Joel Schneider: The MaryJane Group, Inc. (OTC:MJMJ)
After watching the cannabis industry evolve for many years and taking it upon himself to learn all that he could about what he could personally offer to its growth, he jumped into this opportunity headfirst and hasn’t stopped exploring and making his mark on this space since he did. When he caught himself holing up in local hotel bathroom, feeling ridiculous as he blew the smoke from his joint into the toilet, he realized that there was something wrong with this picture. Now, Joel Schneider, CEO of The MaryJane Group, Inc. (OTC:MJMJ), has become the leader of the canna-hospitality and lodging niche and with two Bud & Breakfast locations already running, his endeavors are reaching even further. His passion for problem-solving, his dedication to innovation, and his foundation of strong core values are just a few of the things that makes him a leader of our industry. Everything else, you can find out from our interview with Mr. Schneider below.
What is the story behind your involvement with the cannabis industry?
I have been watching the cannabis space for the last six to seven years and have always been very interested in it. I came out to Colorado in 2010 when vertical integration became a law, which basically meant that dispensaries and grows became a married system, either by contract or by ownership. To me, that was the prelude to the tax model that would ultimately make marijuana recreationally legal here in Colorado. I’ve been following the industry for a very long time – I was involved in helping a group of people in Connecticut get their license in New Jersey. I got involved with an online head shop company and I honestly just wanted to learn about the industry as best as I could. When marijuana became legal in Denver on January 2014, that was the moment when I finally decided to make the move. In February, I came out and started looking for businesses and I acquired several of them, but ultimately, at the end of the day, I realized that the canna-friendly lodging and hospitality industry was a virgin territory and thus, we founded Bud & Breakfast.
I’ve been following the industry for a very long time – I was involved in helping a group of people in Connecticut get their license in New Jersey. I got involved with an online head shop company and I honestly just wanted to learn about the industry as best as I could. When marijuana became legal in Denver on January 2014, that was the moment when I finally decided to make the move.
What were you doing before?
I was a securities attorney in New York for about 30 years. I pretty much hated every day of it, but that’s what I did. In that position, I represented public companies, which is one of the reasons why the The MaryJane group is public (OTC: MJMJ). I was very drawn to bringing MaryJane public due to my expertise and knowledge of how public companies operated.
What other industry might you compare the ‘green rush’ to and why?
Well, you know, you could go all the way back to the gold rush, or rather, the several gold rushes, where people flocked out to find their fortunes. You could compare it to the dot-com’s where people ran out to find their fortunes, many of whom just played games and thought if they put up a dot-com next to anything, it would be a successful business. That’s really the two industries I would compare to the cannabis space. When I look at the gold rush, I look at what we do at Bud & Breakfast and compare it to that – We look at ourselves as the tent guys. Back in the gold rush days, you had people that made picks, axes, and shovels, and Levi Strauss was launched during that time, selling jeans to miners. Well, at the end of the day, you know the gold dried up, but the companies that were ancillary to it like my company and like the Levi Strauss’ of the world, survived. So I look at it like this: We rushed out here, a lot of people rushed out here, and a lot of people think that they have the magic ingredient to be successful; but what we do is a little bit different. While we are definitely excited for this green rush, we’d like to see it grow and continue growing for a long time to come.
