"If you always have similar thoughts, then you wind up building a model of the world that is static and you start believing your own bullshit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not believe everything you think."
Named Forbes' seven most powerful people in the cannabis industry — Troy is the co-founder and CEO of Arcview, a high-net worth investor and market research group shaping the space. Here, he talks venture capital, politics, and why the best businesses are built on advocacy.
The Highly: How did cannabis get you here?
Troy Dayton: When I was in high school, I smoked a joint for the first time with some friends. Right after lighting the joint, a security guard in a car with a siren and a light on top pulled up, put me in handcuffs and put me in the back of his car. My other friends were let off; I was being singled out. At the office, he gave me the choice to call my mom or call the police. I said, "I guess I'll call my mom." As I start dialing the number, the guy put his hand on the receiver. (This was a rotary phone with a receiver. That's how old I am!”) At this point, my friends barge into the room laughing and cracking up. It was a joke! They had recruited the security guard to do all of this because I was always the paranoid one when I smoked. It was in that moment I realized how lucky I was. Because for hundreds of thousands of people every year, getting put in handcuffs for cannabis misdemeanors is not a joke. Viscerally feeling that sense of injustice sparked a uniquely teenage idealistic vision and desire to change the world. Then I went off to college and started getting interested in politics. The Marijuana Policy Project was founded that year. I got involved, took classes on drug policy and never looked back.
TH: Did you ever imagine that Arcview would carry the weight that it does in the industry?
TD: I guess there's always been a part of me that felt we could have real impact, but I always thought that part was maybe just delusions of grandeur. But as this industry grows, we’ve really been leading the movement. It’s been an honor.
Steve DeAngelo and I started Arcview in 2010, in part, because we recognized a gap in leadership. This was a new industry, and it could go either way. We were going to succeed in getting more freedom from governments, or, this was going to be a liability to the political movement. We felt like this was an opportunity to combine business and advocacy, creating a new kind of industry that would lead us to more freedom, not less. I feel grateful that we've done and are doing that.
TH: Do most of Arcview’s deals happen via pitches or through networking?
TD: You know, it's really a combination of both. Our members are so involved, and we've got so many industry leaders in our fold—cultivations, dispensary chains, you name it. So there are a lot of deals that wind up happening because of the connections that people make through our group. It’s certainly one of the benefits of joining Arcview. For deals where the company's raising less than three million bucks, those tend to come through the selection process, sponsorship, and more formal pitches. This is an industry that's up to something. We're changing the world. We're making history. We're the pioneers, and so there's a certain camaraderie and connection that comes from that.
TH: What are some of the telltale signs you recognize right off the bat, on who's going to make it and who's not?
TD: Who's going to raise capital is a different question than who's going to make it. Oftentimes, the companies that are most likely to “make it” are average presenters. They're focused so much on their business and not so much on the pitch. This is how some really great deals can get overlooked. We try and help companies overcome that, and hopefully leave Arcview more prepared than they arrived. Having a team that combines business acumen with cannabis experience is really crucial. Making those marriages work can be a real challenge, but both experiences are so important to a well-rounded team.
TH: You are the nucleus of Arcview. A master speaker and networker. Is this a gift? Was it practice?
TD: It may look that way, but the truth is I have a phenomenal team. I've chosen really dedicated, fun, and open people that like to connect, and genuinely value the community we've created. In the beginning, it’s what really attracted a lot of those people to Arcview. The cannabis industry is also very alluring. This is an industry that's up to something. We're changing the world. We're making history. We're the pioneers, and so there's a certain camaraderie and connection that comes from that. Unlike most business conferences, when people come to Arcview, they're coming to work on a project and evaluate these companies together. A real sense of community builds around that and it's been such an honor to facilitate. If you're involved in this industry, you are now an advocate. You are now committing civil disobedience and that's a very serious and powerful role to play. It's also really moving.
TH: How do you think cannabis can help the world?
TD: I've never been one of these people that proclaims cannabis as our savior. For me, the motivation has really been freedom. It's been the idea of a fighting back against a government telling millions of people not to do something that is less harmful for them than drinking alcohol, and, in many cases, actually beneficial. I have a real desire to facilitate the power of free enterprise in pursuit of the American dream, as it relates to cannabis. That's really been my motivation.
Along the way, I’ve realized how much cannabis brings us together, in the same ways alcohol can, but is far less destructive to society. It’s also having a role in replacing pharmaceuticals. There's a lot of data to suggest that pharmaceuticals are used less, or even eliminated, with the use of cannabis. There's so much development going on with new products that I really think will replace a lot of over-the-counter drugs.
