Meet Debra Borchardt, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Green Market Report, a brand that specialises in providing financial news on the cannabis industry. 

What would be one of the biggest issues if cannabis legalisation was to become worldwide? 


You could start to see problems within the power structure and by power structure I mean organised crime. I think when you start to get into countries where the law enforcement isn’t as good, you could have continued cartel problems and that will be a real challenge to engage with the legal community when you have an illegally run operation in your country. 


Based on the last three quarters of the cannabis market do you have any predictions going forward in the next year or see any common trends? 


It has gotten a little sloppy within the cannabis industry and sloppy is a term financial reporters will use when the numbers start to get a bit flimsy meaning there is revenue coming in but maybe they’re spending too much, the costs are too high or they’re actually not making profits, so things start to get a little unbalanced.


I think in some regions like California there will be challenges because they have rising energy prices and wholesale prices are coming down, a lot of companies will get squeezed in there so therefore companies will sell and merge because they won’t be able to make it and they might even go completely out of business. 


We will continue to see the big companies get even bigger and stronger and more powerful because they’ve just got the money and will be able to roil over the smaller players. Some of the newer states are trying to combat that with the programmes they are developing but then what we will have is this dual system where you will have big corporate culture cannabis companies and then smaller operations that just can never get very big. I think a great analogy to that is what you see in the beer industry where you have the Coronas and the Budweisers up there and then you have all the small local craft beers with the little micro-breweries. I think that’s where we will end up eventually but right now it’s still a moving target. 


Not all numbers are accounted for in the industry because there is still a lot of underground transactions occurring, for companies like Green Market Report and other researchers within cannabis, where do you collect reliable numbers from and accurate data? 


You are right, there is a lot of business being done in the illicit market which you can only guess rather than count. States like California have done the best work at guessing what that number is because they look at farms and start to back into it and ask questions like how many farms do we have, how many acres are growing and if that’s all harvested and cultivated then that’s going to create this much product to be sold, but we are only taking this much so they spread between the two numbers and get an idea of where the illicit market numbers are laying but really and truly you can only guess. The legal market alone is so huge so sometimes you can just add on X amount of percentage and come up with those numbers but overall, you are right it is a near impossible thing to grasp and California is the only state that’s been able to come close.

What’s a facts/figures you’ve learnt over the years that have stuck with you? 


The numbers that usually throw me is when I see a comparison of how much flower has been sold in 2020 and then you look at how much has been spent on a traditional snack food like Oreos and you start to compare those numbers and see that we buy more cannabis that Oreos and I think no way we are buying this much weed.

How could cannabis cultivation help lower economically developed countries?


I think the thing that will be most impressive is what we have learnt in cannabis on indoor cultivation, when we start to have more issues with climate change affecting crops we will use the knowledge from cannabis with the lighting, the HVAC, the mould, moisture and the energy to provide more spaces to grow. When you start to think that countries with energy and now food issues, might be able to have access to set up these faciality’s where solar lighting is used to grow food for these populations. Indoor cultivation will be the biggest contribution from the cannabis industry to the rest of the world. It will be game changing for a lot of third world countries that can’t grow or afford their own food. 

Who have you met that has most surprised you in the industry?


I’ve met some fascinating people; I will say I love talking to Steve DeAngelo, he’s always so generous with his time and has had such an amazing history and background. I found joy talking to Jim Belushi, I think he’s super interesting and has done so much with his life. I also had the recent opportunity to talk to Michael Thompson, who was incarcerated for cannabis for a very long time, I think these people should be heard more. I’ve always tried to champion this through the Green Market Report. I also like to try and pay attention to female entrepreneurs, female CEO’s and female executives alongside the smaller companies because they don’t get as many opportunities as others and I can give them a lift. 

What can you tell us about potential legalisation within the UK, and do you personally see the UK going that way? 


It may take some time, all the people that I’ve talked to that have attempted international cannabis operations have really struggled. There's still a huge amount of stigma in Europe and in the UK. There is a massive learning curve that you must get past with the stigma and the misinformation so I think it will still take some time. The Canadians were looked at as an experiment and the experiment went well, the Americans were looking at the Canadians watching them, and we saw that it was going okay and then said that it's okay for us to do it here. When more countries look at America, they will see the models are going okay and may adopt. 


