Profiles by Cannabiz Social Podcast - Jason Kujath
In this week’s episode of “Profiles by Cannabiz Social”, we heard from Jason Kujath, President and Co-founder of 51st Parallel Inc., a licensed producer of medical cannabis in Alberta.
51st Parallel is in the process of building a 110,000 sq. ft production facility in Lethbridge with aspirations of opening in October that will ultimately feed a series of eight retail store fronts, in what the company believes are strategic areas.
“Looking at Alberta, we’re the largest-ordered per capita of LP cannabis across the country. Alberta has a massive demand for the LPs. I have to say, I think those numbers will change in the recreational user and we want to see an increase. Highlight the opportunity we have in the recreational market,” Kujath explained.
When searching out areas to build their facility, and as they looked around, identified Lethbridge due it relative close proximity to Calgary. It’s the third largest city in Alberta with 90,000 people, and its economy surrounding the area is relatively strong with two post-secondary institutions operating there. “It made so much sense so us. It’s the third sunniest city in all of Canada and made us feel it’s one of the best places to grow.”
Kujath was a lawyer, so why the switch? “I was practicing as a tax lawyer, as far away as you could possibly imagine from cannabis. I worked at two high-end firms in Calgary. Cannabis was always interesting to me and it seemed like I had a lifelong journey with cannabis. As a lawyer, my practice was also interested in the space, legislation, the shift in policies, etc. My education me realize where you could play in this world and understand what you could do. As policies shift, it makes sense to pay attention to them.
"Cannabis was always interesting to me and it seemed like I had a lifelong journey with cannabis."
In 2016 my focus grew, I wanted to be a part of what was happening, and in 2016, my partner and I submitted an application to Health Canada, bought some land, did our due diligence and felt that greenhouse cannabis was the way to go.”
51st Parallel looked to where their place was in the market and began to find their own niche. They befriended a group called LivWell Enlightened health, largest player in the Colorado market who have 14 dispensaries, 180,000 sq. ft of grow and second largest number of licenses in the state for growing. Modelled ourselves after what they were doing.
As they entered the market, they had a feeling they would be able to dominate the recreational market, and it’s also where the fun is to be had. Kujath noted there’s still a long way to go and a lot to prove for the company. “We’re so thankful for our vertical integration because when we look at the people in the market, you have to ensure shelf space.” It’s akin to how brands at grocery stores compete for shelf space at a grocery store.
After perusing their website, one is able to see 51st Parallel Advisory Board has some high-profile names, most notably Floyd Landis, and Mark Tewksbury. “We have a connection through our network,” Kujtah explained.
Landis was 2006 Tour De France champion before being stripped of the title and was the whistleblower on Lance Armstrong, and is now in the cannabis industry himself. “He was interested and helpful once we first met, and very open with us. Athletes of his calibre who attributes his use of cannabis to some of this most gruelling athletic performances as being helpful – undertaking, recovering –were huge influencers in our industry. The same applies to Tewksbury, who’s been a huge advocate in the industry. His interest and advocacy led us to say you’re someone who is exemplary in this space, and we’d love to have participate with us.
51st plans to keep a wide variety of products in, and feels if you can be a product that commands that much demand, you’ve done a bang-up job.
Kujath’s advice to someone looking to get into the cannabis industry: Just do it. If you have a passion, follow it and trust your instincts.