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
We currently have two bed and breakfast locations, called Bud & Breakfast, and we certainly are looking to expand that to more. Aside from that, what we have on the drawing board, and what we’re working really hard on is Canna-Camp. Canna-Camp will be the first of its kind, just like the Bud & Breakfast was the first of its kind. It will be an all-inclusive camp/ranch experience where you can engage in activities ranging from sports, water sports, arts and crafts, and of course, cannabis-related activities. We’ll have live music and three meals a day. So right now, my energy and passion is really focused on making that successful. We’re trying just to raise the bar for canna-hospitality and canna-lodging, and I think this is the next progression for the company. It’s a major undertaking, but the property is in place, the partners down in Durango are in place, and now it’s time for us to promote it, sell it, and bring people in for our unique camp experience.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
You know, I don’t really have an answer for it. I feel like I’ve kind of been a pioneer in this space myself. Certainly, I’ve worked with people in the past that I look up to, but is there one person in particular that I say is a mentor to me? No, I think that you know in my particular case, I’m a little bit of a maverick. I’m a bit of a pioneer. I wanted to do something and put my marker on this earth that indicated my passion and love for cannabis. My ideas and visions are different than most. When I saw this industry, I saw a need for what we do and what we provide and I also believe in the whole social aspect of it all, as well. That’s how we’ve modeled our hotels; it’s not about people just going into their rooms and hiding. It’s about everyone staying together and enjoying the product together.
I feel like I’ve kind of been a pioneer in this space myself. Certainly, I’ve worked with people in the past that I look up to, but is there one person in particular that I say is a mentor to me? No, I think that you know in my particular case, I’m a little bit of a maverick. I’m a bit of a pioneer. I wanted to do something and put my marker on this earth that indicated my passion and love for cannabis.
If I had to name one person in particular, I’d say it’s my son, believe it or not. There’s definitely been some college professors, my parents, certainly my grandparents, and my brother who have mentored me in my life, but my son is definitely someone who sticks out to me. Watching a twenty-five year old/twenty-six year old man grow and move to Los Angeles to start a whole new life is inspiring to me. Those are the kind of people I look up to, those are the people I really respect.
What inspires you the most about this space?
You would think that this industry is run by a bunch of hippies or by a bunch of stoners where it is littered with people that just want to get high – and that’s the furthest thing from the truth! I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in this industry – a lot of tour companies, dispensary owners, growers, manufacturers of infused products, and I can tell you, they’re all extremely professional. I’ve been to countless expos and conferences and everyone I’ve met really want to raise the level of cannabis. We are under a microscope; we are the breeding ground, so to speak, for this industry, and it really is important for us to maintain that high level of professionalism because the world is watching every move we make. What I do at my hotels and with my companies in this industry is to really work hard to raise the bar, raise awareness, and raise the quality of product. That’s what inspires me! This has been very eye-opening for me and the people I work with are all striving for the same thing. We’re all pulling this rope together and seeing to it that this industry grows, and grows correctly.
Tell us about an esteemed achievement of yours.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, I’m a father. First and foremost that’s who I am, a father. I have two of my own children and three stepchildren, and they’re all doing very well, all very successful. There is nothing better than building a family and seeing your kids grow up and achieve great things. Yes, my involvement in the creation of this new industry is a significant achievement. Having created the canna-lodging and canna-hospitality industry is something that makes me very proud, but at the end of the day, my biggest accomplishment is my children.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, I’m a father. First and foremost that’s who I am, a father. I have two of my own children and three stepchildren, and they’re all doing very well, all very successful. There is nothing better than building a family and seeing your kids grow up and achieve great things.
Where do your great ideas come from?
I’ll tell you how I came up with the great idea for canna-lodging and canna-hospitality. It’s a funny story and I like to tell it: When I first started coming out here to Colorado, I was living in a downtown hotel and when I wanted to smoke, I’d have to retreat to the bathroom… I had to basically lock myself in there, shove a towel under the door, have the shower running, and blow the smoke into the toilet. It just didn’t make sense! This product was meant to be used and meant to be enjoyed. So, I came up with the bed & breakfast concept. I knew that it would be small enough to keep under control and I really wanted to have something with a common space for our guests.
Bud & Breakfast and Bed & Breakfast are private properties, versus a hotel with a lobby that is open to the public. So, I started approaching B&B’s and was lucky enough to find The Adagio. My great idea, like most great ideas, comes from desperation and it comes from feeling as if this is not the correct way to do something – Thinking that there has got to be a better way. Subsequent to that, I’ve hired some really good people to work with me. My graphic designer/art person, a young man named Adam, has so many ideas as it relates to this industry. He has that same passion that I have, but he’s thirty years younger, so he sees things from a completely different perspective than I do. We’ve brought in a consultant that came from the restaurant industry, and he’s also helped us come up with some great ideas. We spend a lot of time around the conference table, in our staff meetings, throwing ideas out there on the table.
