Brayden Sutton left home at 15 years old and never looked back. He credits cannabis for literally saving his life and it’s also provided a solid living for his young family.
Sutton’s father, a pilot, was the captain of air traffic control for the Vancouver Airport, the second busiest airport in Canada and drank alcohol in excess to deal with the stress of having people’s lives in his hands. The alcoholism led to divorce and Sutton’s dad took off, leaving the family when he was 12. His mother asked for rent to help pay expenses and at this point Sutton had had enough, and rented a suite across town to get away from the broken home, all before he had finished the ninth grade.
“I was living the life of a 25-year-old at only 15,” he said. “You can only imagine. Hard drugs were prevalent at that time and many friends were addicted and overdosing to street drugs and synthetic opioids on a regular basis. I got out and moved to Calgary to start a new life away from it all. I wanted a healthy mind and body.”
Sutton has suffered from diverticulitis and arthritis his entire life. His mother, a nutritionist, had always shunned allopathic Western medicine and raised her children without drugs and addressed illnesses with holistic measures, always trying to identify the root of the issue, rather than just bandaging it with pills. They lived a healthy and alternative lifestyle and never sought out medical advice or visits to the doctor, according to Sutton. Later in life, Sutton has also successfully helped several others get off benzodiazepines and similar anxiety medications with a healthy, consistent cannabis regime. And he continues to hear stories like this from others who have a health-focus around the plant.
“Being on traditional pharma to treat my maladies caused me other, sometimes even worse health problems, not to mention it made me a zombie,” said Sutton, who became one of the youngest cannabis patients in Canada under the federal medical cannabis program (MMAR) in 2003 at age 19.
This was also the same year his father died of alcohol consumption. Though estranged from his family, Sutton attended his father’s funeral and met a young lady on that trip to Vancouver. He didn’t know it at the time, but she became his future wife. “We started living together three months after we met and had a daughter a year later and married a year after that.” Not a conventional road to marriage, but not much about Sutton is conventional.
Sutton, now 32, remained a cannabis user through high school and supported himself, eventually landing at Suncor, an oil and gas company, where he worked as an IT analyst. He began to realize that investing was the only way he was going to get ahead in life; so he started tracking Suncor’s stock and began to teach himself about capital markets and became an avid investor before turning 20 years old.
His passion for the benefits of cannabis only increased as he got the anti-inflammatory relief he sought for his major stomach issues with no side effects. He became a crusader for the plant as his passion and knowledge grew, and he began making a living by investing wisely in Canadian cannabis start-ups. He was the first 20-year-old angel investor in the space before he had even heard the term.
In March of 2009 when the equity markets around the globe bottomed from the crisis, he switched gears by becoming a dedicated equity analyst and full-time investor, focusing on this new sector. He called for caution on the early cannabis companies, and was the only person he’s aware of who was doing this over eight years ago on Twitter and elsewhere.
Sutton caught the attention of the very first, and still highest regarded CFA dedicated to the space; Alan Brochstein of 420 Investor and New Cannabis Ventures and he became Brochstein’s only Canadian cannabis analyst providing intel and boots on the ground through 2014. He later worked on the inception and IPO of Supreme Pharmaceuticals, an advanced Canadian medical cannabis company, currently growing for the Canadian Federal Government in a 7-acre greenhouse. His work in the public cannabis industry continued with stints at Aurora Cannabis, Invictus MD and CannaRoyalty Corp. and he provided financial advisory to countless others – both public and private.
“Canadian health care is horrid,” he said. “The idea that federal government-run health care and socialized medicine works is the biggest lie going. It’s a completely broken system and patients have needed to find other alternative options to treat their ailments away from the government and traditional Western medicine. That’s why legalizing cannabis in all its forms and uses has been imperative for Canada. It’s already saved thousands of lives and alleviated much misery. I am living testament to its life saving properties and its ability to get people off their prescription pain killers.”
This belief led him to found CannabisHealth.com, a not-for-profit educational company with a long history and 15 contributing MDs and PhDs, all with health issues themselves and looking for alternative ways to treat diseases and illnesses — both mental and physical.
His appreciation for the medicinal properties of cannabis grew to include the adult-use aspect as well. This led to him founding his latest venture in 2017, Friday Night Inc., a cannabis lifestyle company focused on creating experiences and memories for a lifetime. He’s proud of the industry professionals he’s brought together. “We provide expertise and capital and only work with best-of-breed teams,” said Sutton, who is president and CEO.
The Canadian public company owns and controls cannabis and hemp based assets in Las Vegas through majority ownership of two companies, a licensed medical and adult-use cannabis cultivation and production facility that produces its own line of unique cannabis-based products and manufactures other third-party brands and a producer of hemp-based, CBD products, thoughtfully crafted of high-quality organic botanical ingredients.
Sutton has chosen to focus on Las Vegas, to be “where the puck is going to be,” so to speak. Nevada’s recreational market opened on July 1.
“With almost fifty million visitors a year in a very dense area, it’s potentially the biggest marketplace in the world,” Sutton said.
The company was the very first to get a production license in Clark County, Nevada and is taking advantage of the already very hungry market. “I believe we are still in the first inning of cannabis with at least 20 years of growth to go.”
Sutton is a testament to resilience and personal perseverance becoming a self-made millionaire by the age of 30. He had zero financial help, no guidance and no inheritance. “I could have easily become an opioid addict and be dead by now,” he said. “Cannabis not only saved my life, it also deeply enriched it.”
Running a public cannabis company and being a devoted family man takes up most of Sutton’s time, but when he does get to sneak away, he prefers to keep his feet on the ground, and loves anything with two wheels. He’s been an avid cyclist his whole life. “It started with BMX and dirt bikes when I was a kid, now it’s mountain bikes, road bikes, racing sport bikes, you name it – I love them all.”
Both of Sutton’s uncles followed in their father’s footsteps, as Brayden’s father did, and fly commercial jets for a living. His grandfather was a decorated war hero and a pilot his entire life. Brayden took flight in his own way, shunning the aviation path he had grown up in and carved his own way in the world. He is truly a rags to riches story, but Sutton remains humble, remembering his bleak beginnings, putting an emphasis on wise asset allocation early-on as the primary reason for his financial success.
“Anyone can get lucky, or catch a wave and make a million dollars. But the real test is what you do with the money, staying grounded and being able to turn it into 2, 3 million dollars and creating a real nest egg for your family,” he said. “I had somewhat of a lost youth, but eventually everything comes full circle. I still believe that the choices and decisions we make fully determine the outcome of our lives, it’s not the cards you were dealt, but how you play them.”
Sutton is not only a great example of a cannabis entrepreneur in it for the right reasons, but proof that it’s not where you come from but where you wind up. Clearly, the sky’s the limit for Brayden Sutton.
By Bill Bongiorno
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