Jushi Holdings Inc. (“Jushi” or the “Company”) (CSE: JUSH) (OTCQB: JUSHF), a globally-focused, multi-state cannabis and hemp operator. I interviewed Jushi Founder, Co-President and Board Member Erich Mauff with my five questions and what I learned was captivating! Jushi Holdings Founder, Co-President and Board Member Erich Mauff
Mr. Mauff brings both financial and managerial experience to his role as Co-President, Co-Founder, and Board Member of Jushi Holdings Inc. Erich spent almost twenty years at Deutsche Bank N.A., first heading Capital Markets & Treasury Solutions Group, then serving as Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Corporate Finance North America. Erich’s fierce work ethic extends beyond even his executive experience—in 1992, Erich competed in the Olympics for South Africa’s Men’s rowing team. Erich earned his BA from Brown University.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me who you are. Where you are from, and where you are now? What is your favorite part of working in the cannabis sector?
Erich Mauff=EM: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and was fortunate to attend college in the U.S. After graduating from Brown University in 1992, I moved to New York City and have lived in Brooklyn for the past fifteen years with my wife, Adele Griffin, an author, our two young sons and our dog and cat. After almost twenty years at Deutsche Bank, I retired in December 2015. After some time off, I was fortunate enough to be one of four founders of a very cool cannabis company called Jushi in January 2018 (that’s pronounced sushi with a J, Jushi).
At Jushi, we are building a world-class team bringing together non-cannabis specialists as well as cannabis industry veterans to create a new-age cannabis company. We combine Fortune 500 management, corporate governance, risk and balance sheet management that influences disciplined corporate management and our M&A strategy. We meld these skills with a decade’s worth of cannabis experience in cultivation, extraction, and retail as we create a modern cannabis company that brings high-quality, tested products at an attractive price to both the medical and adult-use markets.
My favorite part about working in the industry is the excitement and energy around cannabis. Business leaders and consumers alike are very passionate about cannabis’ potential. I find this to be inspiring and intoxicating. Also, I am very fortunate to be at the ground level of building a business that has been essentially illegal for the past forty years. We are working to break existing stigmas and introduce what I believe is a wellness regime for people looking for alternatives to pharmaceuticals as well as people who want to use cannabis recreationally.
WB: How did you get into the cannabis industry? What was your path? How does your experience in the financial sector play a role in operating a cannabis business in these unprecedented times? Tell me about your company?
EM: I was approached about Jushi three and a half years ago by my long-time friend and Jushi CEO, Chairman and Co-Founder, James (“Jim”) Cacioppo. When one thinks of a long career in finance, one would not consider cannabis as your next logical business. However, cannabis is an incredibly exciting industry that fits very well with my financial background.
Cannabis is a four-pillared industry. The first is capital, both personal and third-party financing, to capitalize a start-up. Due to all the federal restrictions, access to capital is critical, and raising capital is one of my core competencies. I knew that I could bring that expertise to the cannabis industry. In fact, to date, we have raised over $220 million, of which founders and insiders have contributed almost $50 million themselves. We are unique in cannabis, with significant personal capital contributed to the business. Our investors take great comfort, knowing we are all right-way risked, and our management team will make prudent capital decisions.
The second pillar is M&A. M&A, risk management, data-driven decision making and capital allocation are all areas that Jim and our team are experienced in. We knew we could bring these disciplines to our M&A process and make sure that we acquired the best assets, with solid businesses at fair prices.
The third pillar is building and scaling a business. Our core senior team have all built successful companies in prior lives, and we knew we could bring our collective skillset, refined over decades on Wall and Main Street, to the cannabis space. Jim, our CEO, has decades of experience as a distressed specialist and financial sponsor. We have benefited from Jim’s unique skill set especially navigating these turbulent markets.
The fourth pillar is partnering with skilled cannabis industry experts. Through the acquisition of The Clinic out of Colorado, we added a fantastic award-winning team to build-out our operations and brands.
By cementing our company’s foundation with these four pillars, I believe we have built an incredible company that marries capital allocation and financial discipline with best-in-class cannabis expertise and capabilities.
WB: What are your six and twelve-month goals? What about new markets? Obstacles? How do you propose removing them?
EM: We have three core markets, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, where we have commanding market positions and three development markets, Ohio, Nevada and California, where we are established and looking to scale.
