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Behind the Bag with Legacy Cannabis

While today’s operators seem intent on protecting their tech and gatekeeping their business’s secret sauce, Chief Cannabis Officer and consultant Ryan Hedrick is an open book when it comes to his methods for success—and his ultimate goal is to uphold legacy culture in today’s growing legal industry. 

That’s how he runs his cannabis consulting agency SMKE Consulting: a Pennsylvania-based organization that helps build brands like Legacy and provides a platform to the smaller operators who have all of the knowledge but limited access to the legal table and its many resources. 

In Hedrick’s world, everyone eats.

From legacy to legal—with cheesesteaks in between

A Philadelphia native and your former dorm-room weed dealer, Hedrick’s cannabis roots stretch back to the legacy days. It’s where he learned everything he knows about the plant and its establishing community. It’s also where he first learned what would become his bread and butter: knowing how to build and scale a lucrative weed business.

“I didn’t consume cannabis until I turned 18. I grew up in Philly’s hardcore, straight-edge music scene that was heavily against drugs and drinking, so I just stayed away from it,” Hedrick said. “But when I went to college, it was the early ’90s, which means almost every kid was getting diagnosed with some form of ADHD. I was taking Adderall or CONCERTA at the time and I hated it. At some point, I tried cannabis, and I was surprised by how much it helped me focus.”

Hedrick became a regular consumer and, like many of us, quickly realized it made the most economic sense to start buying in bulk and selling to his friends. And being a hustler at heart, he realized he could use the hodgepodge of part-time jobs he was working at the time to support his newest venture.

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“I was working for a drug testing company at the time, driving their van around to pick up samples. My courier van happened to go through the same route where I picked up my weed supply, and I just thought that was perfect. No one was going to pull over the drug testing van, or suspect that I had pounds of weed in there with me,” Hedrick said.

“So, I was using that van to pick up, and then I’d use the car I drove for my second gig as a pizza delivery guy to distribute. That’s how I got my start in entrepreneurship. I still remember the first time I ever had cannabis shipped to me from Cali. It was around 2010, and it came, indirectly, from Jason King. I remember it being the best weed I’d ever seen; I can still remember the taste and aroma.”

It was that surreal moment with The Cannabible author’s stash that made Hedrick realize how badly he wanted to do this. It hit him: there was a clear differentiation between shitty weed and good weed, and he wanted to be part of the latter. In September 2013, Hedrick moved to Boulder, Colorado, with no money, no place to live, and a plan to do something big for the plant. 

“I started delivering cheesesteaks—pretty ironic, considering I’m from Philly,” Hedrick said. “I also got a job selling Incredibowl—you remember that old pipe everyone had?”

Working for Incredibowl was Hedrick’s first introduction to the legal market. While there, he met Adam Dunn, one of the owners who also happened to be the star of the Adam Dunn Show. Looking for a way to get more involved in the industry, Hedrick agreed to start producing the show for free.

“That was my next introduction into legal cannabis. Everyone knew who Adam was; he was a big guy in the industry. What better way to get my foot in the door?” Hedrick said.

“Once a week, I’d hang out and produce this radio show. Meanwhile, I was still delivering cheesesteaks, selling pipes—and I also started working as a budtender at the grow where my wife was trimming. I’m learning all of these different aspects of sales, cultivation, and breeding, and I’m also meeting all of these big names through the Adam Dunn show. Basically, I got to skip all of the failures and learn from these people who’ve been failing for 20 or 30 years before me. I was blessed to get to learn from some of the best when it comes to successfully navigating the industry.”

In 2015, Hedrick launched his first medical business out of a breeder’s cultivation facility. His brand was the third to put solventless rosin on Colorado’s legal shelves; from there, things took off.

“I started doing extractions, learning more about cultivation, and working all sorts of jobs in between. And thanks to Adam, I was able to be on a handful of programs and Vice episodes about the plant,” Hedrick said. 

“Fast forward to 2017, and my home state legalizes medical cannabis. Our goal was always to move back to Pennsylvania, so we took that as a sign to sell our Colorado company, move, and start something new.”

From Boulder OG to expanding MSO

legacy cannabis

Once Hedrick was back East, he and his team got to work on drafting one of the first applications in Pennsylvania. At the same time, he was operating one of the first licenses in Ohio—and designing its cultivation rooms, fertigation rooms, extraction facilities, training protocols, and SOPs—starting one of the first licenses in Jamaica, and drafting a license application for the state of Missouri. 

“This was all under SMKE Consulting. Then COVID hit, and Jamaica efforts fell apart because we weren’t allowed in the country for almost two years. However, Ohio became operationally successful, and so did Pennsylvania,” Hedrick said. 

“From there, I helped Cookies’ cultivation in Florida for about a year and a half, and drafted my application for New Jersey, where we now have three buildings under construction for cultivation. That’s when I came to Illinois and started what is now Legacy—and here we are.”

While SMKE Consulting doesn’t own Legacy, they’ve played a huge role in the brand’s development. The team was brought onto the company after doing some consulting in 2018, when it was operating under a different name.

“At the end of 2020, I got a call from someone looking to do something with this company’s grow operation. I said, ‘Okay, bring me on as Chief Cannabis Officer and I’ll redesign the entire brand,’” Hedrick said. “I started thinking of names and I thought, ‘I’m a legacy operator. There’s no other “Legacy” Cannabis. Done.’”

What’s in Legacy’s near “Future”?

Legacy released their first product in March 2023. Now, the company is one of the top three fastest-growing brands in Illinois. They spent last year revamping their cultivation and curing techniques, along with developing new packaging through Grove Bags. They’ve also released new products, brought in secondary brands, and are gearing up for their first celebrity collaboration: Future’s Evol

“We grew and selected all of Evol’s genetics for Future to review. He didn’t just slap his name on a bag; we gave him our opinions, and plenty of opportunities to make impactful decisions with the brand,” Hedrick said. “We worked with his team to design awesome packaging, alongside Grove guys to ensure Evol really pops when it hits the shelves. Right now, we’re hoping for a June release.”

Beyond Evol, Legacy just brought in 12 new genetics from Compound Genetics and a California-based brand that prefers to remain anonymous for now. The team plans to move through 2024 with great West Coast exotics, classic old-school strains, and tons more brand-building.

“Cannabis has become commoditized, just like everything else. And with that, the culture that built this industry starts to disappear. When I started doing this, I just wanted to make sure all my friends could eat. Ethics never comes second to a dollar sign,” Hedrick said. 

“When I started consuming cannabis 16 years ago, it was the whole community that made me want to do this: the outreach, the love, and the free sharing of knowledge. Nowadays, everyone is so protective of what they’re doing, but I’ve always been an open book. I’ll put my SOPs on the Internet. I think everyone should have the ability to not only produce great cannabis, but to be part of a culture that cares about great cannabis.”

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