An Interview with Smoke Wallin, CEO of Vertical Wellness

Smoke Wallin, CEO of Vertical Wellness

Election Day proved monumental for recreational and medical cannabis legalization in Arizona. The approval of Prop 207 signals a new era for a state despite Governor Doucey’s opposition to legalization.   

It’s exciting to see Arizona go legal, and I anticipate there will be many issues before consumers can actually toke up, but that’s a good thing – Arizona needs to prepare its citizens for a new world.

– Smoke Wallin, CEO of Vertical Wellness

What’s in store for Arizona’s adult cannabis users? For that information and more, AZFoothills interviewed Wallin to discuss cannabis legalization’s impact on Arizona and offer what he has learned from his extensive work in cannabis in Colorado, California, and Washington. 

What is Vertical Wellness? Can you describe what Vertical Wellness does in the Cannabis community?

Yeah, so Vertical Wellness grew 1800 acres of hemp last year; that’s the non-THC version of cannabis. We extract CBD and other cannabinoids that are then put into our own brands. Vertical Wellness is nearly everything from seed to sale with hemp production and marketing for our brands under the umbrella of Vertical Wellness.

We have a sister company that handles the THC component of growing cannabis, but we primarily deal with the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC levels.

What’s next now that Proposition 207 has passed in the state of Arizona? What can adult cannabis users expect moving forward?

The nice thing is that we now have quite a few states that have gone down this path. Right next door, we have California, Nevada, and Colorado, who have already passed cannabis legalization propositions.

It all depends on the state, but it usually takes a couple of years to catch their stride with regulatory structure, government management licenses, and how exactly the state will regulate cannabis as a “business.” However, with many states surrounding Arizona having already perfected the system, it shouldn’t be a super long process.

First, you will most likely see adult medicinal dispensaries being given privileges to sell to the adult general public. There will probably be a significant surge in medicinal shops around the state.

Then the question is, how quickly does the state allow for additional licenses. This takes some time because Arizona and local legislatures will let each community decide whether they want cannabis throughout their individual communities.

Would you agree that Arizona was traditionally a “conservative” state that this will be a domino effect for other surrounding states to follow suit?

I think we’re at a tipping point nationally, not just in Arizona or an individual state. During this election period, we saw five state referendums for the legalization of cannabis. It does not have anything to do with right or left-wing politics, but big pharmaceutical companies do have a large pull on state elections.

In New York, the legislature has been consistently a “blue” state, but there are many behind-the-scenes politics that place. 

We have a lot of disagreement in our country, but we see that the vast majority of the public, regardless of “red or blue” states favoring a regulated market.

Many individuals now think, “oh, Proposition 207 passed, I can now go purchase marijuana and cannabis legally,” but is that the case?

No, I don’t know precisely how long it will take for adults to purchase cannabis from purely recreational dispensaries. I would guess maybe a year, but politicians want to remain popular with the public.

If Arizona passed with a relatively large percentage supporting the legalization of cannabis, they should provide the framework relatively soon. It all depends on how aggressive the governor wants to be.

What advice would you give to first-time adult cannabis users?

Many states have done a great job with the proper labeling of cannabis products. From a consumer standpoint, it’s similar to alcohol but a bit different. It sometimes takes us a few tries to experiment with alcoholic beverages we enjoy, our tolerance levels, and sometimes you learn by trial and error.

Always start small and ask the employees in dispensaries for advice, with a wide range of edibles, beverages, glassware, and so on. I always tell first-time users to start very small and work your way up from the comfort of your own home.

A great tip is to also accompany THC products with CBD products. CBD is a great way to neutralize and balance the levels of THC in your system.

Many consumers think cannabis is all about “getting high,” but there are so many other forms of use with the hemp plant. Can you touch on some of those other products we can develop from hemp?

We talk about CBD and THC, but there are over 150 cannabinoids in the hemp plant. Now that more and more states are fully legalizing the plant, we can spend much more time developing and experimenting with these 150 other cannabinoids.

Many help with sleep, anxiety, depression, and so many other health benefits. The plant is a versatile thing of nature; we are just beginning to open our eyes to all of its properties.

I just read something that hemp can be developed into batteries and perform eight times better than lithium-ion batteries. Hemp can be used for paper, rope, and since the plant can be grown seasonally outside and be grown inside.

We can develop products year-round without destroying our environment for the same materials.

We are also hearing about “cannabis tourism,” as we see in Amsterdam or Denver with travelers wanting to visit states to try legal cannabis. Do you see this happening here in Arizona?

One thing with governments is that no matter how much money is earned through taxation, they can always find a way to spend it. However, this plant has so many possibilities to “close the gap,” and have the state receive large amounts of revenue. would like to thank Smoke Wallin for his time and expertise on the subject of cannabis legalization.

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