John Garrison, Mountain High Suckers’ co-founder and CEO, sat down with Genifer Murray of CannabisTech.com to talk about Mountain High Suckers’ history in cannabis and the secret to their success and longevity in the industry. Here are some highlights:
Forming partnerships across industries
Mountain High Suckers has formed partnerships both within and outside of the cannabis community over the years. Together with Groundswell and DJ Logic, they created an exclusive strain, Logic Diesel, and infused it into a sucker to create Logic Pops. Mountain High Suckers teamed up with comedian Josh Blue to create a line of suckers called Josh Blue’s Dream. Their most recent partnership with cyclist Floyd Landis brought them from the sweet to savory realm with a line of THC and CBD-infused sauces and spreads.
Why the 3:1 THC to CBD ratio?
“We came up with that ratio just out of trying not to put too much CBD in because no one knew what CBD was when we started doing this. So we came up with this formula, three-to-one, and over the years we have literally maybe a hundred testimonials of people calling up either crying or with an incredible story that his three-to-one ratio made all the difference in their lives, so we stuck with it and we still have it today.”
Which extraction process does Mountain High Suckers use?
“You get a lot more volume of extract [with butane], and it comes out cleaner. It’s more for smoking…where our stuff is not smokeable, it’s more like a Rick Simpson oil. [With ethanol] we leave some chlorophyll in there. We leave a little bit of wax in there. We try to leave as many cannabinoids as possible instead of stripping it down to where you have nothing left, and then you try to add in all the terpenes back in to come up with your beautiful smell to the product. But for medicinal purposes and all-around health benefits, everything about alcohol extraction is just a better product to have for edibles.”
How have John and Chad maintained a successful company and partnership together?
“I think a lot of it has to do with our background in rock climbing together. We were continuously watching out for each other’s lives. So, you know, when it moved into the business setting, which we had a painting company together, it was similar. We always watched out for each other. We could speak for each other.
We’ve known each other for 24 years, and I think communication is everything. We preach communication to all of our business partners. You don’t communicate, and I’m not going to do business with you. You know, it’s key to every single thing there is.
The other thing is we strive for the same things in our lives. We both are committed to recreation, so we don’t let our edibles company rule our lives. We still get out a lot. We cycle, hike, you know everything that we want to do, and we still manage to put a lot of hours into this business.”
I think the other thing that helps our company is that we’re not invested in by anybody else. It’s our own money, so we don’t have a board. It’s Chad and I at the table. If you want to do business, you talk to Chad and I.”
Where can you buy Mountain High Suckers, and what are your plans for future expansion?
“Right now, we’re in Colorado. We’ve been in Puerto Rico for about a year and a half. We’re signing a deal with Oklahoma, and then we have California on the back burner and New Mexico and Oregon.
“We are talking with some Canadians now and have been for quite a while. No deals go through quickly, and if they do, they probably aren’t a good thing.
Chad’s wife is from Thailand, so they were in Thailand last year, and they went to a cannabis convention. So we’re working on some international stuff.
We have a new CBD company that we just started called Mountain High Select. They’re available around the nation. That’s a CBD, CBG infused sucker.
Chad and I have been doing this for eleven years, so I’m not going to lie, I’m getting a little tired. We’re looking for an exit plan down the road. I think everybody is who has been in it this long. We’re still excited every day to come to work. We love our jobs, and we have great employees. We love what we do.”
What advice would you give someone just starting in the industry?
“Make sure that whatever you’re doing is a very wanted product, whether it’s a media product or it’s a live product, kind of cannabis grow, whatever you do, but don’t jump in without knowing. Get lawyers. One-hundred percent you’ve got to have lawyers.
The other thing is if people approach you and they want to invest, you have to vet them. You have to hang out. You have to go to lunch with them. You have to realize that if you do a deal, then you’re going to be working with them for three to five years. That’s a long time, so you want to be able to have them come over to your house for dinner. You have to really like the people that you work with. Even if there are problems. If you communicate, you can get through everything.”
Thanks to Genifer Murray and CannabisTech.com for a great conversation. See the full video here:
Last Thursday, a bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives that would enable marijuana businesses to apply for coronavirus relief programs.
The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and has been co-sponsored by fourteen members of the House, including Colorado representatives Ed Perlmutter (D), Jason Crow (D), Joe Neguse (D), and Diana DeGette (D).
Although cannabis businesses have been deemed essential in legal states, the federal government’s prohibition on marijuana means that marijuana businesses are not eligible for federal aid.
