MedMen’s bid to become the country’s biggest marijuana brand has backfired, and its executives are paying the price.
MedMen, one of the most recognizable and formidable brands in the cannabis industry, announced this week its CEO, Adam Bierman, was stepping down. The move comes amidst significant restructuring at the company, which has aggressively cut costs in recent months after failing to meet projections.
Last week, Bierman told Business Insider investors were correct in punishing MedMen’s stock, though he expected the company to rebound. Now, he will not be there to see through whatever evolution the company takes. Bierman co-founded the California-based dispensary chain in 2010, but will significantly lose his influence as a shareholder. Bierman has agreed to surrender his Class A Super Voting shares, the company announced in a release, which granted him more power than other shareholders.
“I continue to believe that MedMen is positioned to thrive,” Bierman said in a statement. “It’s time for our next iteration of leadership to capitalize on the opportunity we have created.”
MedMen began with a goal to re-orient the identity of cannabis consumers, by branding its stores with a sleek aesthetic common in Silicon Valley. MedMen’s vision was clear from the onset — to become “the Apple” of marijuana dispensaries. The company’s marketing efforts were successful initially and helped introduce and educate previously wary customers, including older crowds, into the cannabis revolution.
However, the company made aggressive moves in recent years, under Bierman’s direction, that didn’t pan out as MedMen hoped. A glossy public service announcement, directed by Hollywood director Spike Jonze and starring Jesse Williams, was called “The New Normal,” and intended to position the business as a political thought leader in the cannabis industry. But the commercials, as well as MedMen writ large, were frequently ridiculed by the popular TV show South Park last year.
In addition, MedMen sought to become the largest marijuana company in the country when it attempted a huge blockbuster merger with cannabis producer Pharmacann. That deal was mutually scrapped by the two companies last October, signaling the current upheaval playing out across the cannabis industry.
MedMen also engaged in serious lobbying pursuits, with the intention to push marijuana legislation in a direction that would favor the company. That included a recommendation to New York state not to allow homegrowing of cannabis, as the company said it was too dangerous in residents’ hands. New York ultimately did not legalize marijuana last year.
It tried a similar tactic with Make It Legal Florida, a political action committee that would introduce adult-use marijuana on the Sunshine State’s 2020 ballot. Make It Legal Florida would exclude residents growing their own marijuana as well, necessitating Floridians to buy their cannabis from dispensaries like MedMen. The bid however failed, and Florida will not vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this year.
According to the company’s release, MedMen will form a special committee after next month’s shareholder meeting. This committee, filled with independent directors, will determine the compensation Bierman will receive for stepping down and his transfer of shares.