The average cannabis consumer may not have heard of Kevin Murphy, but they’ve surely seen the headlines he’s made as the CEO of Acreage Holdings, the largest vertically integrated, multistate cannabis company in America. Last year, he got former House Speaker John Boehner to join his board of directors—despite Boehner’s having claimed to be “unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana.” Then Murphy’s company produced a cannabis Super Bowl ad; when CBS rejected it (to nobody’s surprise), Acreage spun the moment into PR gold. And in April, Murphy made headlines again when he sold Acreage to Canopy Growth for $3.4 billion. It’s been a great run for this former Wall Street investor, who first got involved in cannabis in Maine eight years ago. Acreage’s portfolio includes cultivation, processing, and dispensaries—but despite now being one of the industry’s major players, he believes there’s still plenty of room for small businesses with big ideas.
You made a good deal of money on Wall Street. Why get into the cannabis business?
One important investment principle I learned early on: Do what everyone else is not doing and be right. In 2011, not many people were involved with cannabis, and to be honest, I was a little cynical at first. I was very comfortable with Chardonnay and Cabernet, but cannabis wasn’t my thing. But I learned two things. One, the operating leverage in the business was quite dramatic, and two, there was medicinal value in the plant. I was quite taken by all the different ailments cannabis can deal with. Being a financier on Wall Street