The Business of Cannabis E2
Just a few short days before 4/20, Carla sits down with Demitri Downing, CEO & Founder of MITA – Marijuana Industry Trade Association; Giulia Valluzzi, Compliance, Licensing & Operations Consultant to the Cannabis Industry; Arianna Muñoz , Director of Special Projects & Head of the Social Equity Project; and Audra Travis of MHG Commercial.
Listen in as they discuss the evolution that got AZ to the legalization of marijuana, the hurdles facing the business side of the industry, and all the things.
Curious what actually happens now that cannabis is a full fledged industry in Arizona? If you’ve ever wondered about all of the cogs that have to turn in order to to bring these products to market and all of the business behind it, this is an intriguing hour!
MITA strives for the continued evolution of the cannabis industry through education, advocating for transparency, access, and the thoughtful regulation of programs throughout the United States.
Demitri Downing, Founder of MITA, is a former prosecutor and industry lobbyist whose family was part of the original 2012 vanguard of Arizona medical marijuana industry license holders and leaders. Dedicated to building a vibrant and accessible market, Downing has distinguished himself as a vested industry expert and influential trailblazer. With a strong understanding of operations, regulations and policy from a local to an international level, Downing was instrumental in Prop 205, Arizona’s 2016 legalization campaign as well as Prop 207 Arizona’s 2020 successful recreational initiative.
Downing entered the industry as business development, application specialist, regulatory compliance, and Mergers & Acquisitions specialist. He quickly grew this and his operational responsibilities into other roles to meet the growing needs of a developing market and industry. Downing brought over a decade of law enforcement, economic development and government relations expertise to his marijuana policy work. He has an in-depth knowledge of the complex nuances and themes shaping the emerging industry. He has also developed one of the most expansive networks of cannabis business professionals and entrepreneurs in the industry.
In May of 2016, seeing the need for strong State level industry associations to serve the existing intra-state market structures, Downing founded MITA-AZ, the Arizona Marijuana Industry Trade Association, the state’s first and largest industry trade association. He was also the co-founder of the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo, which hosted shows in Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, and Miami and produced a dozen conferences under said name.
In addition, he has collaborated with other industry innovators to foster inclusivity and cultural and ethnic diversity in the cannabis space. As part Native American and Mexican, Downing was a founding member of the National Indian Cannabis Coalition (NICC), an organization focused on guiding native communities into emerging cannabis market opportunities and founding member of the Mexican Cannabis Business Alliance. Downing was also the co-founder of AMMA PAC, a patient’s first organization in Arizona, and a co-founder of digital publication Arizona Cannabis Monthly.
Through his consulting company, PolicyQuake, Downing has acted as a consultant for pro-industry legal changes in numerous U.S. states, advised on applications for limited licensing states and as a partner and strategic advisor on multiple ancillary ventures, as well as advising on dispensary and cultivation operations.
On an international level, Downing has been very active since 2017, serving as a founding board member for global conference CannaMex at the invitation of former President of Mexico Vicente Fox. He is also working with Cannabisalud, ICBC, MJUnpacked, G4, CannabisLAB, Cannex, Expo Columbia as well as others. Demitri has also attended, spoken at or participated in more than 150 cannabis conferences across the globe.
With a dynamic combination of small business start-up expertise coupled with an education in Epistemology from Boston University and a degree in law from the University of Arizona College of Law, Downing’s cumulative insight and perceptive approach have made him an innovative business leader in the medical marijuana space.
Downing is currently working on many state, national and international projects to advance the growing marijuana industry. His greatest point of pride is helping hundreds of industry professionals through MITA-AZ, his private consultancy, as well as job fairs he has created, to navigate the complexities of the rapidly changing marijuana landscape and find work! As Prohibition ends and the culture and economics shift, few Americans are better positioned and prepared to explain, analyze and advise others on matters related to all aspects of the cannabis industry than Downing.
Ari (Arianna) Muñoz has experience in a variety of different aspects– from retail sales to car sales, social media managing, branding, and expansion over the last 5 years. After doing sales for many different companies, Ari started 3 of her own successful ecommerce brands and websites.
While launching her brands Muñoz discovered a profound passion and love for the cannabis industry. Muñoz started working in the cannabis industry at an early age of 18 as a brand ambassador. Then was named a brand executive for multiple companies in the industry, hiring and coordinating events for over 4 big name brands at one time, as well as managing their social media and public relations presence.
