Article by Laura Bell, Playboy
On a hot Saturday morning in July, I climbed eagerly into a glistening black Ford Explorer parked opposite my house. This wasn’t the first time I’d stepped into a car on a quest for drugs, but this time it felt miles away from a sketchy dashboard exchange picking baggies from the base of a Lynx Deodorant can. This time I was being driven to the place Tantalus Labs’ SunLab; a cannabis greenhouse and lab that is pioneering growing of the future, and the brainchild of Dan Sutton.I was going to get an exclusive look at his grow operation where 600 sun-grown cannabis plants thrive. The advanced and exceptionally-designed facility, where Tantalus is able to test out studies, is dedicated to solving one question: How do we grow cannabis in a sustainable and affordable way? And more importantly, how do we make sure it’s the best bud out there?
Next to me in this American tank of a car is the CEO and founder himself, his bearded-grin making me feel immediately at ease. Sutton is in his mid-30s with tattoos sleeves, including his own Tantalus logo. He wears a snapback with “sun grown” stitched on the front (where can I buy one for myself?) and has a look in his eye like he’s struck gold—and in some ways he has, because Sutton is cultivating cannabis like no one else in Canada. Although his boyish demeanor and overall cool might not scream CEO, Sutton is a hugely successful entrepreneur and has subsequently become a legal cannabis culture leader of British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada.
It’s an hour drive to their facility in Maple Ridge, giving us plenty of time to unwrap how he got started in this unconventional, but highly profitable, corner of commerce. Sutton hasn’t always been the vibrant cannabis entrepreneur—sucking on an unsweetened iced matcha latte with almond milk—next to me. In fact, he spent his 20s picking up business and financial experience in a variety of corporate environments, until he was unexpectedly let go. But instead of regretting his years as a suit up until about 25, he assured me that all that experience was just gearing him up and setting the cogs in motion for the realization that entrepreneurship was the only way forward for him. “It wasn’t a cultural fit,” he explained of his time under the corporate thumb. And if the T-shirt-wearing, friendly character sitting next to me was anything to go by, I seriously struggle to imagine his younger-self donning a suit and rubbing shoulders with the devils of corporate finance.
In 2012, Sutton saw a consultation document which outlined what would then become the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR), that explained there would be a commercial system for larger scaleenterprises to cultivate cannabis, with extreme regulations around security and around quality assurance. Suddenly, this meant that there was more of a commercial market for cannabis than ever before and this was an opportunity that Sutton, just shook of the corporate jungle and with his plethora of entrepreneurial skills, took hold of with both hands.