Founder of A.C.-based Masterpiece Advertising sets sight on opening cannabis cultivation facility

With more than three decades of success in the advertising and marketing space, representing major brands across the U.S. and around the globe, Phyllis Lacca is now poised to break the “grass ceiling” in the cannabis industry, as the next phase of her career unfolds.

Lacca is the co-founder and president of HOPE Holistic Healthcare in Atlantic City. She and her business partner, George Irwin, are excited to be attending the upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference this week in Miami to meet with prospective investors and equity partners and share their plans for a groundbreaking 40,000-square-foot tissue culture-cultivation-retail operation in Atlantic City.

Advanced tissue culture technology is poised to clean up the cannabis grown in New Jersey and ensure it’s the healthiest product available to customers in the state’s new adult-use marketplace.

HOPE is one of several cannabis businesses Lacca and Irwin operate in New Jersey and Maine, including the companies VertiKal Tech (Auburn, Maine) and (Portland, Maine). Lacca is not only intent on bringing her success in Maine’s thriving cannabis industry to her home state, but also on affecting positive change — for cannabis customers and fellow cannabis cultivators.

Awarded its conditional cultivation license by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulating Commission, HOPE is expecting to finalize the conversion soon and begin its work to support New Jersey’s fledgling cannabis marketplace.

“I’m proud to be a homegrown New Jersey businesswoman,” said Lacca, who is also the founder and president of Atlantic City-based Masterpiece Advertising, a globally respected advertising and marketing agency celebrating its 31st anniversary this year. “And I’m excited to be bringing the success of our Maine cannabis operations to my home state and, more importantly, to take what we’ve done to ensure the highest quality cannabis for customers, retailers and professional cultivators.”

Utilizing its revolutionary cannabis cultivation techniques, HOPE will build a 50,000-square-foot laboratory for cannabis cultivation, cannabis tissue culture and genetic banking. Its Atlantic City facility will be equipped to supply clean, virus- and disease-free cultivars to licensed cultivators in New Jersey’s adult-use and medicinal cannabis market.

Along with the significant health and environmental benefits of growing cannabis via tissue culture clones, there are also several financial benefits for New Jersey cultivators. Among its revolutionary services, HOPE will support professional cannabis cultivators by eliminating their need for a costly and potentially disease- and virus-laden cannabis plant “mother room,” allowing cultivators to clean up their prized genetics, eliminate waste and increase production while lowering their operational costs and increasing their return on investment.

“Cannabis cultivators across the country are plagued with disease and viruses,” said Irwin, who has been at the forefront of green technology innovations in agriculture for 20-plus years, establishing himself as an authority and educator within the global green movement for his work designing and manufacturing green walls, green roofs and vertical farms.

“Most prevalent is the hops latent virus, which stunts growth, reduces yields and is easily transferred from plant to plant. Our services guarantee clean, disease-free plant stock and allow cultivators to rid themselves of a mother room and increase revenues by $1,400 per square foot. Our products and services don’t create more competition. In fact, we provide intra-industry support here in New Jersey to better the outcome of all the license owners.”

Lacca’s entry into the cannabis industry came unexpectedly, to say the least. After Masterpiece’s creative director — the late Mark Patten — was diagnosed with cancer, Lacca was shocked to discover that Patten’s product options in the medicinal marijuana marketplace were all of very low quality and enormously expensive, along with shortages at the state’s limited dispensaries.

In 2015, she founded her own nonprofit, the HOPE Foundation, to advocate for patient access to high-quality medicinal cannabis and provide financial support to those fighting cancer and terminal illness within her community. Lacca lends that passion to all her cannabis businesses, of all of which complement the HOPE Foundation’s mission.

For Lacca, ultimately, it’s about making a positive impact and affecting change — whatever she is working on. Whether that’s as the head of a globally respected marketing and advertising agency or as a cannabis executive in New Jersey’s “male-dominated cannabis industry.”

Not just a name on the masthead or an uninvolved investor, Lacca is extremely hands-on regarding all her cannabis businesses, not only lending her strategic marketing expertise, but overseeing day-to-day operations. She is looking forward to providing that same approach and dedication with HOPE.

“I have always been a visionary,” Lacca said. “And, through Hope, I have some great ideas about New Jersey’s cannabis industry — from both a health and quality perspective and from a marketing perspective. I’m committed to making Atlantic City the East Coast capital of cannabis.”