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Native American Owned Canndigenous Launches with 4/20 Event

From by Shelia Julson April 20 2021

Design and marketing entrepreneur Rob Pero has launched Canndigenous, a Native American owned cannabidiol (CBD) hemp company in Wisconsin. Pero is a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The Canndigenous product line includes tinctures, six different strains of smokable and preroll flower, lip balm and topical cream. The products are available at Ripley Green (226 W. Main St., Cambridge, Wis.), an apothecary also owned by Pero. A 4/20 launch is planned for April 20, from 5 to 10 p.m., at the Pyramid Event Venue, 117 S. Main St., Lake Mills, Wis. The event will feature CBD-infused food and cocktails, and live music. Due to social distancing capacity limits, reservations are requested (

Pero has been passionate about cannabis for a long time. With the 2018 federal farm bill, he saw an opportunity to get involved with the industry. “I’ve always believed that the plant in and of itself has many benefits,” he says. “It’s been stigmatized so much, and this would be a path toward destigmatizing the plant’s reputation in Wisconsin.”

Pero created a business plan for Canndigenous—a name that combines “cannabis” and “indigenous.” In 2019, Pero and his wife, along with another couple, started with a small grow of about 100 plants. Pero’s vision for Canndigenous is to be a national, native-owned cannabis brand. He sees a specific need for inclusion of black and minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Doing Things ‘In a Good Way’ Part of Ojibwe Ethos

“Our goal is to provide a path and share our story as to how we got to where we are,” Pero says. “I’ve had great mentorship from the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, and from First American Capital, a community development financial institution which helps with lending and business plan development for minority-owned businesses. I want to share that there are opportunities across Wisconsin and on tribal reservations, and to provide a map toward getting into the industry.”

Through Canndigenous, Pero hopes to give back by providing scholarships for Native Americans to pursue agricultural ventures. He wants to also provide opportunities for potential franchising for Canndigenous across reservations in Wisconsin.

Pero says they strive for zero-waste farming practices. “Everything that we have gets tilled back into the ground. We donated a portion of crop to Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA), a nonprofit organic certifying agency. They take samples for testing as part of our certification process, and we allow them to take some of the crop for their own additional research and testing.”

Canndigenous has also formed collaborations with third-party entities and with UW-Madison to use hemp in biofuel research. “We’re excited by the relationships we’ve built so far and look forward to supporting each other’s initiatives in this very risky space.”

Pero has seen a lot of turnover in the hemp business so far. He observes it’s a tough environment to work in, especially with medicinal and recreational cannabis available just across the borders in Illinois and Michigan, providing more opportunities for growers in those states. “As soon as you start driving north to Green Bay, you see signage for legal cannabis in the U.P. Those states are pulling a lot of money out of our own economy,” he affirms.

When Wisconsin eventually does move toward medicinal or recreational cannabis legalization, Pero wants it done in an equitable way. “We’ve (hemp growers) built names for ourselves if we have an interest to pivot into the rec and medicinal markets. When that plan gets laid out—and I believe it will eventually—we want to make sure it’s laid out in a way that there is Wisconsin product available.”

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