Matthew O’Brien is a young Irishman who moved to Canada in 2017. Having started his career in the cannabis industry as a Budtender, Matthew has since gone on to manage multiple retail locations and processing facilities, overseeing supply chains and developing software & lead marketing for cannabis companies as a Consultant.
How would you describe FOUR PM?
1Four PM is a weekly newsletter for cannabis professionals, born out of my desire to have access to relevant information that would allow me to make advancements in the cannabis industry.
When did you launch FOUR PM and what inspired you to start it?
I launched Four PM just shy of six months ago. Four PM is the most selfish, selfless thing I do on a daily basis. By writing a newsletter, I afford myself the opportunity to research subjects that are of interest to me, while at the same time providing just short of 2,000 cannabis professionals with access to what I view as the most relevant information every cannabis professional should be consuming.
How effective do you think newsletters are in disseminating information about cannabis compared to other methods?
Surprisingly very effective, and extremely under-utilised. As we all know, social media companies have a strong tendency to censor cannabis content, and email is one of the very few channels which is censorship-resistant. With FOUR PM, I can say anything I want without having to alter what I would otherwise like to say, for fear of my content being flagged and a ban issued.
Do you think distributing leaflets about cannabis is too intrusive for getting the message out, or do you feel the information is something people should seek out for themselves?
That’s a good question. I would say it depends on the demographic you are seeking to reach with your message. For older people, I would imagine that this would be an effective content distribution strategy. However, for someone such as myself who is a digital native, I wouldn’t pay much attention to this medium of communication.
What important lessons have you learned by managing cannabis processing facilities and stores?
As a Manager, you work for your staff, not the other way around. A common tendency when people become Managers is that they feel the need to demonstrate their authority over the staff they manage. Personally, I took the opposite approach. Ensuring you are setting your staff up for success each and every day is a necessity for them to succeed, and inadvertently for you to succeed.
What have been your most rewarding, enjoyable areas of work in cannabis until now?
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would once again work as a Budtender. Although it’s a difficult role with shit compensation, there is nothing quite like the relationships you can build with the customers you serve when working as a Budtender.
What for you have been the most exciting developments in the cannabis industry of the past few years?
Mexico legalising cannabis is extremely interesting for a variety of reasons. First of all, Mexico will become the largest cannabis market in the world and it will also create a situation whereby both of the countries that border the United States have legalised cannabis at a federal level, thus increasing the pressure on politicians in the U.S. to make the same amendments to their own legislation, to allow every adult to purchase cannabis.
Do you plan to develop FOUR PM as a brand outside of the newsletter? Have you got other projects you hope to pursue in the cannabis industry?
As things stand today, I plan on launching a podcast in the coming weeks such that I can provide additional value to those who take the time to consume the content I create. My North Star for FOUR PM is making cannabis professional lives easier, so there’s certainly a number of other low hanging fruits which I will pursue when the time is right. A major issue in the cannabis industry is the lack of transparency surrounding compensation. This is a problem I would like to solve in time.
Would you mind expanding on why there is a lack of transparency with regards compensation in the cannabis industry?
This is very much a growing pain of this new legal industry which has suddenly come into existence. As a result of building this plane as we fly it, it’s all too easy for us to lose track of what matters, which in my humble opinion is ensuring that the individuals who are contributing to this industry are being treated just as they would in any other industry.
Without naming any offenders, can you provide a more specific example of how this lack of compensation occurs?
Using myself and my past experiences as an example, while working as a Store Manager in Vancouver – I should have been receiving around double the compensation I was at the time, based upon what Store Managers commonly receive. If not for the fact that I was simply there for the experience and not the compensation, I would have never taken the job in the first place. This happens a lot more than it should, whereby people who are very passionate about working with this plant are willing to compromise on their compensation such that they gain employment in this industry, and I personally don’t see any reason why it has to be one or the other. Why shouldn’t you be able to receive a fair compensation package, while simultaneously getting to work in the cannabis industry?