I’ve been really surprised that countries like Amsterdam seem to be tightening up when they were the ones that were so open about cannabis, the Europeans have been a bit slow. I think we will see it in Eastern Europe faster because the economies there are so stressed and so many people are looking for jobs, so those communities are willing to try it faster than other communities. That’s exactly what happened in America, the first communities that embraced it were depressed and struggling. Eastern Europe will embrace it first because they can give people jobs. 

What invention would you like to see in the cannabis space in the coming years? 


It’s within cannabis but more on the hemp side, I would like to see them invent something that can process the plant in a much more ethical way because there is so much promise for industrial hemp but right now it’s so expensive to process and it reminds me of when they would process cotton in America, on the back of free human labour and slaves, but when they were able to invent the cotton gin they were able to process it with more of a machine function and hemp is very similar in the sense that its very labour insensitive, it’s a very hard fibrous material which gives it it’s strength but that’s the problem, you have all this sticky resin that’s hard fibre and the machines can’t process it very well.


I’d like to see the money invested into something that can take the plant and harvest it and process it faster and cheaper so that we can use it for more building materials and industrial uses. Right now, there is so much promise for it but because it’s so expensive, it’s like people are using it because of it’s sustainability and the idea but not because it's affordable. 

How are other cannabis media companies and publishers supporting themselves nowadays with new models? 

Publishing in general has been challenged because the model keeps shifting and changing and every time we think we have figured it out and the revenue is coming in, it flips again, and we must adjust. I still think that events will continue to bring in cash and everyone is moving towards this subscription model, we are also seeing this on television through our streaming services. We have all started getting it in our head that we don’t want to pay a lump sum for a whole bunch of free content and would rather piecemeal and pay a little bit for all these different pieces of content. 


TV is a great example, we just cut our cable bill and now we pay for different streaming services, we are starting to get used to that in the publishing world, for example people have their New York Times subscription, Washington Post subscription etc. We are starting to get accustomed to the idea of paying for content online as well because we aren’t going to keep getting it for free, the ads aren’t sustainable and they are too lumpy, you get a whole bunch of money for a few months and nothing in the next months which gets hard to plan. We will continue to see a combination of events for the publishers and subscription models. 

What is your personal relationship with cannabis? 


When I was younger it would be for partying a lot and hanging out with my friends to get stoned but now as an older person it’s for stress and sleep. If I’m having anxiety or a super stressful situation, a small amount will just even things out and help me sleep. I’m in good company because so many people are using it for that. I love to have a little edible before I go to bed at night, that is just a beautiful thing and they continue to make wonderful products like chocolate with double caramel salted flavour, how yum! 

In a role where you must remain unbiased do you ever find yourself having a strong opinion outside of your work on the state of the cannabis industry? 


I tend to not try and be an advocate, I’m a financial reporter so I stick with the numbers. It’s interesting because sometimes when cannabis companies aren’t doing very well and the numbers aren’t great they can get a little critical and some people get upset with this because people want you to be really positive about cannabis and I tend to not go there because I tend to stick to the facts and if the numbers aren’t good for them I’ll tell them and that they aren’t running the company well regardless of the fact that they are in the cannabis space.


I have been certainly following some of the studies about people who are under a certain age consuming cannabis and these studies have shown that it will hurt developing brains so people under 21 shouldn’t be using cannabis and for a lot of people they don’t want this to be bought up or discussed but I think that it is important and that’s obviously why 21 is the age that we want legal consumption. 


Thank you so much for your insight Deborah, into financial cannabis reporting, your future predictions for the cannabis industry and your knowledge on indoor cultivation. 


Wouldn’t it be a hoot if half the stuff we learn from growing cannabis inside ends up saving the planet, like woohoo, stoners saved the world. 


We do believe that stoners will save the world! 


Yes, the stoners will save the world. 

Check out 'The Future of Cannabis in New York' starring Debra Borchardt on YouTube.