DRI Interviews Ron Basak-Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Sana Packaging

Max Resnik, Medical Cannabis Practice Leader at Direct Recruiters, had the opportunity to connect with Ron Basak-Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Sana Packaging, in Las Vegas during MJBizCon. Together, they discussed sustainability in cannabis, how Sana Packaging is leading the charge and how Ron views the potential for federal legalization of cannabis. Check out Ron’s insights in this latest Thought Leader Interview on the cannabis space.

Sana Packaging is a sustainable packaging brand that designs and develops cannabis packaging for a circular economy using plant-based, reclaimed, and recycled materials.

Ron Basak-Smith

CEO & Co-Founder

Sana Packaging

Ron, what drove you to launch Sana Packaging?

I’ve always grown up outdoors. It’s been a huge focal point in my life and place of peace, happiness and enjoyment. And so, the current world we live in it seems like there’s environmental issues all around us. Being a human being on earth, going around and seeing the waste that I, myself, create and all the products I consume, and we all consume, there’s just not a way that properly manages that.

And so, the cannabis industry being another place that I’m very passionate about – the cannabis plant has been super helpful to me – it was just combining those two passions. I was able to approach my co-founder with this concept at the University of Colorado Boulder, and from there, we were able to build the business. The cannabis industry has been super receptive to better packaging, more sustainable packaging.

What makes your packaging different?

There’s a big difference in the cannabis industry around the types of packaging available and can be used because of regulations around child resistance. And then each state has various rules around opacity, wall thickness, etc., and so first we had to design packaging that meets the needs of the plant, the consumer, and then we try to pick material types that help support the faults that we see within each system.

For example, we see recycling. Everyone’s trying to recycle, right, but we don’t have enough companies using recycled content, and that’s a huge factor leading to the ocean plastic we see. So, we try to then support recycling industry by using ocean plastic to manufacture products. By doing that, we’re hoping that the recycling system in the U.S. will be effective basically in managing these materials. However, we’re going to need companies to manufacture products out of it. So, there’s this oversupply of recycled material and this under-demand of people buying recycled content. And that’s really where we come in. We believe that industries can help support that.

What can we do better to help this cause of sustainability?

Try to localize your mindset around sustainability. When you think about all these issues, they all vary from location to location, and that’s what’s really happening – we’re altering the world and different parts of the environment in different ways. What might be great for the air might not be great for water consumption or vice versa. There’s all these different tradeoffs that need to be considered when thinking about sustainability, and I think everyone kind of wants the easy fix. But in the world of sustainability there’s a tradeoff, so we’ve gotta start having conversations about what tradeoffs we’re making versus what we’re perceived to be fixing.

What do you make of the last year for the industry as a whole?

I think the whole event of COVID has shown that people are using cannabis. Whether the world is in a perfect place or a not so perfect place or anywhere in between, that’s just a known. I think that was happening whether there was a legal market or non-legal market or decriminalized market. It’s just been known people are using cannabis. And so, through the pandemic and seeing it deemed as essential in many areas, that’s huge, right? We know that when things are getting real bad, there’s going to be a need for cannabis all over the country. That’s one huge thing. Also I think it’s been a long period of time since COVID started, and I think it’s been adoption in the industry. More states opening up, more states maturing and so I think that’ll just continue to happen.

Care to place a bet on legalization federally?

I think it’s going to take longer. Now, I think there’s so many incentives for it not to go federal from each state level, like in terms of their tax set ups and the money being invested at each state level in terms of grow ops, etc., which I assume will change once federal legalization happens. Then, there will be a huge shake up. Some states may win. Some states may lose. Who’s incentivized? Who’s not? It’s going to happen eventually, but it’s likely to take several years. Let’s see what happens with banking. It’s one I thought would’ve happened already.

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