How big of an aspect is disproving misinformation when increasing awareness for cannabis?
It’s a huge challenge. As an industry, we have effectively been provided with a blank canvas by which to educate consumers. The question is how we choose to use this. Personally, I would love to see a greater emphasis placed on leading with the information that we know to be true, as opposed to leading with assumptions which will likely be disproven in the coming years.
When do you see cannabis being fully legalised in Ireland? Do you think the current Irish government will reform their cannabis laws significantly?
I have to believe this will occur within the next four years. The reality is that the prohibition of cannabis was never about protecting public health, rather it was a means to imprison people from minority communities in the United States who in turn used their influence to force other nations to adopt the same policies. Ireland has so much to gain from legalising cannabis. Imagine the amount of employment that would be created, the taxation revenue that would be generated. Are we to believe that it’s within our best interest to allow gangs to continue to profit off this plant by virtue of the sheer ignorance politicians on the island of Ireland have when it comes to this amazing plant?
Would we need to see cannabis reform in the UK before our government considers legislation?
It’s certainly a possibility, however, Ireland should have a willingness to take the lead on this issue. Should the UK legalise cannabis, which is a question of when not if, it would certainly serve as a catalyst for Ireland doing the same.
Where in the world do you see a lot of potential for the cannabis industry within the next five years?
I foresee both the United States, and a majority of nations in the European Union legalising cannabis for adult use purposes as soon as they accept that the war on drugs was a complete failure, and amend their legislation to reflect this. We will see a wave of nations making moves to legalise cannabis.
Is there a cannabis company who you see as having particularly exciting potential, in Canada or elsewhere?
I’m a really big fan of two. 2Truss Beverages, who are pioneering cannabis beverages as a category. 3GTEC Cannabis Co is another company who I admire – although there’s a huge surplus of cannabis being produced in Canada, they continue to demonstrate that taking the time to understand the needs of consumers and creating the products that will service these needs is a winning strategy. They were the first Canadian producer to list products’ terpene profiles on their packaging which was a huge milestone for the industry, as we slowly moved away from presenting cannabis products to consumers based on an Indica vs Sativa dichotomy.
What’s your own relationship with cannabis like and when did you first become interested in it?
I would consider my usage of cannabis for wellness purposes. Consuming cannabis allows me to become a better version of myself – someone who is more thoughtful, creative and empathetic to others. I didn’t consume cannabis until I was nineteen, when I was working in Ontario. My decision to not consume was simply due to my ignorance up until this point as to the bounty of benefits cannabinoids have to offer.
What are your preferences with cannabis and how do you normally use it?
As much as I’m aware that smoking dried flowers is probably not the optimal way to consume cannabis, there is something very therapeutic about rolling joints and smoking dried cannabis. I’m also a big fan of cannabis beverages, which I can see being VERY popular in Ireland. The days are numbered until Guinness releases a cannabis beverage.
You’ve been living in Canada since 2017, what do you miss the most about home?
Ireland is one of the most beautiful nations on earth. I grew up on a very small island called Cruit [translation: ‘Harp’], which is off the coast of Donegal. And although there are many stunning parts of Canada – nothing compares to Cruit. All going according to plan, I will be able to move back to Cruit, pending the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland.
What do you NOT miss about being back home?
Having tried out the cannabis available in Ireland, I seriously don’t envy my fellow Irishmen & women, who only have access to this cannabis. One of the perks of calling Vancouver home is my ability to walk down the street with a joint in my mouth and walk past a police officer without even thinking twice about it.
Thanks so much for your time Matthew, all the best!
1 You can find out more about FOUR PM at this URL: https://www.fourpm.co
2 Here’s a recent FOUR PM interview with Melanie Smith, the Innovation Lead for Truss Beverages:
3For more information about GTEC Cannabis Co, see this link: https://www.gtec.co/company/