While cannabis industry players boast of greenhouse sizes and grow capacities, all in anticipation of full legalization, mCig Group (OTCQB:MCIG) banks their success on subverting the traditional marijuana model. Founded as a vaporizer manufacturer, the company turned diversification into a core competency, transitioning into a full-service cannabis cultivation construction company with their Grow Contractors division, and cornering the tech space with subsidiaries such as OBITX. Today, mCig services the legal cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries through the distribution of technology, products, and services that are transforming the market.
In many ways, mCig created the blueprint for what a modern-day marijuana company should look like —born of tradition and thriving on diversification. The cannabis industry is changing, and preparing for the future means having a hand in a variety of sectors, be it ancillary or touching the plant. Their work in the blockchain space is a model for technology integration not only in cannabis but any industry across the board. Moreover, last year they partnered with Empire Farm’s FarmOn! Foundation in Copake New York. Out of that came NYAcres, Inc., a company focused on hemp of which mCig owns 80 percent.
We sat down recently with Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Alex Mardikian, who also pulls double-duty as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of mCig’s wholly-owned subsidiary OBITX. A veteran in guerilla marketing who has worked with some of the biggest names in business today, Alex spoke with us about the different verticals that make up mCig, the future of the company, and the cannabis industry at-large.
You’ve been referred to as an expert in guerrilla marketing, with wide-ranging experience with everyone from Von Dutch to The Who. Of course, you’re the Chief Marketing Officer for MCIG as well as the CEO for their subsidiary OBITX. Talk about your journey into the cannabis industry and how your experience translates into what you do today.
Yes, so from, like, with Von Dutch, Ed Hardy, The Who, you name it, we got into heavy guerrilla marketing. And then I got into digital, and that’s with Megaupload. So again, we became one of the biggest file-sharing companies, P2P type of companies. And when we got shut down by the U.S., you know, for file sharing, I got into the cannabis space, and that’s when I met mCig. Paul Rosenberg, he’s had the company for over five years. We all aligned and I came in. So, I came in as their CMO, and he’s the CEO.
With OBITX I am the CEO. So what that is, is basically, we built all of the ad platforms with Megaupload, and we had, probably like 50 million a day in uniques, and we ran about 6,500 servers. So my CTO on my group is the one that built all that.
So, combining the background in the guerrilla marketing, I’ve been on the weed side of the business I’d say for, like, over a decade, having growers and property back in California doing it, prior to licensing and so forth. And I’m always looking at the marketing perspective. And so if you really think about it, look at the weed industry today. We used to get that stuff just in a little pouch, or baggie, or whatever. It’s like, now, everything is branded out, it’s slick, it’s beautiful. Your consumer doesn’t really understand what’s inside, they just understand what they’re seeing from the outside half the time.
You’re a big tech guy. Talk about the role that technology plays in your everyday work. I’m interested in some of the stuff you guys are doing in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, too.
mCig started in the vape world. They did really good in that, but they’re like, “We need to get into the planning side of it.” We said, “Ok, look, we’ll do the THC side of it in California.” But we did hemp out in New York. I met Tessa [Edick, The Chairwoman of FarmOn! Foundation and CEO of NYAcres, Inc.]. She’s highly charismatic, and the farm is something that’s so much different. From a digital sense, we sat there and said, the director on Google is also a director on NY Acres. Then, it made sense to sit there and say, “Okay, let’s really turn around and take a look at blockchain.”
So the blockchain perspective is just supply chain, but basically saying, “How am I going to verify everything is efficient? I’m coming out the middleman, and everything can be validated and there’s no fraud,” correct? That’s what OBITX is. That’s really where we start steering and saying, “Okay, the first thing we’re going to blockchain is, we’re going to make a blockchain on the hemp.” That way, we can come back and sit there and say, from a technical sense, “You know where it came from. Where did the seed come from? The ground that it’s in, how did it grow, what was used?” And then, basically, all the way through testing results to a finished product. It’s a simple blockchain. Now, from the complete flip side of it, we do a lot of advertising.
I’ve got a company that OBITX is doing that’s called VODXS. We do bitcoin ATMs as well. But VODXS is a digital, on-demand experience. It’s just basically putting digital out of home marketing and giving the best ad at the best place, and you’re not getting ripped off. Because half the time, the problem is, when Google’s serving an ad, you don’t really know if that ad got served, all you know is it didn’t work right. I didn’t get the conversion. Maybe I need a slicker ad, maybe I want a better demographic, or maybe spend more money. But the problem is, the guys are spending more money and they’re noticing that they’re getting, you know, ripped off. That’s why everybody’s sitting there saying, “Okay, let’s use blockchain for validation.”
So, with this VODXS system, if it’s bought within a dispensary, you can make sure that it’s at just the right place. The blockchain is making sure that it’s getting the right ad to the right place, and it’s the job of the physical goods to make sure that it’s in front of me. So we picked OBITX to do off of it because, again, there’s not too much you’re doing. You’re washing your hands and, in front of you, there’s an ad running. I’ve got your eyes for at least 20 seconds, right? So, that story I can expand on.
So, from a technological standpoint, yes, blockchain is very important and we see it all the way from the seed-to-sale model, from mCig. And then, from OBITX, we see it from —that’s our specialty, is in the advertising sector.
Speaking of technology, let’s dive into the 420 Cloud app. It’s a cross-channel platform that serves various functions. There’s the 420 cannabis job search system (420jobsearch.com), a marijuana news media platform (weedistry.com) and a commerce networking platform (420cloud.com). What’s the impetus behind the app and how do you see it changing the cannabis industry?
