An interview with Mike “BigMike Straumietis
The Very Jessica Fung team had the opportunity to interview Mike “BigMike” Straumietis back in 2020 and checked in with him over the Pandemic and see the work he’s been doing.
Mike “BigMike” Straumietis founded Advanced Nutrients and Humanity Heroes. Despite the massive boom in the industry and being the top agricultural products manufacturer, he’s still focused on giving back to the community and those in need and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the California wildfires.
BigMike keeps it honest with us and talks about his origins, successful entrepreneurship in the cannabis space, advocacy for education and scientific research, continued charitable work, and new and upcoming ventures with a relaunch of BigMike’s Blends in January 2021.
The cannabis industry is growing, and BigMike shows no signs of stopping and shares with us how he’s taking on the “growing boom” during a pandemic. Take a look at what more to expect from this OG cannabis King.
Can you tell us about how you built your company?
When I was 23 years old in 1983, I started growing cannabis back in the dark ages, as I call it. There wasn’t a good nutrient system for growing cannabis, and I started making my own nutrients. I started taking other people’s nutrients, and products and I started working with them and trying to figure out how to optimize the plant’s full genetic potential.
I modified and modified where I wanted to verify my findings through science because science has the truth. So I started to put together two licenses; one from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the other from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). From here, I began researching the different strains and parts of the plant to learn about what the plant was using through the vegetative and blooming cycles. I was able to figure out a lot to optimize the plant to it’s fullest potential.
Is it safe to say that your career began in Canada?
Yes and no, growing for me, started in the US. Still, I would have been looking at heavy penalties for the amount of cannabis I wanted to grow. To mitigate risk, I had to move my operation to Canada; my goal was to have a 100 light operation. Sure enough, I got my grow and expanded out a bit larger than that over the years.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to join the industry today?
Yes, I do, the industry is so vast, and there are so many new areas that are just popping up, and it’s amazing to keep up with it all. My advice would be to ask yourself, what sector of the cannabis industry you want to be a part of? Once you define that, go to whichever state you’re living in or move to a state where cannabis is legal and look at all the companies doing what you’re doing and send in your resume and relentlessly call to get that interview. The most important thing is to figure out which sector because people say they want to get into cannabis, but that is such a broad topic. There are so many different areas to get into; you have to decide which one is for you.
From your perspective, is there a particular [cannabis] subsector that gives you the ‘wow’ factor or that you notice more so than others?
Yes, it’s at the beginning of the value chain in cannabis, such as fertilizer and genetics is what we do, and then BigMike’s Blends, which I’m launching in January 2021, is at the other end of the value chain.
Today, many of these other companies are rushing in to be vertically integrated, and I disagree with that philosophy. I’d rather be at both ends of the spectrum. You can always get vertically integrated later on.
There’s so much shifting sand, and laws are changing so fast that you see many of these companies are burning through their capital, and they’re acting like they’re in a ‘regular’ space when they’re not; this is cannabis. Cannabis is an industry that’s highly regulated by Governments, which is why they’re stumbling and falling.
And the second part of why they’re failing is that they do not respect the culture or understand the current culture and demand. Many newcomers disrespect the past culture by making assumptions and taking advantage of this industry, instead of listening to the past culture’s men and women, who understand the marketplace.
They have their own agendas; instead of using good growing principles, they treat it as a commodity rather than give the plant tender loving care. They just want to grow well, you can do that, but you’ll end up with a mediocre product, and people don’t want a mediocre product. So, respect the culture, respect the people, understand it, go down deep into the trenches, see what people want and give it to them.
You’re a strong advocate for staying educated and researching and understanding the culture, are there any resources you would recommend for them to look into before joining the industry?
I just read. Again, choose the sector that you want and study the hell out of it. In my case, I studied plant science, and I took things that I learned from different scientists, and I applied them towards cannabis to see if they would work or not, and that’s it. Just be a voracious student, and know your stuff and learn it. You don’t have to be an expert initially, but you will become an authority and expert if you stay with it.
Did you face any stigma, especially when you started in the ‘dark ages’.
Oh, gosh, it was horrible. People would ask me what I did. I would tell them that I make cannabis products, and I would get two reactions; 1. they would go, “what’s that?” That was a good response, and I can explain some stuff to them. And the other one was I would get a snicker. And a lot of people discredited what I was doing. Now I’m the guy getting the last laugh – My brother and I were trimming weed in the basement. I looked at him and said, “this is going to be legal one day, and he says “when?” and I go “in our lifetime,” and sure enough, 20 years later it became legal and the rest, as they say, is history, and I’m in a very great place.
In your opinion, post-legalization, has that stigma changed? Has it gotten better? Is there still work to be done?