Muñoz is currently in the middle of pursuing her dream of starting her own full cannabis line coming 2022. During all of that, Muñoz re-encountered MITA and is now assisting MITA in the process of expanding on a national level. In addition, is leading the team’s social equity project. Currently she is the Director of Special Projects and Head of Social Equity with MITA. She also is an independent cannabis consultant, partnered with Policy Quake.
Giulia Valluzzi is a strategic, high-performing cannabis industry operations & business development leader & consultant.
Giulia nurtures and achieves outstanding results as an emerging thought partner in the growing cannabis industry, driving disruptive gains and innovative organizational impact. She is a motivated operations visionary, proficient in project management and consultative strategy.
Giulia utilizes her client relationships with a proven talent for earning trust and finalizing negotiations for a successful consultancy business while building lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships.
Audra Travis moved from Ann Arbor Michigan to Tempe Arizona in 1992 with the intention of enrolling in Arizona State University teaching program with hopes and dreams of teaching Junior High School Science. She was placed in a teaching program in Tempe immediately. As it turns out teaching was not in her future.
During this transition Audra served as the maître de at various fine dining establishments further refining her customer centric views. Following the restaurant years, Audra worked for a family-owned Acura shop, writing service and co-founding the Phoenix NSX club hosting events and race days.
Audra developed an interest in real estate and felt that real estate, coupled with her previous experience, was a logical fit the foreseeable future. Audra had the pleasure to land her first real estate position with John Hall & Associates where she met John Johnson, co-founder and co-owner of Utah based builder, J. Ballard Homes. This position launched Audra into managing and operating the property management arm of J. Ballard Homes in Salt Lake City.
However, Audra was not done. She saw a need for yet another arm and after bringing the right people together, Park Place Homes was born, which developed a 42 lot luxury subdivision in the area known as “The Point of the Mountain” and created luxury homes named after Hollywood starlets such as “The Monroe”. She also created “The Design House” , which allowed clients to design and upgrade their home new homes for both J. Ballard and Park Place Luxury Homes.
The recession hit and Audra was forced pivot into flipping homes where she did the bulk of the work herself – leaving only a few items to the pros. Her favorite tools are the sawzall and 45 lb jackhammer! She also began seminar for first time home buyers and decided to approach one of her neighbors about investing in multifamily homes, which led to her first commercial deal. She worked in both commercial and residential real estate and coined the term “Rezimercial Agent”, but in November 2019 she joined Aaron Dutcher’s team, MHG Commercial Real Estate, to focus primarily on commercial real estate.
Smashing Through Walls is geared toward a guide through complex commercial real estate and finance topics while adding humor and anecdotes along the way. Discover what is going on in the valley and beyond with host Carla Magee, broker at MHG Commercial.
About Our Host
Carla Magee’s background is designed with the investor in mind. After obtaining her finance degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, she worked for large corporations like Boeing and Microsoft. With a critical eye and flair for analytics, she was able to shave millions in lost profits, managing cross-functional teams by utilizing her Green Belt in Six Sigma and Masters Certification in Project Management.
Ultimately she realized that she couldn’t be contained in an office environment working for the corporate world. Being an investor herself, she came into real estate as an investment & multifamily property specialist, effectively applying her education & skillset. Carla excels in helping investors make sound decisions for their financial goals, in real estate negotiations, and takes deep pride in educating homebuyers and sellers.
On a personal note, Carla is a busy wife & mother to two daughters. In addition to an ever growing career and podcast, she also enjoys volunteering and being active in the community. She has a deep love for Arizona and although she travels whenever possible, she always finds her way back to the beautiful Sonoran Desert.
Connect with Carla on LinkedIn.
About Our Sponsor
MHG Commercial emerged from the highly successful and innovative residential brokerage: My Home Group. MHG Commercial’s vetted and experienced advisors have a wide range of complementary professional expertise that span over 100 years of cumulative experience.
Encompassing every aspect of commercial real estate from office to industrial development, raw land to luxury commercial, and multifamily to subdivision development. We excel at out of the box thinking and transactions that require a more hands-on approach and ingenuity.
No matter the property type or service need, our commercial advisors are committed to your objectives. Combined with business finesse and unsurpassed market intelligence, MHG Commercial brokers help you determine and surpass your business goals.