In this edition of "Rising High," The Fly conducted an exclusive interview with Adam Wilks, Chief Executive Officer of Tyson 2.0, a company focused on bringing high-quality cannabis products available at multiple price points to consumers globally. Here are some highlights:
AUTHENTICITY: Tyson 2.0 is a California-based cannabis company formed with legendary boxer, entrepreneur and icon Mike Tyson aimed at producing innovative cannabis products known for their purity, precision and accessibility. The company offers a balance of premium and affordable, full-spectrum cannabis flower, concentrates and consumables through U.S. and Canadian retailers. “There are many, many different elements to Tyson 2.0 that have really helped in our continued success and help us develop the largest brand on the planet in the cannabis space by geographic coverage,” Wilks said. “A big part of that is Mike’s authenticity.” He noted that there have been several celebrity brands that have tried to achieve what Tyson 2.0 has done, but they haven’t been able to scale up in a similar way. “I attribute a lot of that to the authenticity of the brand itself and the celebrity behind it,” the CEO said. “Mike himself has been a long-time advocate for cannabis and he is very candid about the benefits of the plant and the impact that it has made on his own life.” Tyson’s openness on his relationship with cannabis as a plant-based medicine and his ability to connect with the consumer is a huge differentiating factor for the company, Wilks said. “Mike as the face, the Chief Brand Officer, is the real power behind the brand,” he said.
PURPLEFARM PARTNERSHIP: In May, Purplefarm Genetics, an Ontario-based cannabis company, entered into a business partnership with Tyson 2.0. The collaboration will aim to offer craft cannabis products, develop curated content and create a customized brand strategy across Canada. “I’m really excited about our partnership with PurpleFarm Genetics,” the CEO said. “I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, born and raised, so I’m really excited to bring Tyson 2.0 back to my home country.” When looking to expand into Canada, Tyson 2.0 had some concerns when deciding on a company to partner with, he said. “There’s a lot of these multi-million square foot facilities,” Wilks said. “You have a hard time maintaining quality control when you really scale to those sizes.” He added that craft cultivators in the past would grow in small rooms to really control the environment as cannabis is a living organism that can be impacted by many factors. “The large-scale cultivators, they can produce some real revenue, but the quality just isn’t there,” the CEO said. “We looked for a decent amount of time and tried to find the best flower we could find in Canada. After doing six plus months of due diligence and exploring everybody’s genetics, cultivation, expertise and SOPs, we found Purplefarm Genetics to be a no-brainer to partner with for the best quality product.” While the Canadian company may not be the largest, Tyson 2.0 is more focused on offering high quality products at an affordable price to consumers, he said. Purplefarm Genetics also produced proprietary genetics for Tyson 2.0’s TKO, a craft strain available in 7-gram bags. Grown in Purplefarm’s cultivation facility, all the flower in this collection is trimmed, dried, and packaged by hand utilizing only the top portion of the bud while discarding the middle sections. “As in California and the U.S., we focus on high-THC products,” Wilks said. “This was one of the top products we found in Canada that could test 30-35% THC, which is extremely high for Canada, and it also had a really high terpene profile, testing above 2%.” Tyson 2.0 will also sell its ear-shaped edibles, Mike’s Bites, beverages and concentrates in collaboration with Purplefarm Genetics retailers. The products will first be available starting in May across British Columbia followed by Quebec and Ontario in autumn.
RIC FLAIR DRIP STAKE: Tyson 2.0 announced in March the acquisition of a majority stake in Ric Flair Drip, the 16-time World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion's business entity, with an aim to launch a second celebrity cannabis line in its portfolio furthering their house of brands strategy. The company’s strategic alliance with Flair, popularly known as "Nature Boy," enables the company to assume control of Flair's trademarks and intellectual properties to launch cannabis flower and edible products under the Ric Flair brand name in the near future. “Ric Flair is another legend and icon and similar to Mike, brings that nostalgic feeling to a lot of people,” Wilks said. “Whether you’re a 12-year-old wrestling fan or you’re 75 years old and have been watching wrestling for the last 30 or 40 years, you know who Ric Flair is.” He added Flair also offers authenticity around his use of plant-based medicines similar to Tyson. “A lot of wrestlers including Ric have had a lot of issues in their past with abuse of other drugs and alcohol,” the CEO said. “A lot of the guys are popping more pills than any of them should be to deal with the stress and anxiety of always being on. When we spoke about that, he really broke into tears and told me he wishes that someone had explained to him and taught him the benefits of cannabis years ago.” He noted Flair had used Xanax as his go to medication for sleep for 20 plus years but has now begun to use edibles. “For Ric to convert to plant-based medicine and really be candid and open about how it has impacted his life was the authenticity that really hit home for us,” he said. “We brought him on and his icon status akin to Tyson - and the two of them together are just unstoppable.”
