This article is part of a series of historical perspectives about the legal cannabis industry.
Between 2013 and 2016, before we began to see cannabis companies go public and draw attention to this industry in new ways, our vision for the future looked very different. I think many people expected we’d have secure access to banking by now, or even total federal reform. When John Boehner joined the Acreage Holdings board, many of us imagined the United States might move on these needs expeditiously. That optimism, and national legalization in Canada, led to a surge of initial public offerings on the Canadian exchanges in 2018. As executive chairman, I led the IPO process for Harvest Health and Recreation that year.
Before I go further, let me say I got my start in cannabis more than a decade ago, and I’m still learning to navigate the hurdles and hardships that come with running a successful company. Over the years, I’ve sold and reacquired companies, grown and taken companies public, and led the way for private operations, among other ventures. Throughout these experiences, I’ve figured out what works for both me and my investment portfolio. I’ve been a private-business owner for as long as I can remember—all the way back to when I used to sell coupons out of my car as a teenager. Having independent control over a company I’ve worked to build is important to me.
But public companies are, in some ways, truly owned by the public. Once you’ve gone public, you suddenly face scrutiny in ways that don’t apply to private companies—board oversight of decision-making, public quarterly reports, market regulations and compliance requirements—and your company’s high profile is always in the media spotlight.
Operating a public company is like operating two businesses at once. You’re running the company you built, but you’re also running a public company. Both operations need to be handled properly. Otherwise, the public-facing operations and the core of the business may become misaligned. In many ways, I think a lot of industry players have learned going public can put them at a disadvantage.
In today’s market, the decision to go public or remain private is a major strategic issue in any industry, but it holds extra weight in the tough and often unforgiving cannabis world. One of the top benefits of going public is the potential to raise additional capital, but that is either infeasible or prohibitively dilutive at today’s distressed valuations. To go public today could wreak havoc on your bottom line or put you out of business altogether.
Without things like access to capital or meaningful banking, it feels like the industry has lost twenty blackjack hands in a row at this point. The public companies that have survived and are hanging in there are very resilient. The majority shareholders and management teams running these businesses probably feel a bit tired and beat up by now, but I think they’ll come out of this stretch strong. But a publicly traded platform is not a position I’d want to be in today.
One of the key factors driving the growth of my current company, Story Cannabis, is the decision to remain independent, tightly controlled, and privately owned. Knowing where you and your team thrive is crucial.
A major benefit to staying private is being able to pivot quickly and control the decision-making process. Board oversight at public companies has its advantages for shareholders but, at this moment in the industry, I love being private and independent. Compelling mergers-and-acquisitions opportunities pop up almost daily, and my management team and I have flexibility and the ability to make quick decisions and capitalize on them.
I was the chief executive officer at Oasis Cannabis in March 2021 when we sold that company to Ayr Strategies. I subsequently launched Story, and when one thing led to another, we ended up buying Oasis back from Ayr in March 2023, exactly two years after we closed the previous sale. Both transactions required flexibility and quick decision-making, but the result was beneficial for all parties. Both the decision to sell in 2021 and to buy back in 2023 were made possible by remaining private and retaining our ability to pivot and make big decisions.
The benefit of being tightly controlled and privately owned extends into every aspect of running our company. We have a lean, dynamic management team that can generate ideas quickly, make corporate strategic decisions internally, and quickly execute them. There’s less friction and complexity when making decisions, and we’re more comfortable taking risks. We can try something new and see if it works out, and if it doesn’t, we don’t have to worry about how our quarterly reports look to the public. We can just change directions moving forward. It’s a special freedom we can use to our advantage. If we were to take the company public, the dynamic between me, my staff, and the company we’ve worked hard to build would shift.
Of course, what’s worked for me over the years doesn’t work for everybody. From where I’m standing today, I can look back at the past ten to fifteen years and feel good about where we’re going. The industry’s outlook surely will change again—that’s a guarantee—and from there, we can pivot to where we need to be. But for now, we’re happy with where our story is heading.
Jason Vedadi is a seasoned entrepreneur with a proven track record in real estate, acquisitions, and business operations. He serves as chief executive officer at Story Cannabis, a rapidly growing multistate operator. Previously, Vedadi was instrumental in growing Harvest Health and Recreation, which merged with Trulieve to create one of the largest multistate operators in the country, and Oasis Cannabis, which was acquired by Ayr Wellness Inc.