Aspart of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Greene.
Jeff founded The Florida Hemp Council (FLHC), a nonprofit organization, in 2019 when he saw a need for a hemp trade association. He recruited Florida hemp industry leaders to help create the organization, which provides structure, networking and support services to the hemp industry in Florida.
The FLHC’s mission is to create a thriving ecosystem aimed at catapulting the Florida hemp industry to the forefront as leaders in hemp and hemp product production. The organization’s goals are to keep licensing fees low, hold manufacturers to the highest testing standards, ensure all consumer disclosures are properly labeled and promote continued research. The FLHC also works to guide farmers so they are not taken advantage of for their land by untrusted seed sellers, and to promote Florida manufacturing for both state and local opportunities. In his role as vice president of marketing, Greene has built the Board of Directors, devised a strategy and plan for the organization’s launch and spearheaded fundraising efforts.
After researching hemp and the endocannabinoid system for several years, Greene began his career in the industry in 2016 with Green Roads of Florida, LLC, an award-winning CBD company. Here, he assisted the company in streamlining operations and working as the director of special projects since 2017. He was also responsible for negotiating a partnership with the University of Florida for hemp research.
In 2016, Greene founded Jeff Greene & Associates, where he serves as a lobbyist and political consultant to this day. Through his organization, Greene has worked on sales tax exemption legislation in Florida for compressed natural gas stations and successfully passed a 5-year exemption. He assisted Green Roads in securing the passage of Florida’s first hemp research bill. In addition, he worked on Florida HB333 and companion SB1058, securing passage of Florida’s hemp commercialization; and has worked with the State of Florida, consulting on the rules for instituting the process. He also represents Green Roads and The Florida Hemp Council on legislative matters.
Prior to that time, Greene was a self-employed political and business consultant, working with Wise Gas to secure over $4 million in grants for Florida municipalities and private entities. In addition, he was a fundraising consultant for several political campaigns.
Most recently, Greene serves as vice president of marketing for Natural Life Franchise Corp., a leading CBD and natural products retail store where he has built the organization, developed a launch and franchise expansion strategy and helped raise funds. He was also the architect behind all legal, marketing, sales, construction and accounting initiatives for the corporation, which launched in early 2020.
Greene is often tapped as a speaker and expert in the hemp/CBD industry. In 2019, he has served as a speaker at the Cannabis Expo in Miami and CBD Expo in Miami; was a participant at the National Industrial Hemp Conference in Portland, Oregon; and was a speaker on Cannabis Life Radio. He has also contributed to High Life magazine, Cannabis News newspaper, and The Shelby Report. Additionally, he was a participant and speaker at numerous Natural Gas conferences during the Wise Gas period.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia; Greene currently resides in Pembroke Pines, Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Science in economics, as well as a minor in finance, from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. His affiliations include being a Broward Addiction Recovery Committee member, appointed by Dr. Barbara Sharief. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and a member Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists.
Thank you so much for joining us Jeff! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ihad just sold my previous business and I was mentoring some college kids at a nearby university when I found out several of them had started a marketing company that represented a CBD brand. I was not familiar with CBD but had looked at the licenses for medical marijuana several years earlier and determined I was not in a financial position to participate. This seemed like a great way to get into an industry that was in its infancy and I dove in to learn more.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
From meeting Presidential candidates, Governors and dozens, if not hundreds of legislators, I found that the misinformation about the industry was everywhere. The lesson I learned was that there were two kinds of people in the industry, those that talk and those that do.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know if I would call it the funniest but early in the business, I had invested in a distribution company and we sent four people in their 20’s on a road trip to go to six states’ chiropractic trade shows over three weeks in a 15-passenger van. It was the most cost-effective way to get our message out there and the kids made memories they will never forget.
One other funny story was I was visiting a store in Tallahassee when I first started and I had heard that smoking hemp gave you a headache and diarrhea. So, I walk in and the store owner tells me his best-selling products are hemp flower for smoking. I was shocked. I told him what I had read and he completely changed my understanding. Hemp flower is now just another method of consumption.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on half a dozen projects at the moment. Educating farmers, educating consumers and helping businesses be compliant are the guiding lights of my direction. I think the Hemp plant is a disruptive plant that can change the world. Cannabinoids can create a population of people that are encouraging their body’s homeostasis. Creating plants that clean the soil. Creating textiles that use less water to clean. Creating bio-plastics that are eco-friendly and do not fill our landfills. Creating paper products that do not require the destruction of our rain forests. These are just a few ways hemp can help.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This industry is relationship driven. I can not count the number of people that have helped me along the way. If I mentioned one, all the others would be upset. If you are wanting to get into this industry, do your homework. Do your best to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. I would tell you that if someone says they know everything about the industry I would run from them. Things change in this industry so fast that you can feel like you know something and the next week it will change to completely the opposite.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
With major networks not allowing commercials, social media banning promotion and FDA letters abound on any medical claims, this industry is the definition of creative. What other industry has grown to over $1B in revenue without telling the consumers what it does? Large companies operate in a completely different universe. Our market is gaining acceptance and will be able to be marketed in the traditional ways at some point, for now reaching as many people as possible outside of those avenues has been the challenge. I have seen everything from podcasts, trade shows, industry intrusion with hemp products integrating into smoke and vape shops and then utilizing non-profit associations to assist with education and representation.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things I am most excited about:
- I can’t wait to see how big the industry is going to get
- I look forward to being accepted on social media
- I look forward to being able to see a hemp/cbd commercial on a network at primetime.
Three things I am most concerned about:
- I hope we don’t overpromise and under deliver to our farmers.
- I hope the demand curve is bent through either marketing or exportation before the supply curve kills half the industry.
- I hope the pharmaceutical industry and the medical marijuana industry stay in their lane and let us grow.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone had told me that everything costs twice as much as you expect and takes twice as long. In almost every venture, we start out with expectations derived from other industries and invariably permitting or construction or negotiations with landlords, insurance, banking, credit card processing, lawyers all take twice as long and thus cost twice as much.
- Whether cannabis or any other business, being self employed is the hardest job on the planet but the most rewarding. My wife helps me balance my life, but without her I would be a workaholic. I love what I do, but it can consume you if you let it.
- Live within your means. I made my first million in my late twenties and I tell everyone, it ate me alive. I lived extravagantly, bought bigger everything and lived the dream of being in the right neighborhood and driving the right car and having two kids and that went up in smoke. By definition, working in this industry requires a certain amount of risk tolerance. But operate thoughtfully and responsibly, don’t take advantage of others and do your absolute best and things will go well for you.
- Don’t believe everything you hear. I have been approached by dozens of dreamers, that promise the moon and get my hopes up. If something sounds too good to be true, generally it is.
- Live your best life. I am able to go to bed every night knowing I am doing my absolute best. There is no better feeling.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Don’t get upset if your top salespeople make more money than you do in the first few years. Sales is the life blood of an organization and I have seen several companies go away because a jealous founder could not get out of their own way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement that I am a part of already is Hemp. I have always been a disruptor — this industry defines that.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I am on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have an instagram but I never go on it.