EXPANSION PLANS: In March, Tyson 2.0 announced an expansion of the company’s cannabis products to retailers across Delaware, Illinois and Washington D.C. in partnership with Columbia Care (CCHWF). The company is currently active in ten states and has license agreements in 22 states, the CEO said. “Delaware, Illinois and DC were all part of our 20 state rollout plan,” he said. “Where there is a large Tyson fan base, quality product is a big concern and focus for us.” The company launched 3.5 gram flower, pre-rolls, vape in Delaware with Mike Bites to launch at the end of the month, Wilks said, and 4-5 gram bags of flower as well as pre-rolls in Illinois. “We will also be launching vapes and Mike Bites in June,” he said. “And then in DC, we also launched the 3.5 gram flower, pre-rolls and vapes. On top of that, we’ve done Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio with many more to come.” The company is also aiming to get into New Jersey, Florida and Virginia, the CEO said. “We’re super excited about trying to bring Mike’s plant-based medicines to as many Americans in need as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to get people away from these pharmaceutical disasters that we continue to see and remain focused on making real plant-based medicines accessible for the masses.”
CORONAVIRUS: Coronavirus has impacted many companies in the cannabis industry globally and back in November, Wilks noted the pandemic had led to an uptick in cannabis purchases as well as distribution issues. “When COVID first hit, there was a crazy influx in purchases,” he said. “We did see sales skyrocket as people were scared that they were going to be locked down and unable to get their medicine.” While sales spiked and revenues increased, the industry saw several hurdles in distribution, the CEO said. “We saw a big hiccup in distribution, delivery times and access to tested, clean cannabis,” he said. “Since then, it’s all been corrected and a lot more cultivation has come online so there’s an ample supply of product.”
LEGALIZATION: In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the MORE Act, a federal marijuana legalization bill, by a vote of 220 for to 204 against. The House previously passed the bill in December 2020, however it was not taken up by the Senate. “I’ve been in this industry for a long time now and watching it progress has been honestly incredible,” the CEO said. “But we have such a long way to go still.” He pointed to the fact that there are still many people incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses and charged for quantities that consumers can now easily buy over the counter “Until that all resolves and until the Safe Banking Act passes, it still could be a grind,” he said. “We’re all going to continue to fight for legalization.” Wilks said it is not an if, but a when for legalization, which will open up access to many people in need of the plant-based medicine. “We’d really love to see the Biden Administration push forward on this,” he said.
DERIVATIVES: As technology advances and delivery systems for cannabinoids become more diverse, Wilks said he expects consumer interest to shift to more discrete offerings over time. “It continues to be flower as the leader,” he said. “It’s always been and will continue to be one of the most popular items but there are more and more people leaning towards more discrete consumption methods.” The CEO noted an uptick in vape consumption as it is a cleaner way to smoke and offers less smell and smoke, “Then for us, we have seen a crazy, crazy demand for our Mike Bites gummy ears,” he said. “We just can’t keep it on the shelves. We’re really excited to expand on that product line with chocolate ears, lollipop ears and a lot of different fun ear mold products.” Wilks added Tyson 2.0 has also seen growth in edibles, beverages, creams and tinctures, but it is always led by flower. “Flower will always be the leader,” he said. “That’s just from generation to generation of people’s use of cannabis and it’s always been the number one consumption method.”
