Matthew Wielenga has become king of `legal weed’ but this successful entrepreneur is reluctant to be seen as the face of a new phenomenon. Jonathan Marshall investigates.
RECORDING DEVICES, photographers and prying journalists aren’t welcome inside the concrete compound on Auckland’s North Shore where Matthew Wielenga’s Kronic empire – staff count 40 and climbing – is based.
The media aren’t what he’s worried about – they are a kind of ally, part of the company’s proven marketing strategy.
“I haven’t spent a cent on marketing this stuff apart from a few posters.
“Every time someone does a story we just get bigger and bigger. We have had literally millions in free marketing.”
The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) agreed, stating in their November 2010 report on synthetic cannabinomimetic substances, that such coverage “may have increased the recognition of, and demand for, these types of products”, the basis for a multimillion-dollar industry that has already surpassed the success of BZP tablets, or party pills.
Wielenga said a recent Campbell Live item, in which reporter Tristram Clayton got “off his head” on Kronic, was “by far our best advert yet”.
It is gangs, Wielenga tells the Sunday Star-Times, he needs to maintain his distance from – and he doesn’t want media feeding them too much intelligence.
“My personal safety is at risk… the main thing on my mind is my security. That is more important than money.
“The nature of what we are selling means we are getting very close to the line. It’s a bit scary. We are treading on their toes in a big way, really starting to get into the market to the point people are buying Kronic instead of weed [marijuana].”