Weed People: Rodawg Founder Josh Gordon

The plastic resealable sandwich baggie is a staple item for any cannabis user. They’re small, discrete, and able to be crumpled into almost any shape, making them perfect for the clandestine smoker. Now that cannabis is becoming a surface substance, a regular medicine and recreational consumable, there’s no need for the baggie’s reign to continue.

On my first visit to Denver for the 2013 Cannabis Cup, I discovered a variety of containers made just for weed and it donned on me that I’ve been using kitchen items to store it my entire life. As convenient as Tupperware and Ziploc containers might be, they are designed for food and not for the composition and sensitivity of carefully cultivated buds. It’s easy to store a chunk of wax in a square of parchment paper, but it’s still going to get messy after a while. Now that weed is somewhat legalized, there’s no need for the incognito storage items. That’s where companies like RODAWG come in.

RODAWG is a company that latched onto a clever ancillary business of the cannabis industry, providing dope looking joint cases, weed jars and wax boxes that look appropriate on coffee tables, in purses next to make-up items. They’re part of a packaging revolution that starts with the immediate wrapping of your bud and aims for a normalized perception of cannabis. We’re no longer teenagers, and weed is quickly becoming legal. Why not class things up a bit?

For this week’s Weed People, RODAWG CEO Josh Gordon weighs in on legalization.

Describe your involvement with cannabis in all aspects, personal, professional, etc.

Growing up, I spent winters at our family home in Colorado, which gave me a first row seat to watch cannabis go mainstream in a state with a healthy selection of cannabis dispensaries and sensible regulations.

I was, and still am, surprised to see that cannabis is sold in plastic baggies, repurposed plastic pop-top containers, and other methods that more closely mirror the days where cannabis was only available on a street corner.

So in 2011, while attending Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business, I founded RODAWG (which recently rebranded as BUREAU), a company that would specialize in the manufacturing of premium cannabis packaging solutions and various branding services for legal cannabis dispensaries.

Offering an improved patient and customer experience is now a necessity to maintaining a dispensary customer-base, and we believe it starts with improved packaging and branding. Eradicating the stereotypes for the marijuana “of old”, removing branding with tie dyed colors, leaf graphics and “stoner”-aesthetics will allow quicker adoption and support among professionals, business leaders, lawyers, doctors and legislators.

The quickly evolving legal and regulatory environment has clearly paved the way for businesses and products such as ours. And now that states are getting a chance to see the intricacies of the industry, more regulations are being implemented to ensure the safe production and consumption of cannabis products.

In particular, legislators are pursuing child-resistant packaging and detailed labeling requirements, creating a more informed customer. We view these as a positive and are here to help dispensaries maintain full compliance as the regulatory environment evolves from state to state. This can be quite an arduous task since each state has its own requirements, but we work closely with attorneys and other industry experts to ensure our clients are always in compliance.

Since we’re an ancillary business, and don’t deal directly with the plant, we have the advantage of being able to sell our products to all states, ship between states, and use typical banking services.

What are some of the victories of state-level legalization in your area?

We’re based in New York City, so the recent passing of the New York Compassionate Care Act was very exciting for us. It is the first monumental step in achieving full acceptance, thanks to some very hardworking New York legislators, business leaders, lawyers and activists. New York was a leader in repealing alcohol prohibition, and I think New York can be a pioneer for the cannabis industry as well.

Unfortunately, the New York legislation was narrowly tailored to only allow patients vaporization, concentrates, and edibles, with no smoking allowed. Despite the bill’s limitations, any step towards legalization is still a step in the right direction.

What are some of the failures of state-level legalization in your area?

In New York, the failures have mostly fallen on the city level. Even though marijuana was decriminalized in New York in 1977, NYC still has among the highest rates of arrest for marijuana possession in the country. Many of these arrests, while misdemeanors, can lead to extended jail time for repeat offenders and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Fortunately, there seems to be a significant push to stop prosecuting low level cannabis users with Draconian penalties and sentences.

Do you believe the federal government is making progress towards decriminalization or legalization?

It is my firm belief that cannabis should be treated like alcohol and regulated primarily by the states. It is important, however, that some minimum standards be established through a national committee to ensure that each state is protecting its citizens.

Despite little progress from a decriminalization standpoint, we have seen our national leaders taking steps to support the overall growth of the industry. Specifically, over the past year, there has been a visible reduction in federal prosecutions of cannabis offenses and we have begun to see steps towards more liberal banking regulations.

I think cannabis will be widely legal across the US in 5-7 years. As states begin to generate significant tax revenue, others will naturally gain interest. The key though is to implement rules and regulations that keep the industry safe and progressive. Laws such as child resistant packaging and detailed labeling are clearly steps in the right direction.

That’s going to be a while, if ever. There are still countries than ban cigarettes, alcohol and even homosexuality. Some of these countries still apply extreme penalties to both westerners and their citizens, including death for mere cannabis possession. The US hopefully will follow the successful drug laws from places like Uruguay, Canada, and Portugal to help show other countries that this is the best decision to make with respect to the cannabis plant.

What is the biggest challenge facing legalization on a state level?

Marijuana still carries the stigma of an illegal black-market to many Americans. And having dispensaries sell cannabis products in plastic baggies and syringes is not helping the image. Our hope is that professional packaging and branding solutions can contribute to transforming the way our nation views marijuana. It’s about making beautiful products, out of quality materials for sophisticated customers.

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