CONSOLIDATION, INFLATION: 2022 has seen a wave of consolidation as well as a surge of inflation creating challenges for small- and mid-sized operators in the industry. “It’s sad to say but with 280E in place and the influx of additional cultivation facilities coming on line, the production is going to go through the roof,” the CEO said. “There’s going to be more product than the nation will know what to do with when everyone is finished.” 280E will also make it very difficult for a lot of companies to survive in this industry due to the government restrictions, the taxes and the competition that continues to grow, he said. “It’s going to be a challenge out there and there’s going to be a massive influx of consolidation that we’re going to be seeing,” Wilks said. “There will be a lot of the bigger guys coming in and scooping up some of the smaller guys that can’t survive. And even the really big guys, with 280E, it’s going to be hard.” He added that he expects consolidation to accelerate when cannabis becomes federally legal. “You’ll have everybody from your standard funds and so on that will finally be able to invest in an industry they can’t currently touch due to federal laws,” he said. “There will be a lot of fresh money and consolidation when that time happens.”
CHALLENGES: When asked about the largest hurdles facing the cannabis industry, Wilks cited the wait for the Safe Banking Act as well as state rules, regulations and approval processes as the biggest obstacles in the space. “Safely banking your money in the industry is key,” he said, adding, “States all have their own rules and regulations and it’s a lot of work for any brand entering those markets.” Overall federal legalization would fix a majority of the challenges in the space, the CEO said. “But that’s the standard of doing business,” he said. “You’re always going to have hoops to jump through but we’re continuing to sprint forward and build the Tyson 2.0/Ric Flair Drip brand.”
OPPORTUNITIES: As the cannabis sector develops, the CEO said Tyson 2.0 sees the biggest opportunities in adding additional celebrities and executing on the 20 states the company has contracts for. “I just can’t wait to bring Tyson 2.0 to all markets that are excited to have it,” he said. “Outside of that we’re really excited for global expansion. In Europe, we have got future roll outs and we’re starting with our non-plant touching products. We’re also working on deals in Germany, Australia and Portugal.” The company is also excited for its expansion into Canada, in which Tyson has a big fan base, Wilks said. “We’re continuing to grow our team as well,” he said. “Just the overall growth of the company and the new products that we have coming to market, we are moving.”
OTHER CANNABIS/PSYCHEDELIC STOCKS: Publicly-traded companies in the space include Acreage (ACRHF), Akerna (KERN), Aleafia (ALEAF), Atai Life Sciences (ATAI), Awakn Life Sciences (AWKNF), Audacious (AUSAF), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Ayr Wellness (AYRWF), BC Craft (CRFTF), Body and Mind (BMMJ), CanaFarma (CNFHF), Cannara Biotech (LOVFF), Canopy Growth (CGC), RIV Capital (CNPOF), Chicago Atlantic (REFI), Columbia Care (CCHWF), Compass Pathways (CMPS), CordovaCann (LVRLF), Clever Leaves (CLVR), Cresco Labs (CRLBF), Cronos Group (CRON), CV Sciences (CVSI), Curaleaf (CURLF), CURE Pharmaceutical (CURR), Delic Holdings (DELCF), Delta 9 (DLTNF), Entourage Health (ETRGF), Fire & Flower (FFLWF), Flora Growth (FLGC), FluroTech (FLURF), General Cannabis (CANN), Goodness Growth (GDNSF), Greenlane (GNLN), Green Thumb (GTBIF), GrowGeneration (GRWG), Harborside (HBORF), Hemp (HEMP), HEXO (HEXO), High Tide (HITI), Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR), IM Cannabis (IMCC), India Globalization Capital (IGC), Indiva (NDVAF), InterCure (INCR), Wellbeing Digital (KONEF), Khiron Life Sciences (KHRNF), Lowell Farms (LOWLF), Lotus Ventures (LTTSF), MediPharm (MEDIF), MedMen (MMNFF), MJardin Group (MJARF), Neptune Wellness (NEPT), NewLake Capital (NLCP), Thermic Science (ENDO), Organigram (OGI), Planet 13 (PLNHF), Relmada (RLMD), RYAH Group (RYAHF), Sproutly (SRUTF), Stem Holdings (STMH), Small Pharma (DMTTF), Skye Biosciences (SKYE), Sundial Growers (SNDL), Sunniva (SNNVF), TerrAscend (TRSSF), Tetra Bio-Pharma (TBPMF), Tilray (TLRY), Trulieve (TCNNF), Tryp Therapeutics (TRYPF), Valens (VLNCF), Verano Holdings (VRNOF), Village Farms (VFF), Wesana Health (WSNAF), Zynerba (ZYNE) and 4Front Ventures (FFNTF).