Company: Green Degree
For the past 12 months, the editorial staff at Marijuana Venture has compiled a list of candidates for our third annual 40 Under 40 feature. This year, we narrowed our list down from hundreds of worthy candidates to come up with a cross-section of personalities across the U.S. and Canada, from salt-of-the-earth farmers to tech savants. All of them have unique stories, successes and ambitions and all represent the excitement and promise of the cannabis business. We feel honored to share their stories and look forward to watching them push forward in our ever-evolving industry.
Green Degree CEO Kerby Coman’s advice to someone wanting to get into the cannabis industry is to do it because you love it, not because you think there’s money in it.
“Don’t get in to get rich quick,” he says. “It’s a lot more than that.”
Coman would know. He received one of the first cultivation licenses in Alaska, but then had to fight his local borough after it enacted a moratorium just three days later.
With his plans on hiatus, he opened a CBD store instead and campaigned to prevent a ban that would have ended his hopes before they even got started. In 2016, Coman and other supporters prevailed, opening the door for Green Degree and a handful of other state-licensed marijuana shops in the Matanuska-Sustina Borough, just to the north of Anchorage and best known in the Lower 48 for being the home of former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
“Man, it was wild,” Coman says of election night. “We were in limbo for six months.”
Through it all, Coman says his passion for the industry and the plant kept him focused. It was what prompted him to leave a job working in the oil fields of Alaska’s North Slope.
He’d been growing since he was 13 and knew the impact cannabis could have in his community, particularly on the medical side. Green Degree prides itself on its education programs and its community outreach, including monthly charity programs like food drives, Toys for Tots collections or litter pickup efforts like the “Spring Clean-Up” that encourages customers to bring in cannabis-themed trash to earn points toward discounts.
“We just try to be as innovative as possible,” Coman says.
Though he sees Alaska’s market as still “immature,” he is working to expand Green Degree’s footprint, with a second shop opening in the spring. It’s been three years of hard work and dedication to get to where he is today, but Coman has no regrets and is still excited about what the future holds for his shops and the industry.
“I couldn’t be happier than I am right now,” he says. “It’s absolutely a passion of mine so every second I spend at work is awesome.”