The bill would enable cannabis companies to have the same access to federal money through the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster loans.
However, there’s not much chance of the bill passing in the Senate without being part of a larger Coronavirus relief package. The good news is that there does appear to be bipartisan support for including marijuana businesses in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.
On April 17, a bipartisan group of 34 members of Congress sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) urging them to allow cannabis businesses to access federal disaster relief.
“Workers at state-legal cannabis businesses are no different from workers at any other small business — they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families,” lawmakers said in the letter. “This lack of access will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary layoffs, reduced hours, pay cuts, and furloughs for the workers of cannabis businesses who need support the most.
“The state-legal cannabis industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy and workforce, employing over 240,000 workers across 33 states and four territories, and generating $1.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2019,” lawmakers wrote. “State-legal cannabis businesses need access to CARES Act programs to ensure they have the financial capacity to undertake the public health and worker-focused measures experts are urging businesses to take.”
Last week the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, which could finally make access to banking and financial institutions a reality for the cannabis industry.
The SAFE Banking Act would protect banks that work with the cannabis industry from being penalized or from violating federal anti-money laundering and illicit finance laws. For years the cannabis industry has struggled to gain access to even the most basic banking services.
“We applaud the House for approving this bipartisan solution to the cannabis banking problem, and we hope the Senate will move quickly to do the same,” said Neal Levine, chief executive officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which lobbied in support of the bill.
This is the first time that the House of Representatives has passed standalone marijuana legislation. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) sponsored the SAFE Banking Act, and it passed with a vote of 321-103. All but one Democrat and 91 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, giving it broad bipartisan support.
The bill still needs to pass in the Senate, and it’s unknown if or when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will call it to a vote. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that he wants to vote on cannabis banking legislation by the end of the year.
Despite being a multibillion-dollar industry, marijuana businesses have largely been given the cold shoulder by banks and credit unions, leaving them holding literal bags of cash.
“If someone wants to oppose the legalization of marijuana, that’s their prerogative, but American voters have spoken and continue to speak, and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Prohibition is over,” Perlmutter said while speaking in support of the legislation. “Our bill is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safe, and only Congress can take these steps to provide this certainty for businesses, employees and financial institutions across the country.”
While some cannabis advocates and legislators see the bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act as a step closer to federally legalizing cannabis, others would prefer comprehensive cannabis legislation that includes social and criminal justice reform.
Data compiled by MarijuanaBusiness Daily shows just how much participation in medical marijuana programs has declined in states that also have recreational cannabis markets. Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada have seen their medical marijuana markets undergo dramatic changes over the past few years, and the future of MMJ is anything but certain.
Of the three states, Colorado has fared the best. Since adult-use sales began in January 2014, patient counts have fallen 22 percent. And from 2014 to 2016, annual sales for medical cannabis actually increased each year before falling for the first time in 2017. So far in 2018, the downward trend has continued. Revenue fell 21 percent year-over-year to $165.8 million.
“Since April of 2017, we have observed negative year-over-year comps for medical marijuana sales. These results underscore our view that the overall Colorado marijuana market is at or near maturity and further substantiates our industry thesis that a rec market is disruptive to medical sales,” Green Wave Advisors founder and managing partner Matt Karnes told Benzinga.
In Nevada, MMJ patient counts are declining an average of 5 percent per month. Since recreational cannabis launched in October 2017, patient counts in the state have decreased 32 percent. In June, patient enrollment fell below 17,000 for the first time since March 2016.
Oregon has seen the steepest decline in their medical marijuana program. Since adult-use sales began in October 2015, patient counts have declined 42 percent. The number of registered medical marijuana patients was at an all-time high in October 2015, with 78,045 patients. In 2018, only 45,000 patients are registered under the medical marijuana program.
In addition to falling patient numbers, there are changing demographics in the patient base. In Colorado, the average age of a medical marijuana patient has increased from 41 in January 2014 to 44 as of June 2018. 22 percent of patients in Nevada are older than 65, up from 19 percent of patients in October 2017. The average age of patients in Oregon is up 6 percent from October 2015, with 19.4 percent of patients 65 or older.
MjBizCon, the annual conference aimed at marijuana professionals and investors, wrapped up its sixth year earlier this month and established itself as the fastest-growing trade show in the country.
678 companies exhibited at the event, a 111% increase from last year. Exhibiting companies spanned all sectors of the industry, from banking, security, packaging and marketing firms to consultants, cultivation equipment manufacturers and infused product companies.
