Q&A with Ross Rebagliati
Published on March 11, 2022 by David Wylie
You may have seen Ross Rebagliati’s branded merchandise pop up in cannabis stores this winter.
Ross’ Gold pipes and toques are a conversation starter, as the Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder works to reboot his legacy weed brand for the legal market. Rebagliati, 50, gained international fame at the 1998 Olympics by being stripped of a gold medal after testing positive for cannabis. His medal was restored two days later.
the oz. — You’ve been part of the cannabis world for a long time now.
Rebagliati — My life since ’98 has been all about working with the media, doing the interviews, doing the podcasts, talking about my story and the story and history of weed. We did great pre-legalization as far as getting the brand traction and people were excited about the merchandise that we had at the time, with the Ross Gold glass and we had a clothing line. We also had a store on Bernard Street (in Kelowna) for two years. It was amazing. We did a lot of media out of it. We’re really part of that movement to be part of legalization—not jump the bandwagon afterwards, but being part of showing what the industry could look like.
the oz. — Tell us about the reboot of the Ross’ Gold cannabis brand.
Rebagliati — We’ve gone through the legalization transition from legacy to now. That was a bit of a rigmarole for everybody. We never did apply for licensing in the beginning. We papered up Ross Gold back in 2013. We’ve always approached it from a branding and licensing perspective. But at the time in 2013, the brands weren’t really part of the fold, but now finally with legalization, and dispensaries, and micro-cultivation being allowed, all of a sudden now brands are starting to play a bigger role in putting it all together. We did well with brand traction over the years. We’re rebooting and not officially ready, but 2022 is looking like stuff is looking to happen. We’ve rebranded—we’re still Ross’ Gold and the leaf is still our icon. We did a new take on the font and changed up the lettering so it’s fresh for our relaunch.
the oz. — What’s that relaunch going to look like?
Rebagliati — We like word-on-the-street sort of traction. We’re starting off easy with merchandise. We’ve got pipes and toques and a cool box that they come in. We’re going to be distributing that out to dispensaries across the country that we’d like to see our cannabis be in as well, a foreshadowing of the Ross Gold Cannabis that’s on the way.
the oz. — Where are you in the process?
Rebagliati — We’re putting the whole package together now with micro partners, licensing, and whatnot. Moving forward we’ll have a co-op of micro-cultivators that will be producing for the Ross’ Gold brand. It’s a great model that other processors and other brands have also used in the last couple of years to get going. It takes the pressure off the micro-growers to meet their SKUs in different provinces, whereas if we can get a co-op working together then we can buy their product, process it all under one brand, and have all the volume that we need to meet SKUs in different provinces. Right now what we’re doing is looking at potential partners and help them get a processing and sales licence. Our goal is to have it all in-house and eliminate as many middle men as we can.
the oz. — What kind of cannabis are you bringing to market?
Rebagliati — We’re going to be growing super fire cannabis, and I’m the master grower. It’s going to be great being hands on and growing the weed. All the best guys grow very similar styles as far as the way they take care of the plants. There’s different light schedules and there’s different ways to feed your plants, whether it’s deep-water culture or living soil, but at the end of the day how you work on the plant itself is quite similar across the top guys. It’s the same with grapes. There are a few ways to do it but generally, the best grow very similar. We’re hoping to transcend this thing we’re seeing with THC levels. Once there’s a brand that is out there that people resonate with and can identify with, they’ll be more interested in the flavour of the product, the terpenes, what the brand represents, and not so much about whether it’s 30% THC or not.
the oz. — Why aren’t people gravitating toward some of those lower THC offerings?
Rebagliati — I don’t think brands are resonating with people yet. It’s not that they’re not going to resonate. The life of a brand doesn’t work that way. You have to have something behind the brand that people know and understand, and relate to. It’s just the genesis of the industry and the growing pains of building a brand and getting a reputation.
the oz. — What’s the allure of growing?
Rebagliati — As an ex-athlete, growing is like an extreme sport to me. You’ve got three months from beginning to end and what you do in that short amount of time is going to determine what your brand value is and what people think of you as a grower. It’s really exciting. The plant grows like wildfire and when you hit it the right way with your pruning and feeding, it’s always fun to come back the next day and see everything perking hard and taking in all of what you did to it. How many guys do you know who have been involved for 25 years?
the oz. — How have you found legalization so far?
Rebagliati — It’s been a long road for everybody who’s transitioned into legalization. Nothing is happening overnight. What we needed to find out for ourselves was, where are the goal posts? When legalization came, dispensaries weren’t allowed yet and then they were; then micro-cultivation licences came and that wasn’t part of legalization—that was a year later. Now farm-gate’s coming and that will change the game again. We’re really in the infancy of the industry if you think about it. I’m chomping at the bit. The reality is business has a timeline of its own and the industry is finally coming together where we can literally look at who the players are in the world of dispensaries, who are the players in the world of micro-cultivation. Then there’s the marketing. Some people ran out and got licences but they don’t even know how to grow weed. There’s a lot of moving parts to it. The idea to simply get a micro-licence and you’re off to the races is a little bit far-fetched. You’ve got to deal with your processor who’s going to want to put it under their own brand. There’s a whole reality check to it once you start getting into it. We’ve been calculated about how to put all those moving parts together first. To be honest, it was a lot easier to do before legalization without all the regulations. We want to make sure when we do come out we’re bulletproof, we can meet SKUs, we’ve got the best product. It’s one thing to have a great brand and it’s one thing to have a great product, but one without the other and you’re dead in the water. You literally could have the best brand and the coolest product, but if nobody knows about it, it doesn’t do anything.
Retailers that are interested in carrying merchandise can reach out at ross-gold.com