By Kymberly Byrnes
Sid Gupta, founder and CEO of Pistil Point Cannabis in Portland, Oregon, has mastered the science and art of growing some of the best marijuana in the world. But without the right business acumen, even with the best buds, your plans can go up in smoke.
Gupta began his career by throwing large-scale nightclub/rave parties while in high school in northern New Jersey and in college at NYU during the early 2000s. Now he’s the host of NYC’s largest annual 420 party at Hudson Terrace, one of the city’s hottest rooftop bars, which he co-owns along with several other trendy restaurants and nightclubs throughout New York and New Jersey.
Diving into the cannabis business, Gupta’s ensured his work ethic has changed the game. At Pistil Point, he’s cultivating award-winning strains, producing premium products, and embarking on celebrity collaborations that have everyone in the industry wondering what comes next.
“We’re creating amazing genetic lines with experienced growers and a dedication to the craft and patience,” Gupta says. “Our philosophy is simple: responsible consumption, production, and testing in order to create responsible medication. It’s not just about growing cannabis, it’s about educating lawmakers, patients, and consumers alike about what cannabis is and how it can help.”
Responsibility is important to Gupta, who’s trying to reinvent what a marijuana consumer looks like to the public. Here, Gupta talks about what it takes to make it in this upcoming trillion-dollar industry and how he got to where he is today.
You grew up in New Jersey in an entrepreneurial household. What were you like as a kid?
I went to work at a very young age washing dishes in one of my dad’s restaurants. I was a very mischievous kid; if you told me not to touch the stove because it was hot, I would touch it and burn my hand. Then, I’d touch it again just to make sure. I always pushed the envelope.
My dad was a pioneer. He saw opportunities and seized them. He bought taxicab medallions, newsstands, whatever you see Indians owning, my dad owned. He inspired me to think anything is possible.
You are a successful restaurateur and nightclub owner. When did you decide to enter the wild world of weed?
When weed went [recreational] in 2013, I went to the first High Times Recreational Cannabis Cup in Colorado. I was totally mesmerized. My epiphany there was that even though my family was very successful in the restaurant and hospitality business for 40-50 years, I could never get next to the CEO of McDonald’s. Here, however, I could get next to the biggest edible producer in the world. I realized the cannabis industry, based on my network and background, was perfectly acceptable. And I thought to myself, I need in. I set things into motion and set up shop in Oregon by the following summer. It took me about twelve months of speaking to anyone that would talk to me. I toured 200+ properties; there were endless nights staring at Loopnet and Marijuana Business Daily absorbing everything I could about the emerging industry. My first building was 300,000 square feet of undervalued waterfront warehouse property just languishing on the market –the rest is history.
What was the recipe for success for Pistil Point?
We were looking for something sophisticated. Then we started looking at the anatomy of the plant. “Pistil” popped out for obvious reasons. When a plant is producing pistils, you as a grower understand the plant is a female and she will produce the fruit that you want – the bud.
More than that, Pistil Point was early to the party in Oregon, approaching it with a bullish attitude. We cultivate our own cannabis and process our own extracts out of a strategic location, but we also have contacts with other farms around the state to cultivate our genetics. We bring the bulk of this cannabis back under our umbrella to service our branded products. The trick with Oregon’s “unlimited licensure” is to own the brand, the distribution, and the shelf space to avoid commoditization. If a company is successful, and few are, it’s virtually impossible to grow enough product to service your portfolio.
You’ve been working with really big names in the business for years. Can you talk about some of your current partnerships?
We’ve partnered with [former NBA player] Cliff Robinson, [hip-hop artist] Kent Jones and musical group We The Best, and Shine Rolling Papers. One of the more interesting relationships has been with DJ Short, the geneticist behind [the sativa strain Blue Dream’s parent] Blueberry. We are also partners with Montel Williams, who’s had Multiple Sclerosis for 26 years and access to the world’s best medical treatments, doctors, and scientists. [Williams’s company LenitivLabs, focused on cannabis and hemp-derived CBD products for medical patients, launched in September 2016 and has become an industry leader in advocating for greater diversity representation in business.]
What are some new projects you have coming up?
Our recent partnership with G Pen will be a game-changer. Chris Folkerts [their founder] and his team spent the last two years developing state-of-the-art disposable vaporizer technologies. The G Pen GIO is second to none. Attached are some of the best known genetics available, such as those of Bay Area legend Berner. Plus, we have an entire line of Zkittlez genetics and some other really fantastic cuts; we are hitting the Oregon and California market hard with these.
We also have 150,000-square-feet licensed of canopy space between Oregon and California: a warehouse and greenhouse complex in Portand from which we distribute and process, a warehouse in Sacramento, and 100 acres in Calaveras County with greenhouses and outdoor production. We have an industrial hemp license which means we can grow as much as we want. We are harvesting 100,000 pounds. Of that, 95 percent is going to oil. Additionally, we have a CBD line upcoming next year, being positioned and branded for sale within an existing national network of 20,000 retailers. It’s [completely unique] to the market.
Your home state of New Jersey is on the brink of going rec. What, if any, are your plans to come back to your roots on the East Coast.
That’s home and always will be. Coming out West was to understand something that just wasn’t accessible back East. But I’ve been producing cannabis awareness events there for several years so Pistil Point can have some connection back home. This platform has led me to recent roles on advisory committees and trade associations helping to shape legislation in New Jersey’s adult use market. Being able to assist the state in developing a responsible framework after everything we’ve learned out West is amazing.
Kymberly Byrnes is a Cannabis investor, host of “Cannabis with Kym B,” co-founder of the New Jersey Cannabis Commission and TribeTokes, an NYC Ambassador for Women Grow, and a Vice President of CannaGather. Follow her on Instagram at @cannabiswithkymb.
Stay tuned for our issue ONE with more stories on sustainability, planetary wellness, holistic thinking, and the hemp/cannabis communities!