Our first core market is Virginia, which we view as “The Sleeping Giant”. Jushi has one of the five licenses in the Commonwealth, and only four of them are on the path to becoming operational. In August, we received approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to commence vertically integrated operations for the cultivation, manufacturing, and sale of medical cannabis. We expect to become operational by the fall and begin dispensing products by the end of the year. We initially had one retail location, which is located in our grower-processor facility in Manassas, but fortunately, we were awarded five additional retail locations by the Commonwealth. The designated area for Jushi to operate is Health Service Area II “HSA II”, in Northern Virginia. HSA II is the smallest, most densely populated Health Service Areas in the state, with 2.5 million people or nearly 30% of the state population according to the U.S. Census Bureau. HSA II borders the Potomac River, right across from Washington D.C. Our region includes iconic suburbs such as Arlington, Tysons Corner, Alexandria and Manassas and includes two of Virginia’s highest-income counties, Fairfax and Prince William County. In fact, Health Service Area II is home to five of Virginia’s 10 wealthiest neighborhoods.
The second big market is Pennsylvania, where Jushi is one of the largest vertically integrated operators, and we believe it will be the next Illinois. We have the collective rights to operate fifteen retail dispensaries, with eight currently operational. We are looking to open the remaining seven locations by the middle of 2021. Jushi recently acquired Vireo’s Scranton-based grower-processor, which operates a 90,000 square foot facility with approximately 45,000 square feet of high-quality, indoor cultivation, plus an additional 25,000 square feet of expansion capacity. As part of the agreement with Vireo, Jushi will have an assignable purchase option to add three additional dispensaries in the Commonwealth, two of which are open, pending approvals from all applicable regulatory authorities.
Our third core market is Illinois, which we believe is currently the best cannabis market in the country. We have two operational stores – one in Sauget, IL, which is just south of East St. Louis, and the other in Bloomington-Normal in the center of IL. We are in the process of building out two more stores, one each in Sauget and Bloomington-Normal, which will give us four operational stores by year-end 2020. I would like to note that our two operational stores in Sauget and Bloomington-Normal are among the best performing stores in the state.
In terms of our developmental markets, in Ohio our extraction and processing facility will come online in early 2021. In Nevada our cultivation facility is producing high-quality flower, and we are launching in-house pre-rolls and branded flower all under our brand, The Bank. In California, we expect to open our first retail store in Santa Barbara by late September. We intend to move forward in the merit-based application process as one of three selected applicants for a storefront retail and ancillary delivery permit in Culver City, California. Overall, we are aiming to build out a well-balanced portfolio in some of the best medical and adult-use markets in the U.S.
As for obstacles, the ongoing pandemic has undoubtedly created a host of obstacles for the entire industry. Fortunately, all of our stores were designated as either “life-sustaining” or “essential services” in their respective markets, which allowed us to remain open. Cannabis has become a breakout industry during COVID, and I believe the proliferation of legal cannabis is starting to resonate with the public. It seems that many people that were consumers in the non-regulated market are now transitioning into the regulated market, so we have seen enormous growth in our portfolio.
Additionally, national and local elections in the fall are going to have a profound impact on cannabis. I am not going to predict the outcome, but a democratic sweep will be positive for the cannabis industry. I also think states with COVID related budget deficits are going to look to cannabis to generate service sector jobs, infrastructure investment and taxable revenue. Overall, I see fewer headwinds and more tailwinds for cannabis, which would be a reprieve from the last two years.
WB: Do you cook? Who taught you if yes? Favorite food memory of your childhood? What is your favorite comfort food? Have a recipe idea to share? OR Do you have a mentor? Did you always want to do what you do today? Who inspired you?
EM: I love to cook. Both my Mom and my Dad have wicked kitchen skills. My Grandfather was a butcher, so the family has always loved cooking and food. Like all kids, I was a great lover of pasta and meat sauce. The wonderful thing about having kids of my own now is introducing my Dad’s Famous Bolognese “DFB” recipe to the family. One of my favorite things to do is to cook my family’s DFB on Saturday afternoons. Sadly, the original DFB still wins the taste test!
WB: What’s your passion?
EM: I’d say my passions have always been fitness, wellness, and having fun. Fitness has been a big part of my life since childhood. I competed in rowing at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992; however, keeping fit and healthy has become increasingly more challenging with age. I started using cannabis as a natural recovery remedy, and it has become part of my daily health regime. Using CBD everyday has helped alleviate stiffness from working out. I have not touched pharmaceutical sleeping aids for the past three and a half years since I started using CBD and THC for sleep.
I am extremely passionate about helping people live their healthiest lives through cannabis and the array of cannabinoids in this amazing plant. I am deeply dedicated to moving this industry forward because I do believe cannabis has fantastic health and wellness applications for certain people, as well as being an alternative to pharmaceuticals. People today are far more health-conscious and care about what they put into their bodies. This mentality creates an optimal long-term market for cannabis products. For me, learning how cannabis and cannabinoids can play a part in a person’s health and wellness regime is very exciting. Building a company around that is even more fulfilling.