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Cannabis entrepreneur Alex Rowland has raised about $20 million for NewTropic. - PHOTO BY JONAH RASKIN
  • Photo by Jonah Raskin
  • Cannabis entrepreneur Alex Rowland has raised about $20 million for NewTropic.

Alex Rowland has lived most of his adulthood in the U.S., but for his first seven years or so he called the land “Down Under” home. Now 48, he looks as fit as an Australian surfer. These days, the waves he rides are mostly in the choppy waters of the cannabis industry.

A graduate of Bowdoin College where he studied art, history and economics, Rowland is largely self-taught about marijuana and the volatile marketplace. When I ask him to give me a ballpark figure for the amount of money he has raised, he says $20 million.

Over the last few weeks, as stories about George Floyd have captured the world’s attention, Rowland and his team at NewTropic have talked with nonprofits about manufacturing cannabis products for causes that would assist minorities hurt by the war on drugs.

Before I met him at his Santa Rosa–based cannabis company, he sent an email in which he said, “In minority communities, dealing drugs has been one of the only ways to earn a decent living. Rather than nurturing the talents of these people and encouraging their sense of enterprise, we as a society have instead vilified them, incarcerated them and killed them. It’s tragic.”

At NewTropic—where nearly 100 people work in a 26,000-square-foot area—Rowland reminds me that while cannabis is legal in California, it’s illegal in Utah and Idaho. That’s also tragic.

The company operates five days a week, from 6:30am to 11:30pm. Before long, it will go 24/7. The numbers suggest the huge demand for cannabis and the significant revenue to NewTropic and tax dollars to the county.

Rowland himself has come a long way since the summer he was 17 and flew to Australia to be with his pot-growing father.

“It was my first experience with cannabis, including the ritual of consumption,” Rowland says. “That summer, I learned about growing, harvesting and processing.”

Rowland is still a cannabis consumer. He didn’t enter the industry as a manufacturer on a big scale until Colorado, and then California, legalized adult-use and adopted regulations. Prior to that he built software and media companies for more than two decades.

NewTropic doesn’t grow or sell marijuana, but it makes a wide variety of marijuana products for clients such as Old Pal, NorCal Cannabis Company, Stone Road, Biscotti, Aster Farms and Garden Society. Rowland plans to expand dramatically. He already needs an additional 45,000 square feet in Santa Rosa.

Over the next five years, Rowland hopes to have 25 additional facilities across the U.S. With his savvy about money, knowledge of marijuana and willingness to learn new stuff, success seems highly likely, indeed. 

Jonah Raskin is the author of “Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.”

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