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Christine Smith: The Maven of Edible Experience

Christine Smith Grön
Photos courtesy of Grön


Christine Smith: The Maven of Edible Experience

What started out as a side hustle for Smith has grown into one of the most innovative edible brands on the market, thanks to her vision of using minor cannabinoids to tailor certain effects.

Architect-turned-chocolatier Christine Smith is the CEO and founder of Grön, the best-selling, handcrafted cannabis-infused edibles brand. Smith founded Grön herself with no outside investment, cashing out stock from her architectural firm to purchase her first chocolate machine. 

Thanks to Smith’s vision and business acumen, what started out as a “side project” has grown into a company of 200 team members selling millions of products every month. Grön is now available in its home state of Oregon, plus Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, New Jersey and Canada. New York, Ohio and Maryland are all scheduled to go live this year. 

One of the reasons Grön is such a leader in the space is its use of minor cannabinoids for enhanced, tailor-made experiences. The newest product offering for its Sugar-Coated Pearls line is Tangelo, which includes the latest hot Cannabichromene (CBC), known as the “happy cannabinoid” for its uplifting euphoric effects.

Smith spoke exclusively with Cannabis Now, sharing highlights from her career, insights from the new Tangelo product and advice for other women with aspirations of joining the cannabis industry.

Cannabis Now: Tell us about your journey to becoming a cannabis entrepreneur. What inspired you to leave architecture and found Grön?

Christine Smith: Like many things in life, it was a happy accident [laughs]. It was back in 2013 and I’d been practicing architecture for about 16 years. I loved my job, but I had lost the creative side of it. Medical adult-use in Oregon wasn’t legal yet, but it was starting to bubble up (Measure 91 was approved in 2014), and there was a lot of excitement and opportunity. 

I started looking at the cannabis industry and thought I would get into it from the package design and creative consultant side. As an architect, I did a lot of land use planning and regulation reading, so I was very familiar with regulations and rules. The design side was a natural segue for me to go on. I didn’t realize that by creating this company in a new sector, I could combine everything: my love of food, my ability to lead, my architecture and project management experience.

Christine Smith Grön Tangelo pearls
Tangelo is the latest Grön product to utlilize minor cannabinoids.

CN: Tell us about your inclusion of minor cannabinoids in Grön products. 

CS: We lead on the cannabinoid front up here in the Northwest. We work closely with FloraWorks, a local company that’s leading the development of all these minor cannabinoids in a meaningful way. We were the first company to dive into CBN in 2019. CBN was on the market but wasn’t used in high ratios as it was too expensive. We spent time researching what makes it effective for sleep products—and it was a one-to-one ratio. We took a leap of faith that the price would regulate over time.

With Tangelo, we looked at what we were, what we could do, and other cannabinoids in the same meaningful way. CBC was starting to appear in the market, so we looked hard at finding a ratio that could deliver an experience. Our CBC Pearls have a 2:1:1 ratio of 100 mgs of THC and 50 mgs of CBC and CBG. It delivers an incredible high that’s very euphoric, very uplifting. We’re finding tremendous success with the product; within 30 days of launch, we’ve seen it take up to 20% of our revenue across the Pearls product line.

CN: What are your views on the current state of the cannabis industry, in particular, the climate for women working in the sector?

CS: I’m not sure everybody agrees with me, but I think it’s an exciting time in cannabis. We’re now ten years into this. There’s been ups and downs; if you’d wagered money on this—and a lot of people did ten years ago—you’d have thought we’d be five years into full legalization, everybody would have got their money back, and it would have progressed a lot faster than it has. And I’ll tell you, I’m not sure I see a path in the next three or five years where we’re there even now; it’s way down the road.

But what I do see is some stabilization. I’m very excited to see the industry mature and turn into a real industry where you have real operators bringing CPG goods to the market and selling them to sophisticated retailers. The industry is starting to mature—and so are consumers. We’re starting to see people who are driven to brands, and we’re able to respond to that. You’re starting to see retailers educating consumers effectively, not just budtenders trying to sell whatever has the highest THC. I think it’s exciting, and it’s progressing quickly. So, the industry is maturing faster than where we’re seeing federal legalization happen. [laughs].

There’s still no capital; it’s still a disaster on that side. But, if you’ve stayed lean, which we have, you don’t have any debt on your balance sheet, then you’re sitting in a pretty position. My advice is always to be smart and restrained with capital. Always look at your chessboard; it’s too easy to make decisions without looking up, but you should always look up and understand your best case, your most likely case and your worst case. Be prepared for it all.

CN: What’s your favorite thing about working in the cannabis industry? 

CS: The pace: how quickly it moves and how quickly you see the response to your actions. It may take ten years to see something in other sectors—particularly in architecture. Anyone successful in this industry would say it’s a little bit like being a good gambler. You make very strategic bets, and it’s rewarding. It’s high stakes, high rewards.

The team aspect is another favorite thing—building this team and the rewarding nature of having a group of people with whom I get to do this with every day. There are now 200 people across the entire country at Grön who are part of this dream, just grinding away and doing it. Ultimately, we’re all just people trying to do the best we can and provide the best products and service.

CN: Do you have a significant moment from your career in cannabis that you’d like to share?

CS: I won the “CEO of the Year” award here in Oregon in 2018 for my leadership within the cannabis community and industry due to my restraint—in 2017, there was a lot of acquisition, and many people were taking money and going left and right. It’s easy in this industry to feel like you’re being left behind if you’re not going and spending money left and right. I won the award because I thoughtfully led my company and team through that and out on the other side. That was very meaningful because it guided me as we’ve continued to this day. And it’s not natural within the industry to have that restraint. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this industry naturally feels like it’s a sprint because it goes so fast. But it takes a lot of strategy. 

“Women are so well suited to this industry,” says Grön founder, Christine Smith.

CN: What’s been your most significant learning or “a-ha” moment?

CS: It’s easy to over-leverage, to get distracted by all the pretty things and try to do too many things. I’ve learned to stay focused—we stay within our category, and we’re the best at what we do: making fantastic edibles, particularly gummies, chocolates and chocolate candies. We’re not interested in doing anything else. We are not retailers; we are not growers. In the past, we tried to stray from that path and ventured into CBD land around 2017/18. Like the rest of that industry, we got some bruises and scratched knees and came out the other side with some lessons learned in not over-leveraging. 

CN: What advice do you have for women wanting to get into the industry?

CS: Women are so well suited to this industry. I want to see them lean into it: ask questions, find a mentor, find a woman already in the industry who will open doors for you. Don’t be afraid to find something that you love and lean into it. The industry can feel intimidating from the outside, that it’s a boy’s club. And it is—but there are a lot of really great women in the industry who want to support and help other women. So, it’s just having the confidence to reach out because we’re all here. Don’t be afraid to ask.

CN: Finish this sentence: the future of the cannabis industry in the US is…?

CS: The future is bright; the future is inspiring. 

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