It’s not so much it changes the industry, it’s a conduit to the industry. I learned the first thing is, people need jobs, jobs get you money. If you’re not the one growing, you want to be part of what is growing. I helped build 420 Careers with Northsight. And I sat and said, “Look, my thing is, more or less, get people together in a space, they’ll know what to do.” You don’t have to tell them to go out, but basically it’s like, give them a forum and they’ll make it happen.
So, then, I sat there and said, “Well, If I got them in the forum, the end result is so I can give the best ads,” because, again, I know who they are, right? But it’s about giving them the best ad, like, “Hey, there’s a deal over here today, these guys are giving pre-rolls, here’s the deal. Or, come get this wax,” or whatever. I mean, how can I turn around and benefit the user? But then, I based that off the fact of saying, “Okay, I want to turn around and build a true cloud.”
It’s jobs, it’s about connecting people. That’s really what it is. I mean, look at it, the weed —our industry is all about everybody being cool, with another. Have you ever been somewhere and been like, “Hey man, do you want a hit?” And they’re like, “Oh, no.” When you smoke, you make friends, you know? I mean, it’s so funny, all your reservations go down when you’re in the cannabis community. So that’s all 420 Cloud is. It’s really just a cannabis community about connecting and making it to where there’s some value in it. I mean, hey, value to me is having a job.
mCig just announced their STARTUP Supply Division reached $1.5M in sales during its first year of operations. Can you talk a bit about the company’s overall growth and what the future looks like for mCig?
Again, mCig has multiple verticals. And the key thing is, right now, the vertical that it’s going to spend its most time in is, you know, truly watching things grow. And that means getting in from a ground level. But, no matter what, what mCig has done is, they sat there and said, “Listen, to grow something, you’ve got to be able to build facilities.” And that’s in that same grow contract. They come back, and sit there and say, “Hey, but if you have a facility, you still have to turn around and be that person.” And, a lot had to do with the federal, right? Since everybody’s been afraid to turn around and get into growing, you know, for the most part, most public companies.
So what they’ve done is, they said, “We’ll turn around and supply everything that’s around the plant,” right? So, a facility that can grow it or, basically, packaging. So the first thing is getting in compliance with all the CRC packaging that’s out there. And that just came from an embryo out there in Vegas. Vegas went legal and all of a sudden it’s like, the first thing that happens is, all those shops have to have compliant packaging. And that’s really where —that’s really why it just turned around and started taking off, and now it’s expanded, it’s getting through California and other states. So yes, it’s just a natural fit.
MCIG is not afraid to dive headfirst into the tech space, especially when it comes to cannabis. Where most of the industry is concerned about who has the biggest greenhouse, MCIG seems to place the focus on innovation and diversification. Is that the key to surviving in an overcrowded industry?
Yes, I believe so because, once it becomes federal, you’re going to have all the big boys come in. But one thing that’s not going to change is the technology and the diversification. You’ve got to turn around and be able to take your stake in it now. Because, again, you’re going to have a lot of growers that are going to turn around and just become craft growers, okay? Like, crafted weed, and this and that, and they’re going to have that branding that goes with it because it’s going to knock out a lot of the smaller guys.
So I mean, with looking what’s coming down the pike, are you turning around, and adjusting? And we feel that, basically, for mCig and its shareholders, that we’re definitely shoring it up in the right direction. I mean, we have VitaCig, here’s a vape that turns around and it does vitamins. So, we still turned around and made sure we got that early in, so that way we could turn around still have a placement, still give back to our shareholders. But again, now, doing an influx of CBD with it, of course, that’s great. I mean, we’re pretty across the board and there’s a reason for it.
Speaking of those big guys, should legalization ever occur at some point, who do you see are those big guys taking over the industry, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Alcohol?
Big Pharma’s always going to turn around and lock their jaws into everything. They’re going to be the ones to hold us back, right? But I mean, I see Big Ag is one of them. Big Ag is definitely going to be in there, and the companies that you see come in. It would be crazy not to think that companies like Kellogg’s, right, don’t turn around and jump in and start putting CBD into everything. It’s going to knock out all these little guys. There aren’t going to be CBD gummies and all these other things, not when you can go buy your Wheaties with CBD. You’re going to get your daily dose if that’s what you’re looking for. That’s a projected out thing, okay, companies of that magnitude and size.
I know everyone goes back to Philip Morris, in thinking, “Hey, you know, you’re going to buy pre-rolled joints and get them at 7-Eleven.” I could see that one day down the line. Once it’s legal, there’ll be some low-quality regular strains that will be offered, and if I want good stuff I’m going to go to a dispensary, right? But the reality is, these guys are going to come in. Big Industry is going to try to figure out where their place is with dispersing on a high level. So, again, it’s our job to turn around, and figure out, and take our stake now, and have our placement.
Finally, tell me something about the cannabis industry that I don’t know, something people should be talking about that they’re not right now.
I think what the public doesn’t know is that they need to turn around and open their eyes and notice that, as much as the sector might be down, it does not mean that the people aren’t coming into this industry. The ex-president from Overstock.com has come into the industry now and taken a really awesome position with CannaKids and everything like that.
So if you really look at the other professionals, the leaders, making that switch and coming into cannabis, I think one of the big things the public needs to more and more realize is, the big sector of business, it’s not about getting high. It’s really about the entire industry and what it forms. I think one thing I will say, maybe, is the technology, it goes back to technology. If you look what hemp can do because of how it’s not conductive, for different parts, for different technologies. So when they talk about clothing and putting a phone built into a sleeve, that technology can turn around and come to fruition, with some of the groups that I’ve met, made of hemp. A lot of people should turn around and take a look and really dive deeper into what’s going on.
By: Brandon A. Dorfman, Pot Network