Welcome to Money Puff!
I’m Liam Kelly, and these are my notes on a postmodern Wall Street. An NYU alum and reformed investment banker, I now write at the intersection of cannabis and finance. I send out recurring blog posts here at Money Puff—as well as on Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere—with musings on the biggest financial storylines of the last 5 years, all fascinatingly connected: pot, pumps, and the pandemic.
What was ‘modern’ Wall Street? Think Charlie Sheen, cocaine—not hard, I know—trading floors, and power suits. Read Michael Lewis’ account, from Liar’s Poker, about his time as a bond trader at Salomon Brothers:
‘It was wonderful to be young and working on Wall Street in the 1980s: never before had so many twenty-four-year-olds made so much money in so little time.’
The modern era ended with the COVID-19 pandemic—think a lot less coke, and a lot more weed. We’ll cover the nascent ‘legal’ cannabis industry here, where I spent time as an operator in strategic finance. But, true to the roots of ‘postmodernism’ in aesthetic and artistic criticism, we’ll also cover the cultural mutation that Wall Street has undergone since the 80s, apotheosized with crypto and meme stocks. Listen to Michael Lewis again:
“I do feel like I’ve been watching—not the system ever reform itself—but instead just becoming more and more itself, more and more extreme… the financial sector has just gotten more and more important, and not just as a percentage of activity in the economy, but also in the imagination of people.”
And, of course, it is arguably no longer wonderful to be young and on Wall Street in the 2020s: take it from me and others I’ve sat (virtually) across from on deals. There is still plenty of money, of course—don’t feel too bad for your neighborhood banking analyst. But would you rather work to grow other people’s money, or pump your own that you literally made up yourself? A postmodern Wall Street gravitates toward the latter.
1. Why this, why now
Cannabis: The cannabis industry in the United States is at a moment of tremendous change. For better or worse, the cannabis industry is a fascinating intersection of business, politics, culture, and social justice. My focus is primarily finance, but I hope to touch on all corners of this “budding” industry—and expand my own knowledge along the way.
Finance: Since around 2018, billions flowed into cannabis and crypto companies—as well as the adjacent fintech space—thanks to late-cycle yield hunting and changes in regulatory structures (or lack thereof). When the pandemic hit, the fed pumped trillions more into the economy, the last of the ‘easy money’ that defined the 2010s. But, very quickly, other ‘pumps’ were underway, namely in buzzy crypto schemes and meme-stocks that retail investors sent to the moon.
Now, it’s seemingly all disappeared in a puff of smoke. Who’s to blame? Who’s left holding the bag? Was any of it for real, or was it all just a ponzi? These are the answers that Money Puff will seek to answer.
2. What will you get as a subscriber
Free, recurring blog posts on cannabis and finance, with an insider’s take on the drivers behind the headlines. That’s it (for now)!
3. Do I have a vested interest in the cannabis or finance industries?
Yes! I am a cannabis user, and believe in the power of the plant to change lives. I also interact, like all of you, with the financial system daily. But that’s it—beyond what you see on this page and in the newsletter.
I used to be an employee of two cannabis technology companies (LeafLink and Dutchie) and participated in their employee stock option plans for a time. Those shares never vested, though.
I also firmly believe homegrow should be legal, and anyone who wants it should have a cheap, accessible source for good quality weed — whatever that means to them!
4. Puff, Puff, Pass!
Make sure to subscribe, and send along to anyone who might enjoy!
5. And now…
Grab your product of choice, settle in, and get ready to explore the wild, wonderful worlds of cannabis and finance.