Evan Marder

The Grower: Evan Marder of Matrix

Evan Marder, Chief Operating Officer at Matrix NV

There’s no perfect educational background or résumé qualifications for entering the marijuana industry. But Evan Marder’s experience in nightclubs and entertainment gave him a pretty good start. “I was operations manager for Kahunaville in Delaware, which was a 100,000-square-foot complex, the largest on the East Coast,” he says. “That’s what actually gave me the confidence to know I could do something like this on this scale.” That job brought him to Nevada 15 years ago, but growing cannabis has also been a longtime avocation. At Matrix NV, he oversees the plants—from seed to clones to cutting to flowering to production—and handles myriad variables that arise along the way.

Sometimes the smaller players win the game. …When this opportunity came up in Nevada, I just learned everything I could about government and regulations and what it would take to make something like this happen. I basically gambled my whole livelihood and my life savings … and here we are.

I’m basically the blue collar guy that everyone said couldn’t get into this industry because it’s so expensive. I was very fortunate, but it took a lot of work. I paid lawyers hundreds of dollars to tell me I was out of my mind. There are a lot of teams that tried to do this—“Yadda yadda marijuana, we’re going to make millions, it’s going to be great.” Then they actually start digging into it, doing the whole licensing process and building one of these places that they realize nobody knows how to build. Just knowing how difficult the process was, I figured that 30 percent of the licenses granted would get to the finish line. And that’s pretty close to where we’re at right now.

But I did the entire application plan — the state and the city. It was probably about three months of three hours’ sleep each night. I was literally delirious. Every little step has been extremely difficult. When you go to the building department—none of them have ever seen what you’re doing, so a lot of the stuff that you want to use, it’s like, “You want to do what? Holy shit!”

The legalization debate is changing, but it still hasn’t been won. … There’s a lot more support now, but people still need to get out and vote. Get the money to the schools, get the money for infrastructure: It’s better in our hands than in criminals’ hands. You know those things that pop up on Facebook—The 16 Most Embarrassing Pictures? I clicked on it once and the majority of people were in nightclubs face-planted on the floor, just completely inebriated. That’s acceptable behavior, but smoking a joint and eating some Cheetos isn’t?

If it comes here, Nevada will dominate. This will be the Amsterdam of the West, it will be the mecca of marijuana—but at the same time, it’s going to be done right. Nobody does this kind of thing better than Nevada, especially here in Las Vegas. I think it’s going to be phenomenal.