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Q&A with Kim Rivers: Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Trulieve
The Cannabis 50 celebrates the organizations, individuals, and companies who are working to build a responsible, sustainable, and equitable future for the cannabis, hemp, and related industries. In addition to the 2021 Cannabis 50 Impact Review, we are also sharing interviews with our honorees to help spread their messages of positivity and growth. Headquartered in Florida, Trulieve Cannabis Corp. is the state’s first and leading medical cannabis company—and one of the largest multi-state operators in the United States. 2021 was a successful year for Trulieve. Opening dispensaries nationwide, acquiring a company that made it the largest legal cannabis operator in the U.S., and launching a comprehensive ESG report, it’s safe to say Trulieve is a major leader in the industry. We talked with Kim Rivers, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Trulieve, to find out more about this major acquisition, the cannabis industry’s upcoming focuses, and the organizations that inspire Kim to keep succeeding. MGO: How long have you been involved in the cannabis industry? What inspired you to get involved with cannabis? Kim Rivers, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Trulieve: Before I founded Trulieve, I spent several years in private practice as a lawyer, specializing in mergers, acquisitions, and securities for multi-million-dollar companies. I’ve run several successful businesses, from real estate to finance. My experience as an attorney—coupled with my early entrepreneurial background in real estate and the hospitality industry—prepared me for this especially unique and quickly evolving industry. I grew up in Florida, the daughter of a police officer and elementary school assistant principal. So, as you can imagine, that had an impact on my early views of cannabis, and I understood how it was perceived by the public. My father has told me he believes that too much of his time as an officer was spent on cannabis-related offenses, and I’ve always agreed with him on that. But fortunately, I learned more about the benefits of cannabis in adulthood, recognizing its incredible potential to provide relief to those who need it most and to change lives and elevate users’ well-being in so many ways. MGO: The cannabis industry saw several trends emerge in 2021. What do you think was the biggest one? Rivers: Mergers and acquisitions were a major theme in 2021. At Trulieve, we’ll continue to evaluate strategic and opportunistic M&A opportunities in 2022. Our criteria for M&A haven’t changed—we value strong, local management teams with like-minded values that include profitability, strong brand awareness, and a customer-centric approach. MGO: What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in the industry in 2021? How did you manage and overcome these issues? Rivers: Trulieve was all about heads-down execution in 2021. Following the acquisition of Harvest in October, we have continued our integration efforts and implemented organizational plans developed throughout the year. MGO: What were the biggest highlights and most positive changes for Trulieve in 2021? Rivers: Closing the Harvest Health & Recreation transaction in October marked a transformational milestone in the Company’s history and established Trulieve’s position as one of the leading cannabis operators in the U.S. We’re extremely thankful for all our employees, both Trulievers and Harvesters, for their tireless efforts during the process. The combined footprint provides Trulieve with a solid foundation for continued growth and scale. Also in 2021, we celebrated the opening of Trulieve’s 100th store in Florida and more than 160+ dispensaries nationwide to date. Our growth story is inexplicably linked to the support we have received from patients, residents, and lawmakers in Florida, and we’re incredibly proud to have generated significant new economic opportunities in our home state. Given our current momentum, I’m confident this achievement is only the beginning of what’s to come in Florida’s cannabis business community. MGO: What should the cannabis industry be focused on in 2022—and beyond—to keep it moving forward in a positive way? Rivers: There’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to sustainability. In 2022 and beyond, Trulieve is embarking on a multi-year effort to improve our ESG capabilities and quantify and track our progress. We want to focus particularly on efforts that translate to better healthcare for patients, motivate our employees, and build long-term financial value for shareholders. We’re committed to communicating our progress every step of the way, holding ourselves accountable as good corporate stewards. Trulieve wants to do its part to ensure the cannabis industry is safe, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable for generations to come. MGO: How do you think the cannabis industry will continue to evolve in 2022? What are you personally most excited about? Rivers: I believe the cannabis industry will remain focused on bringing mainstream brands to national audiences in 2022. At Trulieve, we’ll continue to look holistically at brands to bring our combined house of brands to a larger addressable market. MGO: Who else in the cannabis industry inspires you by making a positive impact? Rivers: There are so many! I’m encouraged any time I see our peers in the industry driving the conversation on social equity forward, both through advocacy and more formal programs. I recently had the opportunity to speak on a panel with Redman, who cofounded The National Cannabis Party (NCP) to develop programs to promote equity empowerment for the people. The purpose of these programs is to create tangible resources that provide real opportunities, addressing economic disparities and irreparable damage caused by the war on drugs and federal prohibition of cannabis. Organizations like the NCP and Last Prisoner Project are gaining traction and recognition on a national level, inspiring people from all walks of life both inside and outside the industry.