A shift in perspective can be a really good thing for society, because it's so easy to believe your thoughts. If you always have similar thoughts, then you wind up building a model of the world that is static and you start believing your own bullshit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to not believe everything you think. When you learn to flip your perspective, in many cases, it leads people to realize what's important and how to take better care of each other.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump, what would you say about cannabis?
TD: I'd say that cannabis is creating an incredible amount of jobs. The industry is generating billions of dollars, and that it's a real opportunity, that, if we don't take advantage of it, Canada, Mexico, and Europe will. Let's get ahead of the game and give the US the ability to develop national programs so that we can have a prosperous country. These companies often need your help, and one of the great parts about investing now, is that you can be useful.
TH: How do you see the pharmaceutical industry's role in regards to cannabis?
TD: There's a lot of pharmaceutical development based around research, using tissue culture for the creation of cannabinoids. There's no question that the pharmaceutical industry has realized that cannabis is going to be powerful, and that they need to figure out how to utilize it. Then, on the flip side, one concern I have is that they start to see how much potential cannabis has in replacing other drugs, and they become a roadblock to medical progress. We need to make sure we do everything we can to get those movements started as soon as possible.
TH: Regarding cannabis policy and regulation, what countries do you admire?
TD: Canada's doing really incredible work. There, and most other successful countries, regulation structures are federal. There isn't this federal-state conflict, which really gets in the way in the US.
TH: Any advice to someone who wants to invest in cannabis?
TD: First thing, is if they're looking to invest more than $100,000 in the sector, then I would highly recommend joining with a group of fellow accredited angel investors. It’s fun and there's strength in numbers. Being able to share due diligence, and get insider insight on both companies and the solutions that they're raising money for, is really beneficial to the decision making process.
The other thing I would say, is to learn as much as you can about the sector, through great data. If you're not talking to the key people and if you're not reading actual research and category data, it's easy to make the wrong move or to underestimate or overestimate a market size.
You can also ask yourself, “What are my skills?” What do you know that is transferable to cannabis? You're going to be the best investor in the kinds of businesses you already understand, and then all you have to do is overcome the cannabis knowledge. In this early phase of the industry, it's a real pioneering effort. These companies need your help, and one of the great parts about investing now, is that you can be useful.
I would also advise, that this is not just another industry. As long as there's a single adult in this world being unjustly punished for using this plant, we are a political movement and a business. The only reason we even have the opportunity to participate in this as a money making endeavor, is because of the blood, sweat, and tears of tons of activists. We owe it to them, to the people who’ve been punished in the past and to future growth of the market, to actually partake in cannabis politics.
If you're involved in this industry, you are now an advocate. You are now committing civil disobedience, and that's a very serious and powerful role to play. It's also really moving. It also adds another dimension to business. It adds meaning, and we all want meaning.For me, the motivation has really been freedom.
TH: Where does cannabis play a role in your life?
TD: I'm too busy legalizing it and building this industry to use cannabis as much as I would like. But when I am partaking more, it's usually a good sign that my life is balanced.
TH: What are some of your favorite products?
TD: There's a tea I like to use that's high in CBN. It really helps me sleep, so I use that once or twice a week. I've also discovered rosin and live resin and I like to do small dabs of that. I think a lot of people think dabs are only for really heavy consumers, and I'm definitely not. I just take one or two little hits, and the high I get from a concentrate is far superior to any other experience.
TH: What's next for Arcview?
We are moving beyond just connecting investors to each other, and into the actual asset management business. The goal is to expand the role we're playing in the industry and help us bring even better deals to our members.
TD: Words of wisdom for a first time entrepreneur?
On a personal note...
I joined ArcView in 2016. I was just beginning to feel back to myself after my stint with chronic pain. Me being me, the first thing that came to mind was “I’m going to invest in this new type of cannabis.” Much to my surprise, my plans for investment strategy turned passion project quickly. A familiar story in the industry. There’s something addictive in the air at ArcView. Regardless of your background, everyone’s a freshman, looking for their like-minded people. And there’s a hard working buzz filled with the ups and downs of start-up life, combined with a dream of changing history with something meaningful. If you are entering the space for investment or as a start-up, I highly recommend ArcView if you can. They are on top of what is current and will connect you to whomever you need. For those seeking more economical options for networking and meet-ups, there’s a whole slew of networking groups gaining steam. WomenGrow ( for all genders), with chapters throughout the country, CannaGather and High NY, based in New York City, are also ones that I catch when I can. ~ N