Yes, there’s still a lot of work to be done. People were indoctrinated with lies for 50 years, so we have to unravel that in people’s minds. Most people are pro-cannabis these days. Though, the advertisers are having a tough time, mostly because it’s not federally legal. When it becomes legal, I think the advertisers will loosen up a bit.
Given the world we live in right now, with COVID19, there seems to be a growers’ boom. Can you describe what that is?
There is a growing boom; our business has tripled over the last six months. I’ve got to buy new equipment and upgrade. It is the craziest ride of my life. People are stressed, and when people are stressed, they turn to vices. And thank god cannabis is legal in 35 states in one form or another. And it’s helping a lot of people get through this time. We’re probably going to go through the worst economic downturn I will see in my lifetime.
People will be stressed, and they will continue to use cannabis heavily for the next 3-4 years. Also, the very fact is, the CB1 receptors in the human brain; people become habituated psychologically to the feeling of cannabis. So we have a whole new generation and sector for people who’ve used cannabis for the first time who will continue to use it throughout their lifetime.
The cannabis business, which I predict will become an over trillion-dollar business within the next 25-30 years, and it’s going to move really fast. When you start talking about hemp and all the infrastructure is now being built for hemp farmers all across America, and you begin to look at the textiles and industrial uses of cannabis and not just the medical and medicinal uses. You have a space that’s over a trillion dollars globally, and there are more countries legalizing adult-use or medical use at a rate that I can’t keep up with it all.
Have there been challenges with keeping with this demand?
Yes, for sure! It’s a good problem to have. Right now, I have 11 million dollars of backorders, and I’m working seven days a week! We have three shifts going in our facility to try to keep up with the demand. We’re building a new manufacturing plant right now in Spain. We’re expanding our powdered line into Las Vegas. We have another warehouse going up in the east coast that will happen very shortly. Business is booming, and business is excellent globally. This is an amazing industry to be in, especially at the beginning of the value chain.
Besides COVID19, the west coast has been affected by wildfires. Has that damaged or affected the price of raw cannabis?
Yes, the prices will go up in cannabis because a lot of the grows has smoke damage. And a lot of it has burned up in the fires a well. And so you’ll see a steady increase in pricing this year.
Besides Advanced Nutrients, your work with Humanity Heroes during the wildfires going on in the west coast, has that damaged or affected the price of raw cannabis?
Also, through Humanity Heroes, we started our charity because we believe we have a responsibility for those who are successful in giving back to the community from which you get your money and society as a whole. And one of the things we’re doing right now at Humanity Heroes is helping California and Southern Oregan, the growers that had fire and smoke damage to their crops. Where $250,000 in cash and $250,000 worth of product, we’re giving out to those two states to help growers come back and start it back up in spring.
You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you want to stay in the industry for 30 plus years. What can we expect to see from you in the next several decades?
BigMike’s Blends is relaunching in January 2021, with new branding and better technology put into the pre-rolls using high terpene extracts and is a far superior product. We’re also in the hemp space, with fertilizer for hemp, and we’re also in the genetics game and the hemp and THC side as well.
I used to have a company called “Laughing Moon Seed Company,” where I worked as a breeder many years ago. I got out of it, and now I’m getting back into it because the future is in genetics and fertilizer. These go together like peanut butter and jelly.
What do you hope to see in the future for the industry? If you could have one wish and you can change or keep something, what would it be?
Federal legalization, immediately. I want the tax laws changed and the banking laws opened up. I would love to see interstate commerce between states when it comes to cannabis and export and import cannabis globally because that will make America into a ****cannabis powerhouse. The best growers are here in the United States and specifically here in California. It is ground zero here; the biggest and best brands will be from Southern California.
A bit of an off-topic question, but there’s a difference between the first time you smoked and the most memorable time you smoked. Was there an experience that was most memorable for you as you were consuming cannabis?
The most memorable time was when I first smoked when I was 12 years old. The other time was when I was in the Czech Republic. I saw dabbing for the first time, this was probably 15 years ago, this guy had a torch out, and he’s heating this titanium bowl, and I’m going “what kind of metal is that?” and he tells me, “it’s titanium” I go “What are you doing though?” and he asks me “Do you want to try it?” I said, “Ok, sure,” and he got the bowl to look cherry hot red, and he hit the dab, and I took the hit.
I was just couch-slaught immediately, and I went, “oh my god! what is that?” and he asked me if I want another one. I see all these guys taking one dab after the next, and that was the first time I was introduced to dabs while I was in the Czech Republic before it caught on and became a big thing. Then the next thing I know, dabbing is a thing. So I remember my first dap and first joint.
Disclaimer: Please note all opinions and statements expressed here are strictly those of Mike “BigMike” Straumietis. The Very Jessica Fung team claims no responsibility over statements or claims made within this article. Please review our legal disclosure for further information regarding our content.