the President, for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Meaning, every sitting president has had the opportunity to end it.
Emily Paxhia’s family lineage in business on the east coast is in bricks and mortar, but she didn’t follow the family footsteps into the real-estate market. Rather, she majored in Psychology, earning a degree at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. And, though she never used the degree itself, it’s come in handy for a career in finance.
“Psychology and emotion play into investing, start-ups, and managing business,” she surmised. “It’s actually been an invaluable tool in this space.”
In 2011 Paxhia moved to San Francisco and noted the cannabis industry evolving.
“There were beautiful retailers opening up – like the Apothecarium and SPARC in San Francisco, who is in five locations today,” she said. “I called my brother, Morgan, up and told him this industry is our industry for our generation – it’s defining our generation, and we discussed how we could participate.”
By 2013 the two launched Poseidon Asset Management, but found that raising funds in the mainstream market for investing in the cannabis space was another story altogether.
“True story, we were at a tech investor forum, looking for investors for a data analytics company in the cannabis industry, when a representative from a large angel investor in Silicon Valley asked the question, ‘What are you going to do, smoke your data?’ You can’t make this up – stoner jokes in the middle of an investor inquiry. We were literally laughed out of the room.”
While stoner jokes in a business setting may seem inappropriate, they are a common occurrence when cannabis industry professionals face the mainstream market. The negative stigma cultivated for decades is stronger than the truth of the industry’s bright future in commerce, allowing for a level of disrespect not found in any other sector.
“We persisted,” she continued. “When those things happened it gave me the energy to prove them wrong. This year I’m hearing that, without question, the cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in the world. It’s actually growing a little too fast, as we can attest to the failed tax structure in California as a good example.”
The cannabis industry is the most taxed, with the most regulations, of any business model in the world, placing an unprecedented strain on any start-ups; especially those who must cross-over and come into compliance in the legitimate market from the once covert space.
Emily Paxhia and her brother went forward with the motto, “Slow and steady wins the race,” proving to be a solid mantra, as today they are one of the longest running and highest performing (no pun intended) funds in the cannabis industry.
“We started investments with less than one million dollars,” she said. “Today we have more than 150 million in investments. Our smallest projects started at $50,000 to $100,000 in 2014, to $3 million plus today.”
An initial investment was to a biodynamic farm in Mendocino, part of the Emerald Triangle on the North Coast of California, which became one of its portfolio companies. And, while farming is near and dear to the core of the industry (and her heart), Paxhia and team chose to focus on tech companies that didn’t touch the plant.
Headset, Flowhub, Respira, and Wurk, are just a few tech companies they’ve taken on, with successful first rounds for each. At a time when women are scarce in both tech and cannabis in general, Paxhia sits on the Board of Directors for three of the companies, with Poseidon holding board seats with many others.
Poseidon’s help to the more than 50 companies in its portfolio often came when other investment firms shunned some of the early start-ups. Emily’s positive reputation has also allowed the company to secure access to proprietary deal flow.
Its help goes beyond investing, though, as the team comes to the table with expertise to help shape pitches, formulate market strategies, execute product launches, and advise day-to-day on operations.
Poseidon has also seen potential abroad, investing beyond the United States, with other countries more apt to embrace a departure from America’s failed War on Drugs. Columbia, Mexico, Canada, and parts of Europe, now have start-ups and mainstream company’s crossing over, funded by Poseidon.
“We’ve met with both the Morena and Pan Parties in Mexico – both are aligned with regulating and implementing a law for cannabis medical use,” she explained. “We’ve invested in a locally Grupo Landsteiner Scientific, which is a long running Mexican owned company, employing more than 700 workers, coming into the space from an herbal and pharmaceutical background.”
Healing the Investor: Emily Paxhia’s Personal Connection
Emily Paxhia became a cannabis patient herself at the age of 39, after suffering from digestive issues for years.
“Smoking alone helps my tummy issues,” she shared. “I also use an 8-1 CBD to THC ratio via sublingual drops every day. It also helps with anxiety and stress. I like to use a vape pen – Besito pen offers a lower dose, and it’s always in my bag.”
Being sensitive to everything, Emily Paxhia said the low dose works for her, and she prefers a balanced hybrid, leaning to sativa for creativity and energy.
“My favorite cultivar is Forbidden Fruit – it smells like heaven, it’s so fragrant,” she explained. “Sometimes I’ll use a PAX2 for flower, and the healing effects are instantaneous. I talk about this plant and its healing benefits every day, and I’m still amazed it works so well!”
As cannabis companies’ struggle to step-up and get into compliance, many have fallen, unable to meet the challenges faced. It’s heartwarming to know that an investor with a heart is there to lend a helping hand for the greater good, with complete understanding of the plant.