Meg Sanders of Canna Provisions on CPG Expertise in Cannabis

Plus, partnering with Little Steven and walking the walk with restorative social justice

Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions, is one of the most celebrated, compassionate and experienced female cannabis CEOs in the industry with over 10 years of U.S. cannabis industry experience.

Meg has been featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to The New York Times and 60 Minutes, right down to smaller rural zines and women-focused media. Meg is a powerhouse and a connector of people and talents.

We spoke with Meg for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.

Meg, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Texas, but moved to Colorado in the second grade. I then spent most summers and holidays in Texas with my family, but stayed in Colorado until 2017. Now I share time between Coventry, Connecticut, and Lee, Massachusetts.

Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.

CEO of Canna Provisions, based in the Berkshires in Lee, Massachusetts, about 300 yards off the first exit in the state when coming from New York. We also have a gorgeous retail location in a 150-year-old former paper mill in Holyoke in the Pioneer Valley.

A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.

Well, the biggest thing is cannabis gave me my life, work, journey and everything partner, Erik Williams. His love and support is so important to me, and we complement each other in exactly the right ways. Just as importantly, cannabis has brought me a spectacular group of humans I get to work with every day at Canna Provisions, many becoming the best lifelong friends I could have ever asked for in my cannabis journey. Cannabis has also afforded me the privilege of being close friends with an amazing group of women all around the globe from the industry, which I am so grateful to have in my orbit and even gather with as I do in a monthly meetup among a growing cross-section of the most dynamic and inspiring women executives, operators and thought leaders in U.S. cannabis.  

A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.

Hands down right now my favorite flower is UFJoe from our Smash Hits cannabis exclusive line. My go-to edible right now is a CBN and THC pomegranate gummy from Coast Cannabis. Looking nationally, though, hands down my favorite brand is Garden Society. I love what they are doing from top to bottom.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

My marketing director and I often speak about the difficulties we face reaching our target demographic. The limitations and restrictions from state-based regulations make it extremely challenging as retailers, as common marketing strategies (i.e., advertising specials or discounts of any kind outside of our own website) practically don't apply across the board, so it's nearly impossible to be competitive in the retail space with traditional marketing. Combine that with further restrictions set by popular social media platforms, TV networks and radio, and it becomes a minefield. However, when you surround yourself with talented people who come to this industry with institutional knowledge, but also creative thinking that creates solutions to ever-changing regulations and restrictions, that energy expands through the company at large and some really amazing results can come of it.

One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.

I love that there are traditional CPG experts entering the legal cannabis industry at a very rapid pace. Which is great, as this now brings in an incredible pool of talent to an expanding industry in need of solutions to ever-changing regulations and problems. We are actively recruiting for that kind of expert right now for Canna Provisions and Smash Hits Cannabis.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

We're proud of the fact that at Canna Provisions we put our money where our mouth is, and a great example is the story of our partnership with our director of cultivation, Greg "Chemdog" Krzanowski, a legend of legacy market culture who helped change cannabis in the 1990s. We worked with the Massachusetts Social Equity Program to get Chemdog into the legal industry as a fully badged legal weed cultivator 10 years after his arrest and assets seizure by the state in 2010. We launched his first-ever legally grown small batch cannabis in April 2020 with our exclusive Smash Hits brand.

Another is The Last Prisoner Project, which we partnered with in 2020 and are one of their official partners for the Roll It Up for Justice program. We work with their team to collect donations from customers that go directly to the organization. We strongly support ongoing restorative social justice programs that work to rectify the destructive impact of the failed War on Drugs, and plan to continue finding new partners and ways to create change.

A recent project you're proud of.

Our successful launch of Little Steven's Underground Apothecary as the exclusive cannabis partner. I'm proud of the team effort that is truly driving this project, and what an incredible person Steven Van Zandt is. I'm incredibly grateful that his team is so fantastic to work with and look forward to activating similar exciting projects with new partners.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

Wana Brands' sale to Canopy Growth. [CEO] Nancy Whiteman and I have been friends for years back to my days in Colorado. We've been there for each other through really tough times, and I'm so proud of her successful sale, and for all the aspiring women leaders and entrepreneurs in the space, she is absolutely someone to look up to in cannabis. I also admired the recent sale of MJBizCon to Emerald, for similar reasons. Founders Chris Walsh and Cassandra Ferrington and I go way back in this industry, and we were all speakers at the very first MJBiz Conference in Denver, and continued to support them every year until the pandemic disruption.

Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.

Oh, there are many companies. Erin Gore of Garden Society is one from the brand side, and Dr. Chanda Macias is one of the most influential women in cannabis. Why? Because the industry needs more smart, creative women doing amazing work in products and leadership in the industry. Dr. Macias leads several companies and is CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare. Her most recent success was getting flower as an approved product for sale in Louisiana. She is crushing it!

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.

I'd run a foster home for senior dogs and cats. They are the last to be adopted and there are thousands and thousands of senior pets waiting in shelters. I can't wrap my head around choosing a puppy over a senior dog. Just doesn't compute for me personally. I would also support a state by state effort to require microchips (and make them free). The resources we spend on shelters would be significantly lower if we were able to track down owners faster. Every police vehicle, public service vehicle, animal control officer should have a chip scanner. The first thing that would happen if an animal is found without a chip is they get one, and in order to get your pet back, you must fill out all of the required info. This would also allow us to track people who don't care for or abuse their animals to make sure they can't get another one.

Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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