BigMike’s personality is almost as large as his physical stature. The CEO of Advanced Nutrients, whose real name is Michael Straumietis, is a powerhouse of the cannabis industry and, while he remains one of the largest players in the game, has also become a voice of warning against the arrival of even larger corporate players who are just now becoming comfortable taking cash from marijuana-associated products. The fight is on — particularly when one pits Advanced Nutrients, a company that has always stated its products were for cannabis, up against its new primary competition: Scotts Miracle-Gro.
“A lot of people don’t realize that Scotts is the exclusive distributor for the consumer products of Monsanto and they have a very, very close relationship,” BigMike said to me over the phone while two of his associates also listened in. “I warned people about this all the way back in 2011 about what was going to happen.”
In Advanced Nutrients’s since-discontinued publication Rosebud Magazine, BigMike wrote a publisher’s note in an issue from 2011 entitled “Lions at the Gate,” in which he outlined his concerns, stating his belief that Scotts will not give back to the community.
“I can’t help but wonder what kind of value a company like Scotts is going to bring to our industry and how they are going to help the community and move it,” he wrote. “And here’s the thing, once a company like Scotts enters our community, a Pandora’s Box will open to big corporate America and you will see more of these types of corporations start moving into our industry because, you see, in this world economic crisis, big business is looking in places they never would normally go to increase their profits.”
But Advanced Nutrients is certainly no minuscule company either. It was challenging to nail down a call with BigMike, as he heads what is essentially one of the largest businesses in the cannabis world. Advanced Nutrients is a global player, with products in over 100 different companies and manufacturing facilities in both the U.S. and Canada. When I did get the chance to speak with him, I got some insight into the activities of his day-to-day life by hearing his associates go back and forth about the state of that day’s meetings. One of the next major steps on his agenda is opening a state-of-the-art cannabis facility called Lacturnus Labs.
“Lacturnus is the Roman god of crop protection,” BigMike said.
“The lab will be the most advanced cannabinoid research facility in the world. Next level stuff, the kind that exists in the world of Big Pharma. It does not exist in cannabis yet — it will once that facility is built out.”
While the lab and the nutrient company will remain separate entities, this new facility will offer its services, including access to a bevy of botanists and master growers, to Advanced Nutrients clients.
“Now, think about this: You’re an investor coming into a strange world that you don’t understand, and we offer an entire scientific team, 25 scientists, we’ve got geneticists, botanists, a micro-biologist,” BigMike said. “We’ve got a whole team of people at the disposal of that investor.”
Included as part of this lab is a project to map the cannabis genome.
“The machine that we’re running this on is a $10 million dollar machine and we’re using what’s called ‘80 passes,’ so the level of clarity of transcription is the highest level that’s ever been done on cannabis,” BigMike said. “We’re giving that [information] away to our entire community to help, hopefully, be able to fight off Big Pharma and the big boys who are coming. The people in our community will be able to use this and hopefully level the playing field.”
And as hard as BigMike works, it appears he plays even harder. BigMike projects a lavish lifestyle, hosting parties at his Hollywood Hills home known as the Marijuana Mansion and documenting a playboy-style of living on his Instagram account, which often includes women in barely-there lingerie smoking marijuana or posing with stacks of buds. I experienced a taste of this life at a Halloween event that included a pre-party fundraiser for Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom followed by an all out bash that featured extravagant ice sculptures housing delicacies such as oysters and king crab legs, costumed aerialists, multiple bars for drinks and both a bud and a dab bar. During the party, BigMike switched out of his formal wear for the fundraiser into a king costume.
When I first visited his estate to interview him about the future of marijuana, it was a random Wednesday afternoon and I witnessed a woman wearing thong underwear and posing for photos while sitting at a baby grand piano topped with a platter of buds. Despite the fact that this is far from my usual scene, BigMike was charming and warm and told me about how he got his start in business, before offering me the most-potent dab I have taken still to this day. The dab literally left me high for hours and made me forget that BigMike’s business start in the lawn care industry was with fertilizer rather than mowing grass, as I incorrectly assumed during our recent call.
“I never cut grass! I fertilized it,” BigMike said. “I always say I’ve been in the grass growing business since I was 19 years old.”
BigMike’s first venture was a chemical lawn care company called Turf Pro and it was salesmen at that company who gave him the idea to enter the cannabis industry.
“[My salesmen] come up to me and they say, “Hey, you see this room here? We can make $300,000 in this room,” BigMike said. “And I go OK, it sounds illegal, what is it?”
BigMike said his salesmen delayed for a few months before, in 1983, they took him to a basement with six lights and a handful of marijuana plants.
“They go, ‘Listen, we heard about this technique that you can take a part of a plant and you can cut it off, you can stick it in and you can get it to grow and it will be an identical plant just like the one that you like,’” BigMike said. “And they said, ‘Do you think you can do that?’”
BigMike then developed a technique, which he quickly glosses over, stating that it’s not in use anymore, to help plant cuttings root faster. He co-founded a company called Canadian Soilless in 1996 and founded Advanced Nutrients in 1999.
“From day one, we never hid behind tomatoes or any bullsh*t. We always came right out the gate day one, saying, this is for cannabis,”
BigMike said. “And it’s not just fertilizer, it’s a whole system that can manipulate the plant in different ways and bring the plant to its true genetic potential.”
For longtime growers like Harry Resin, Advanced Nutrients products stand apart because of this focus on the various stages of the plant’s growth. Resin has been using the Advanced Nutrients line for 15 years.
“Their line has advancements in pH technology that other nutrient lines don’t,” he said. “I also like the way they look at the full plant’s health.”
BigMike already has many longtime growers and customers in his corner and said, despite the fact that few heard his warnings about corporate culture coming to cannabis in 2011, now more and more people are listening.
“This Scotts thing is the bane of our community,” he said. “We must come together, and if we do come together, we can win this thing and we can have a seat at the table with the big boys. Our community needs to have that seat at the table because that’s what we’ve been working so hard all these years towards and I want to see it happen.”
Originally published in Issue 30 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
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