US: Entrepreneurs tap into Oklahoma's cannabis economy

It started with a smoke shop. It’s now a multi-level, vertically integrated company making a name for itself in the brave new frontier of Oklahoma’s cannabis industry. Arshad Lasi is the 23-year-old CEO of The Nirvana Group, a cannabis company that employs about 150 people and features five dispensaries, two distribution facilities, three manufacturing facilities and a farm with 7,000 square feet of cultivation. 

Lasi, a marketing and management senior at the University of Houston, was interning for a private equity firm when his father, who owned and ran a smoke shop, got a cold email about getting into Michigan’s cannabis industry. The Michigan opportunity fell through, but about a month later, the Lasis started hearing about SQ 788 — the state question that would legalize medical cannabis in Oklahoma. Once the question was passed, the Lasis went all in.

“I’m like, at first, it’s Oklahoma. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to get enough signatures,” Lasi said. “The next month, 788 passed, and we were astonished. And we immediately started applying for licenses. And here we are, three and a half years later.”

The Lasis, like many cannabis business owners in Oklahoma, have navigated the murky waters of Oklahoma’s early medical cannabis days. While the Lasis have found success, unprecedented low barriers to entry have saturated the industry, creating a “wild west of weed” where some sink and some swim.

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