Curaleaf wants to be the Starbucks of weed

Curaleaf, the US’s biggest cannabis company, with a market capitalization of about $3.2 billion, just keeps getting bigger. The Wakefield, Massachusetts-based operator of grow houses, dispensaries, and brands turning out tinctures, vapes, edibles, topicals, and flower (as the industry refers to dried cannabis) has been steadily acquiring other cannabis companies in an effort to become, as CEO Joe Lusardi puts it, “the first true national cannabis brand with the widest distribution in the country.”

Curaleaf began in 2010 as PalliaTech, a medical cannabis company. It raised tens of millions from Russian investors between 2013 and 2015 led by Boris Jordan, who made a fortune in data centers and energy in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and is now chair of Curaleaf’s board. Curaleaf went public in late 2018 on the Canadian Securities Exchange, and the company’s merger last month with Grassroots Cannabis expands its footprint to include 23 of the 33 US states where cannabis is legal. It also gives the company licenses for 135 dispensaries and more than 1.5 million square feet of growing capacity.

Just before that deal closed, Lusardi talked to Quartz about the company’s growth strategy, what makes him optimistic about the next 36 months, and why he looks to the alcohol industry after prohibition for guidance amidst the pandemic. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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