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This week on the Cannabis Equipment News podcast, Kenny Morrison, founder of VCC Brands, discusses how he was pulled out of a basement grow and into the nascent California cannabis industry, where he helped lead one of the first five dispensaries in Los Angeles County.
Kenny Morrison is a risk-taker. In 2006, he was working with friends growing cannabis in a basement when he decided to try his hand in the upstart California retail market. Morrison landed a partnership helping the Farmacy in West Hollywood expand after hitting it off with the owner. It wasn't an easy ride; the store was raided during his first year.
He learned many things at the Farmacy, but perhaps the most important was that he wasn't cut out for retail. So in 2008, he founded Venice Cookie Company, driven to create tasty, safe and wellness-oriented products.
When Morrison first jumped into product manufacturing, he enlisted a cousin who was a pastry chef. He asked her to manufacture his first three products — all cookies — in her kitchen. Manufacturing products at that time was challenging; for example, cannabis product testing wasn't yet a reality, so Morrison couldn't guarantee the products' potency within a 10% variance (he says between 20%-25% was more doable). Inaccurate dosing wasn't a big problem in those days. Morrison recalls thinking that you could put cannabis in pretty much anything and it would sell. Most of his products ranged between 60 mg and 180 mg of THC. Once, in 2010, he tried a 6 mg product, and it was laughed off the shelf. It was a little ahead of its time.
As Venice Cookie Company evolved, Morrison branched into new product categories, including tea (Subtle Tea), chocolate (4.20 Bar), tinctures (ONE tincture) and beverages (Cannabis Quencher (CQ)). The company became much more than cookies, so Morrison rebranded as VCC Brands.
For a time, VCC operated a kitchen to manufacture its products. It ran from 4 p.m. through the night in an effort to work while the health department was closed. Eventually, Morrison sold the facility and pivoted to third-party manufacturers. Although his co-packing partners sometimes struggle to get the product right, things are looking up.
Morrison says he is all-in on the beverage market. With CQ as a company cornerstone, VCC has continued to expand and license products into other markets, including a low-dose beverage soon to debut in Massachusetts.
Morrison is a man of many passions. He's a surfer, jiu-jitsu practitioner, and he's held jobs as an actor, documentarian and music video director. While he may not have been cut out for retail, his brands are poised to leave a lasting legacy in the cannabis industry.
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