While Canna-Camp was an idea of my own, I had someone approach me who had a 172 acre ranch and so we decided to do this together. In that particular case, great minds think alike, but more often than not, ideas come out of desperation. Ideas come out of problems solving and out of situations that don’t appear correct to you. You come up with an idea as a solution to a problem at hand. That’s really how we got into the business and that’s how we’re going to continue growing the business.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader in this space?
Well as I said earlier, Canna-Camp is one of the things we’re looking to grow and develop. It’ll be an all-inclusive spa, retreat, and ranch, where you can get massages, lay at the pool, go water skiing, go horseback riding, do arts and crafts, and really do everything that you did when you were young, while also getting an education on cannabis. We plan on expanding it into other facilities as well. We’re even looking at a hotel model, perhaps, similar to what a Ronald McDonald House would be like; we are seeking to be the MMJ Care facility. We want this to be somewhere where we can have entire families come and get the treatment they need, while having fun! This won’t just be in Colorado, either. We’re looking at Washington, Oregon, and other states as well.
Well as I said earlier, Canna-Camp is one of the things we’re looking to grow and develop. It’ll be an all-inclusive spa, retreat, and ranch, where you can get massages, lay at the pool, go water skiing, go horseback riding, do arts and crafts, and really do everything that you did when you were young, while also getting an education on cannabis. We plan on expanding it into other facilities as well. We’re even looking at a hotel model, perhaps, similar to what a Ronald McDonald House would be like; we are seeking to be the MMJ Care facility.
We’re the leader right now and we think just like any other industry leader would think. Competition will come and we have to work hard to stay ahead, so we are looking at securing those additional properties quickly. In doing that, we have to make sure that those properties are located in the proper locations. We really believe that this camp and this concept is going to set us far apart from anybody else in this space. That’s what’s going to keep us as a leader!
What is important to you – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
Well, they all are, but if I’m going to have to say one, it’d be core values. And those are: Security, Education, Safety, and Innovation. We do not let our guests just sit and get stoned to the point where they become incoherent. We want them to learn along the way. We are a resource for them to learn about cannabis, because cannabis here in Colorado is certainly a lot better than the rest of the world. You have great growers here and strong marijuana. We have the concentrates and the edibles, so education about those is important. Security, making sure our guests are safe and ensuring they are well monitored is important to us; we are there as a resource. We are there to guide them if they need guidance, so our core values are certainly important. Our mission and vision are essential as well, but ultimately at the end of the day, it all comes down to our core values.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
I think it’ll be going a lot like this conversation, but we’ll be talking a lot more about the various facilities as it relates to The MaryJane Group. I think we’re going to be talking about other states that have given us the opportunity to expand since there’s several that will be voting on legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2015. I think that we’ll be talking about the Federal government starting to really take a look at what the opportunities are for them, as it relates to a taxable income. More importantly, I believe that by next year, we’ll have weeded out, and I don’t like to use that word, but there’s going to be movers and shakers, and then there’s going to be fakers, and in a year’s time, I think we’re going to have weeded out a lot of the fakers. Similar to what happened in the dot-com boom, people think that they can just throw the word ‘canna’ onto the name of their company and be successful. It doesn’t work that way.
It works only one way and that’s coming to work everyday and working hard. Taking your ups and downs, lumps, learning, experiencing, and just being involved in this movement. It is a movement to a large extent and we really believe that! I think that a year from now we’re going to have a lot more people understanding and respecting that. This is a space for the pioneers and for the people that see the larger opportunity. We’ll definitely be talking about this in a favorable light.
What do you think about Joel Schneider’s canna-hospitality concept? Comment below…