Cannabis Wisdom from Industry Pioneer, Dixie Brands

Special brownies. Photo by Kelly Garbato.

I interviewed Tripp Keber, CEO of Dixie Brands (formerly Dixie Elixirs), to get an idea of what it’s like to run one of America’s leading cannabis companies. Dixie began in Denver, CO in 2009 with a single THC-infused soda, the Dixie Elixir, and has since expanded its reach across several states with products ranging from chocolates to mints. Since 2014, the company has experienced 25% annual revenue growth while headcount has tripled [i].

Though Colorado has opened cannabis up for recreational use, a number of patients are finding relief from a variety of diseases by consuming infused edibles and vaping cannabis oil. Cannabis has shown effectiveness in treating cancer, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, PTSD, and much more [ii]. Eating an edible doesn’t pose risks associated with smoking, and it even introduces therapeutic compounds to the body through alternative biological pathways.

In the early days of cannabis legalization, investors were hesitant to invest in cannabis startups. There was no telling when a business like Dixie might be raided and shut down by the DEA. Tripp Keber’s “delusional confidence” drove him to keep plugging away with his partner, Chuck Smith, to create a business from the ground up with their own hands — and their own wallets. And the hard work ultimately paid off with the recreational legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado. Consumer demand was like a dam breaking loose, with customers flocking from all over the world to try old-school pot products and newer forms of consumable cannabis.

Industry leaders like Keber try not to bask in the glory of past achievements for too long, keeping an eye out for challengers and an another eye out for hints of what lies over the horizon. Executives can always count on two things in the cannabis industry: demand and changing regulations. Regulations still make it difficult to centralize production and take advantage of the capital efficiencies as those in other manufacturing industries due to the inability to ship weed across state lines. Dixie is innovating around the challenge by setting up distributed production facilities in states across the West Coast. They’re also partnering with strategic production partners to focus on their core competencies while contracting out science-heavy aspects of the supply chain to key companies.

Twenty-sixteen has been an exciting year for cannabis consumers, operators, investors, and business leaders. It’s only a matter of time before the end of Prohibition, Part II.