Q&A with MTL Cannabis’ Jenn Larry
Published on June 4, 2021 by David Wylie
We spoke with Jenn Larry, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at MTL Cannabis:
the oz. — I know that it’s called ‘M-T-L,’ but you go into a shop here and people call it ‘Montreal.’ Is there a meaning to the name?
Jenn — We’ve actually had a couple of people come to us to see if it’s an initial or an acronym. There’s a US-based company called Mad Terp Labs… But MTL, there are a couple of different things we use internally of what it could stand for, but right now it sits in the shadows. And for what it’s worth, it represents us as a group and we let it do its part to represent the city. We’ve heard a couple of different ones, and we’ve thought we should run a survey or a contest with our fans to ask them what they want it to stand for. As long as they’re loving the weed, they can call it whatever they want.
the oz. — Can you tell me a little bit more about the founders?
They’re brothers and they’ve both been entrepreneurs for 25-30 years. One owned a pizza restaurant the other owned a restaurant. They have owned a hydroponics store, which is where they first got familiar with the concept of growing plants. When the system allowed for MMAR and MMPR, they moved into the medical space. What’s been fascinating about them is they have a passion for gardening, they have a passion for cannabis. Because they were on the hydroponics side, they had a real passion for systems. They inevitably developed their own system which they were able to bring online through those preliminary medical days. Now they’ve transitioned their hard work into this official standard LP.
They’re an amazing duo. They’re completely different. They have each other’s backs all the time. There’s so much love that goes on between them, and they argue just enough so that they always make the right choices in the end. They have a sense of what matters. They come in on the weekends. They walk through the plants. They don’t have other people doing the job. They are actively involved. It’s cool to have founders that don’t just get weed, but make sure the weed that they put out the door is of a factor that they would like. They’re shy and humble. To quote something we put out on social media, ‘They are far more interested in grow lights than they are in spotlights.’ It is so refreshing to work with people like that.
the oz. — MTL has only put out Sage N’ Sour; are you working on another strain?
Jenn — It is the question on everybody’s mind. We have been working on growing a couple of different cultivars, which are not yet set to launch in the market. And it’s not for not wanting to provide it to the market, it’s because we have made the decision to really stand behind our signature strain. From a commercial perspective, we didn’t want to just drop Sage N’ Sour in the market. We wanted to commit to the idea of being consistent, being in stock, available, and actually trying to do something national. So right now our next drop is we’re going to offer a half-z. That will come through the country over the next couple of months… letting our fans get the bulk they deserve. And then we have some interesting different genetics that are compliments in the idea of what if somebody wants three different experiences, could they come to MTL Cannabis’ portfolio and feel like we’ve got their back? I can’t say more than that right now because some of the secret is what’s growing in the room, but we’re testing different genetics. Sage N’ Sour has been something that the founder has been able to work on for so long and that’s allowed us to get to where we are today. We’re now testing about a dozen different genetics to understand their yield potential, their flavour and their look, and then eventually, hopefully, their smoke. You can only do so much with a Health Canada licence.
the oz. — Sage N’ Sour’s not for sale in Quebec, right?
Jenn — Correct.
the oz. — Why is that?
Jenn — I think when we first hit the market there was an opportunity to bring the best of Montreal to the rest of Canada. For a really long time Quebec had been, I wouldn’t say left behind, but we didn’t have as many licences in the province. We really didn’t see as many Quebec companies heavily involved in the national conversation. When there was an opportunity to officially come out knowing that our backyard is here, knowing that the SQDC is only getting bigger, and knowing that they would receive us because we are family, I think it was a good choice for us to prove to ourselves that we can take the best of MTL and put it on shelves across the country so that we could come back to our backyard and thank them for giving us an opportunity to represent them. But I won’t lie, we get asked all the time, ‘when are you finally coming to the self,’ and it will be this year. I would love nothing more than the 75 people who work here today to actually be able to walk into a store and understand how actually it works to get us there because they haven’t had that opportunity yet to buy the weed.
the oz. — It’s so regulated so you’ve got to get it through those official channels.
Jenn — You really do.
the oz. — You need pen pals in other provinces.
Jenn — And you know we have some! Thank goodness we can continue to do market research. I will say this though, to have an opportunity to be strategic in a nascent industry where pivoting and moving so fast tend to be more the way of working, it is exciting for us that we built a strategy and we’re seeing it come to fruition and we wouldn’t have done anything different. We are so grateful that our province continues to wait for us to be on the shelves because we certainly didn’t do it to leave them out. We really did it because we do believe that Quebec has some serious cultivators, producers, product manufacturers, and really want to show that the best of MTL could be part of Canada.
the oz. — You have a background in music, and in different vice industries, like gambling and tobacco. What strategies have you learned in those different kind of industries; and what have you found works or doesn’t work in the cannabis industry?
Jenn — If I qualify music as a vice, it was the pleasure. The biggest lesson I learned in music… I entered it right when Napster kind of started to take over, so there was a business-as-usual model which was all about tangible goods, royalties. Everybody working in the business only understood it as it was. Being young and somewhat naïve, but also hopeful that music had value regardless of whether it was a tangible good or not, I really learned how prepared you need to be for innovation and disruption; and how distribution and storage was the backbone of every industry. I had that in the back of my mind, then when I moved into other categories where say the product was far more regulated, I wasn’t intimidated by the idea that we have to pivot; I wasn’t intimidated that we have to change. So it was easy for me when I started to work with our tobacco clients or oil and gas clients because the strategy was about having compliant communication, addressing solutions, and really building a more sustainable business for the future within the regulations. Honestly, I think that’s why I think I got so excited outside of my full passion for cannabis and my personal use of it. I had amassed and honed so many skills, had such great peers and mentors, and been thrown in the fire in so many categories that had everything going for them as far as consumer demand but were always against the regulatory framework. You really could never operate in just an easy way.
the oz. — You mentioned your personal use. You’re comfortable with being called “the poster child for smoking great cannabis”?
Jenn — When I was 15, like probably many teens at the time I was walking down the street, I got passed a joint and in that moment it was evident to me that this felt right. I never grew up drinking, so I’ve always has a connection to cannabis as a product in my life. I’ve never had any shame about it, and I never felt like I was doing anything wrong. So fast track almost 30 years, I really felt comfortable in choosing a lifestyle that included cannabis. I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be functional, hardworking, contributing to society, hopefully helping to build great brands, all while smoking. It’s important now that we’re normalizing, that we’re reducing the stigma and we’re affording people an opportunity to lean in to what legalized cannabis is supposed to mean — to not be afraid to say “I love smoking weed and lots of it.”