Home Wine Business Editorial A Wine & Weed Story: Interview with Zack Crafton

A Wine & Weed Story: Interview with Zack Crafton


By  Emily Earlenbaugh

Cannabis and wine have a lot of similarities. They are both agricultural products that grow well in the same climates. They are both used for relaxation in social settings, or after a long day’s work. And now, as recreational cannabis regulations begin to take effect, they will both be provided by highly regulated industries. While some winemakers worry these similarities means recreational cannabis will be bad news for wine sales, others see the change as an opportunity to expand into new business opportunities. Wine industry professionals might have just the skillset that is needed for the new landscape of legal cannabis.

Zach Crafton

Meet Zack Crafton, one wine industry entrepreneur who sees more potential than risk in the new cannabis regulations. Zack has done a lot of work in the wine industry, from starting direct to consumer wine companies, to consulting on customer management and operations, to his most recent job, as VP of Operations for Naked Wines. Despite his success in the wine world, a year ago Zack decided to transition into the cannabis industry. He had no experience with marijuana, but after doing some research he decided to give up his position at Naked Wines to embark on a new venture in the cannabis space. His next-day cannabis delivery service, Big Moon Sky is geared towards providing new cannabis users with an easy, educational, and elegant experience.

We spoke with Zack to learn more about his transition from the wine industry into the cannabis space, and where he thinks about the future of these two industries.

What inspired you to transition from wine into cannabis?

There’s a few different reasons. One was certainly a sizable opportunity in an industry that is moving out of the shadows, into a regulated market. That frankly doesn’t happen very often. Even with wine, everyone points to the repeal of prohibition… It was still the repeal of prohibition. With cannabis, this is the first time, at this scale, that it’s moved into what’s called ‘the white market’ or ‘the regulated market.’

The second piece was a lot of interest around the lifestyle elements of the product. We saw that the different cannabis products were used in ways somewhat similar to alcohol. We come home from a hard day at work, and in my case, I’d grab a scotch or maybe you’d grab a glass of wine. People were turning, in the same way, to a cannabis product. That cannabis effect is something that you use to accentuate your life. It’s to help you relax, to help with creativity, to help you sleep.

Did you have any experience with cannabis before you made this transition?

I flew to Las Vegas back in November of last year for the marijuana business conference and I knew nothing about cannabis. I mean, literally, I didn’t use the product at the time and didn’t know anything about it and certainly didn’t know anything about the regulatory side. Now, I was heavily involved in the regulatory side in the wine industry, so I had spent a lot of time with lawyers, and a lot of time understanding state and federal law. I understood the regulatory environment, I just didn’t understand the cannabis one.

While in Las Vegas, I sat through the business 101 course where they really just scared you to death. “The feds will kick down your door. Everyone’s going to take all your money.” All these terrible things.

I think there were a lot of people in that audience who are like “No thanks!” And I was like “Yes! This is great.”

How has that transition been going for you?

We secured our permit which is really great, and I’ve been working on building out our website and securing our relationships with all our different suppliers and growers. We’ve been building out our infrastructure to be able to offer next day delivery of our products. We are a dispensary, we are just online, so we are able to deliver our products next-day, across the state. We did a very soft launch, a few weeks ago which was less about selling product and was more about testing our systems…and everything went extremely well.

We have also just finished raising our seed round of funding and have secured quite a bit of cash. We are excited to have our big launch, right around January 1st.

Do you see any similarities between the cannabis and wine industries?

Oh my goodness, yes! Many. Like wine, you’re starting to see a lot of premiumization around the packaging. People are starting to move away from brown paper bags and you’re starting to see things that are a little more appealing to the eye. Things are a little more informative about the product.

We’re also being taxed like crazy, so a lot of similarities there too. The cannabis taxes are pretty high. The regulatory stuff has a lot of overlap. It’s modeled after the alcohol industry.

Do you think wine industry professionals have an advantage in the cannabis space, given their experience in a highly regulated industry?

Our team primarily comes out of the wine industry and there was a reason we chose cannabis and a reason why I went and hired out of the wine industry. When you interview someone who is an operations director and they’re used to shipping jeans or clothing and then you talk to someone who does the same thing somewhere in the wine industry, it’s very different. It’s a very different job with the regulatory requirements.

I think there is there’s a lot of overlap in the market for the two products and there is opportunity for folks who are very adept at farming and at selling a luxury agriculture product like wine, that can easily parlay those skills in selling another luxury agriculture product like cannabis.

Where do you see the future of weed and wine going?

There are going to be some difficulties and some turmoil in the California cannabis industry over the next 18, 24 months. I think what you’ll see, after that, is a set of solid companies offering great products to consumers and also understanding that it’s very important to operate in a business-friendly way, with folks who we share resources with.

I don’t think the cannabis industry is going to overtake the wine industry, by any stretch of the imagination. I own a wine brand as well…and I wholeheartedly believe that wine, especially great wine, is going to continue to be a really strong industry in this country, and globally. That being said, I think both the cannabis industry and the wine industry can absolutely live in harmony.



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