Dan Bilzerian Exits The Marijuana Business, Pivots To Tobacco, Plans Billion-Dollar Exit – Forbes

The saga of Ignite, Instagram celebrity-turned conservative culture warrior Dan Bilzerian’s marijuana-adjacent lifestyle brand, took a few unexpected turns in 2021.

A year removed from 2020—a rollercoaster year in which Ignite posted a $50 million loss, ventured into the legal adult-use cannabis market in Canada, and scored $1 million in free money from the federal government’s Payment Protection Plan—Ignite is now out of the marijuana game, as the company announced last month.

That may come as a surprise, given how the COVID-19 pandemic generated a cash windfall for nearly every other cannabis business (and given how all-in on weed Bilzerian and Ignite behaved in 2019, when “titillating” billboards advertising Ignite-branded cannabis—in the style of a typical Maxim cologne adappeared all over Los Angeles).

In this, Dan Bilzerian is a relatable guy. Most legal cannabis businesses say they’re struggling. Less relatable are Bilzerian’s popular following on social media and his global reach. Armed with this, he’s still planning on a billion-dollar exit from Ignite, shares in which were trading for about a dollar on Thursday.

To do this, as he told an interviewer recently, he’s planning a return to the classics. These days, Bilzerian is deep into nicotine vaporizers, and banking on the hope that a big tobacco company will want to slap down ten figures for his inimitable branding.

Dan Bilzerian is out of the marijuana game.

Getty Images

A few weeks after announcing he was through selling cannabis in Canada—blaming excess government regulation—Bilzerian sat down for an interview at his home in Las Vegas with Graham Bensinger. Sticking to the familiar Dan script, Bilzerian played all the hits—the paintball field, the batting cage, the basketball court, the trust-fall setup, the cars, the dab rigs, the models just hanging around—before sitting down to talk business.

“Initially, I wanted to do a dispensary,” he said. “And I wanted to have like hot girls work at the dispensary. I wanted it to be a place, like a destination. And we shifted from that because it was so difficult to get a deal with a dispensary.”

Bilzerian could be referring to trying to secure a dispensary permit in California or Nevada, feats that are certainly difficult but not impossible. We can’t be sure; an e-mail to Paul Holden, Ignite’s corporate counsel and the company’s media contact, was not return.

Nevertheless. In a reversal from his company’s public statements to investors on why Ignite pulled out of cannabis in Canada, instead of government overregulation, Bilzerian blamed too little regulation—or the wrong regulation.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 24: Sponsors are seen during Dan Bilzerian’s Halloween Party … [+] sponsored by Ignite International, Ltd., Alister, and BlitzBet on October 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randall Michelson/Getty Images for Ignite International, Ltd., Alister, and BlitzBet)

Getty Images for Ignite International, Ltd., Alister, and BlitzBet

Singing a song familiar to most every legitimate marijuana business, Bilzerian says he got killed by the illicit market. And he isn’t looking to get back anytime soon.

“I’m so (expletive) happy to be out of cannabis to be honest with you,” he told Bensinger. “I mean, it’s like, the way they let these black market people do it and operate with impunity while people are trying to do this legitimately. It’s just crazy. It’s like impossible to compete with that.”

Eighty percent of Bilzerian’s social media following is overseas, he said. With most of his fans in markets where marijuana still isn’t legal, shifting from weed to nicotine vapes, alcohol, and energy drinks—vices that are legal almost everywhere in the world—“was a no brainer,” he said. “I mean, nicotine is (expletive) crushing it.”

Bilzerian didn’t talk numbers with Bensinger, but according to filings on the Canadian Securities Exchange, where Ignite is listed, things are turning around.

Ignite hasn’t turned a profit, but lost only $1.3 million Canadian in the first six months of 2021—down from more than $15 million the year before.

Those are losses Bilzerian likes to put in perspective for the “people who don’t understand too much about business,” he said.

“Uber lost $5 billion in a quarter,” he said. “Most companies lose money when they start.”

As for all the profligate spending—the yachts, this and that, you know the deal—Bilzerian chalked that up to marketing. And if that was the goal, it was successful. “That made a lot of (expletive) noise,” he observed.

From here, “I think we sell the company in the next couple years,” he added, guessing that a big tobacco company, wise to the trend, will be willing to pay a premium for a vaporizer brand. (Assuming they all don’t have one already.)

How much?

“$2 billion would be nice,” he said. “Then I’d get over a billion. That was one of the milestones that I had.”

“Like, that’d be nice,” Bilzerian said, suddenly waxing philosophical. “Sell the company for a couple billion dollars and then go work at Wal-Mart for three months. I think that would be kind of cool.

“And you’d like that why?” Bensinger asked.

“You would just live on whatever it was that you made and just recalibrate to that, and from that point you would start to appreciate things more,” Bilzerian said.

“Right now I’ve gotten so numb to everything,” he added. “You don’t get those pleasure spikes anymore it’s just normal. So I think that would be… nice.”

For more—and there is a lot more, believe us—head over to Bensinger’s YouTube channel.