Joe Hodas of Wana discusses expansion, partnership, and the importance of community entering new markets

Joe Hodas of Wana discusses expansion, partnership, and the importance of community entering new markets


Wana Brands is the nation’s leading marijuana-infused edibles company, founded in Colorado by Nancy Whiteman, the company has become an industry leader with one of the deepest market saturations in legal cannabis. Most recently, Wanna branched into the Mississippi market. 

Wana’s mission is to help people improve their lives creatively through the responsible use of cannabis.

In Missouri, Wana launched at the very beginning of medical marijuana legalization through a partnership with CLOVR, one of the state’s largest manufacturers, and one of the earliest adopters to bring established cannabis brands like Wana, Robhots, and Keef to Missouri customers.

For its part, Wana has seen tremendous success in the Show-Me state and consistently leads multiple edibles categories. In the time since the brand launched in state, Wana has focused on engaging Missouri consumers in new and creative ways. most recently Wana has hosted Elevated Yoga events in the Kansas City area, finding consumers and patients in their natural environments and spreading the comapny’s message of improvement and creativity through responsible use. 

Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hodas joined Wana in 2020 but has been in the cannabis industry for many years. Greenway recently spoke to Hodas about Wana’s national growth and successes in the Missouri market, as well as how community involvement drives the brand forward.

How did Wana decide to branch into the Missouri market early on, and how does that strategy impact the company’s continued growth?

Missouri was not necessarily, at the time, meant to be one of the bigger states from a cannabis standpoint.

We got in early because that’s what we do. We look at states kind of on a case-by-case basis. Then, if we can find the right partner and we feel like we have a market that appreciates and values the product, we’ll go in like we just launched Mississippi. 

Another good example is we’re not in Mississippi competing with the same companies that we compete with in Colorado or in Michigan.

Missouri was that case as well, so we got in really early and were able to develop. 

It really does two things for us. Of course, it gives us longevity with consumers in the market, so we’re able to develop brand awareness. But what we’re also able to do is we can set the bar really high because we do have a better product than those in most states. And so when we’re able to get in early, teach consumers, educate consumers as to what to look for, what a product really should be, then it really helps us as new companies come into the market because we’ve already kind of set the high water mark.

How did your partnership with CLOVR come to be?

It’s a long process [finding the right partner].

Generally, it’s kind of like dating.

It happens one of two ways. We either know that we want to be in a market and then we begin to network. We take recommendations from existing partners, from people we know, and then we will meet with multiple groups and begin to narrow it down. Then it gets into contract terms and all that good stuff. Some of the partners shake out of that, and they decide they don’t like our contractual terms or vice versa. 

Like with Missouri, we may get outreach from a partner like CLOVR, and we go, “Okay, CLOVR seems interesting. Let’s look at Missouri.” And we take a closer look at the market and say, “Is this a market for us?”

With CLOVR,  they had demonstrated a really strong understanding of operations and of the overall market. Their facility was best in class in Missouri.

That’s the other thing we do, we’ll go out, we meet the team, and see the facility and make sure that it’s real, that there’s an actual building with people working and all that good stuff.

That really is kind of a long process, but that’s kind of what we have to do to find the right partners. And it’s not foolproof. 

We’ve had relationships that start out great and then sour for various reasons, but for the most part, we’ve got it down to a pretty good combo of art and science. And we’ve had some great successes, and I put CLOVR in that category.

Blood Orange | Wana

In what ways has Wana tried to stay involved with the community?


We really try to ingratiate ourselves in the community.

So just as an example, we’ve probably donated over $40,000 to various local charities in Missouri, like Operation Food Search and NourishKC, just as a couple of examples.

We’ve also done a really exciting partnership with KC Crew where we also host wellness events in Kansas City and around the state. Actually, we’re going to be expanding that.

Really trying to become part of the fabric of the community is another reason why we’re visible in Missouri and why we do well in the states that we enter.

What would you say is the most popular Wana product in Missouri?

Our Blood Orange gummies are very popular.

What’s interesting about Blood Orange is that we actually don’t have that flavor in Colorado.

In some cases, we’ll do hyper-local flavoring based on the needs of the market or in some cases the needs of a partner, because we have a library portfolio of different products and different flavors that we can drop into different markets.

Fast Asleep | Wana

Wana recently launched two new Wana gummies in Missouri, Stay Asleep and Fast Asleep, can you tell us more about the idea behind the development?

The great thing about our sleep products is that we’re doing something different than any other cannabis manufacturer is doing. Because we realize that there’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleep.

Some people have trouble falling asleep, some people have trouble staying asleep, some people have a combination of both. And so what we did is we launched our fastest sleep product first, which was a lower dose product, which is again, something that a lot of companies shy away from, and we hear from budtenders all the time “Oh, it’s low dose, people want stronger dosage.”

The truth is that that may work in some cases, if people want to use it for a heavy recreational night out, that kind of thing. But for a sleep product, our research was telling us that too much THC is actually disruptive to sleep.

So, yeah, a heavy dose of THC will knock you out, but the quality of the sleep is not significant. It interrupts your REM sleep in a way that isn’t particularly healthy. 

But you’ll also read a lot of THC consumers who will say, “I don’t really have dreams,” or, “I went on a T-break for a while and I realized I hadn’t been dreaming, all of a sudden my dreams were coming back.” It’s because [high THC] disrupts REM sleep in a significant way.

So that’s why we formulated it with a lower dose of THC as well as other CBN, CBD and in Colorado and some of our markets, we also have a very small amount of melatonin in them.

That was our first sleep product that we launched.

Then we said, “You know what, people still have trouble staying asleep, so let’s make a higher dose product – the same formulation with all the other minor cannabinoids and give people the option.”

They can use one, they can use both if they have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The Fast Asleep is fast-acting, so it’ll take effect in, let’s say, 15 or so minutes, get you to sleep, and then the longer-lasting and slower-acting Stay Asleep will keep you asleep through the night.