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Legacy to Legal: Fresh by IslandCanna

by Budtenders Association |

Roots run deep in the world of cannabis and it's only thanks to those that came before us who have dedicated the better part of their lives to the plant, that the nascent legal industry has the knowledge to flourish so quickly.

From roots to suits, deep 'seeded' culture remains and is finally making a blooming appearance through the legal framework.

For this feature of Legacy to Legal, Budtenders Association is grateful for the opportunity to connect with Traviss Graham; VP Cultivation at one of Vancouver Island's emerging legal craft brands - 

Fresh by IslandCanna

Traviss, in a few sentences, describe your first experience with cannabis.

I grew up on the north end of Vancouver Island where a lot of the loggers supplemented their income during summer shutdown by growing cannabis. My first experience was being part of that culture. Between 8-10 years old I started growing, trimming and working with cannabis.

Then in my late teens I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and used cannabis to help deal with that and started selling it to supplement the cost.

How or what made you decide to pursue this as your career?

In 2007 I transitioned from legacy cultivation into the medical market with the MMAR program and got medical licenses for my grow operations. In 2014 I moved from the MMAR into the 5th Canadian Licensed Producer, Thunderbird Biomedical. I transferred all my legacy genetics into this license and that was the beginning of my legal cannabis career.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a legacy player transitioning into a regulated market?

To this day I still cannot get my security clearance from the government. The reason for this was my “association” with the legacy market. This has posed many challenges, one of them being that I cannot be in a cannabis present area without a security cleared person on-site. In the beginning, I couldn’t even be in a grow room on my own.

What are some of the key differences you notice between the legacy and regulated markets?

In the legacy market product was sold based on effect, taste, smell and bag appeal. Now, people do not have the ability to see and touch the flower when making the decision to purchase. There also wasn’t such a demand for potency percentages. The government has installed itself into an industry they do not fully understand, basing their model on the distribution of liquor. If you have 17% THC weed that’s wicked, you can’t get it in because it doesn’t hit the framework they’ve put in place. Because of this a lot of great genetics have
fallen from the market.

The main advantage is access to labs that can test for plant nutrition and disease. They existed before but weren’t available to us. With those lab results I can adjust things like nutrients and fertilizer.

Describe one lesson, practice, technique, mindset or experience, that you’ve carried over from the legacy days to now?

The mindset to always be hustling, coming up with new varieties, growing techniques, and ways to maximize yield.

“ ...always be hustling, coming up with new varieties, growing techniques, and ways to maximize yield. ”

What sets Fresh by IslandCanna apart?

I use a lot of the experience I learned in the legacy market in our business plan. We focus on quality over quantity, diversity and new and exciting genetics. Building a business based on efficiency, not on production and square footage. We don’t try to do it all. We focus on what we are good at which is growing and leave the sales, marketing and consumer packaged goods side to our experienced partners like BZAM.

Finally, what advice would you like to give Budtenders who are building their careers in cannabis?

“ [Budtenders] You are an important conduit between cannabis producers and the customers. ”

I would say to anyone just getting into it, remember that we are still in the beginning of a new industry. Be patient with regulators because a lot has changed since 2014 for the better and I think it will continue to change as the industry matures. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the producers and ask questions and provide feedback. You are an important conduit between
cannabis producers and the customers. 

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