18,000 cannabis professionals attended the convention, a new record and up 67% from last year’s event.
Nearly 11% of all conference attendees – 1,932 in total – hailed from outside the U.S. Canada had the largest International presence at the show, accounting for over 75% of the non-domestic audience.
The convention’s four keynote speakers included former Apple and Tesla executive George Blankenship, Jeanne Sullivan, a dot-com era investor in tech companies, Marijuana Business Daily vice president of editorial Chris Walsh, and Chief White House Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report Kenneth T. Walsh.
Chris Walsh, who was also one of the event organizers, said that interest in the conventions was so great that they had to cut some of the exhibitors because there wasn’t enough room.
“You have people who are ambivalent, who are here for the same reasons and then you have business people from the mainstream business world who were successful in other industries looking for their next project.”
“Cannabis is here to stay,” Sullivan told attendees. She urged companies in the marijuana industry to focus on positioning themselves favorably for potential acquisition by larger corporations, such as pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.
“These companies are not going to miss out,” Sullivan said, referring to the industry entrances of Scotts Miracle-Gro, liquor distributor Constellation Brands, and Netflix.
Blankenship was equally optimistic about the future of the cannabis industry. “Sooner or later, you’re going to be able to say, ‘Alexa, send me an eighth of flower.'”
Excited for recreational marijuana in Nevada on July 1? Hold that thought.
On Tuesday, a Carson City judge, James Wilson, issued an injunction that reverses the Tax Department’s decision to allow more than just alcohol wholesalers to transport recreational marijuana from growers to dispensaries. The move could delay a planned July start date for recreational cannabis sales.
When voters approved Question 2 to legalize recreational marijuana in November, the initiative included a requirement that distribution licenses would be issued only to alcohol wholesalers for the first 18 months of sales.
Representatives from the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada (IADON) and the state Department of Taxation gave testimony on Monday in an 8-hour hearing. In his 11-page ruling, Wilson said that a “brief filed on behalf of the liquor distributors corroborated evidence that the businesses would be shut out of the marijuana distribution business entirely if the tax department issues licenses to non-alcohol distributors…Once licenses are issued to others, it will be difficult if not impossible to revoke those licenses.
However, the Department of Taxation said in March that there was limited interest among alcohol wholesalers and that the requirement would result in an in insufficient number of distributors.
According to the spokesperson for the tax department, Stephanie Klapstein, at the end of the application deadline in May, only five of 93 applications for recreational cannabis distribution licenses were issued to alcohol wholesalers. And of those five, none have actually completed the application. The other 85 applications were from existing medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Nevada Department of Taxation is reviewing the court’s decision with the attorney general’s office and “will explore all legal avenues to proceed with the program as provided in the regulations,” Klapstein said in a statement.
The approval of Question 2 tasked the state with creating a regulated marijuana sales structure by the start of 2018. But after visiting and studying other states that legalized marijuana, Nevada officials determined that waiting a full year after the drug became legal would risk growing the black market. Instead, they planned for an “early start” to get the program up and running by July.
Colorado governor John Hickenlooper signed a budget bill on Friday that earmarks how marijuana tax revenue will be spent. Marijuana is still big business in Colorado, and tax revenue from the 2016-2017 fiscal year brought more than $105 million to the state’s “Marijuana Cash Fund.”
The bill allocates funds to programs that support health programs in public schools, housing for at-risk populations, and treatment programs aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.
Housing for at-risk populations:
$15.3 million of the tax revenue will be used to pay for “permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing assistance for individuals with behavioral health needs, and for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. By providing stable housing, which includes rental assistance and supportive services, we expect to reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Addressing Mental Health in Colorado’s Criminal Justice System:
The Department of Human Services will receive $7.1 million aimed at “ending the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, and to implement criminal justice diversion programs at the local level. These initiatives will help direct individuals with immediate mental health and substance needs to more appropriate services outside the criminal justice system.”
School Health Professionals Grant Program:
Colorado’s Department of Education will receive $9.7 million. The money will go towards hiring 150 health care workers who will visit high schools statewide to provide “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs.”
Unregulated “Gray Market” Medical Marijuana Activity:
$5.9 million will be doled out to combat the gray market–marijuana diverted from the regulated medical and recreational markets and sold in the unregulated market. Funds will go towards reimbursing local governments for law enforcement and prosecutions costs. In addition, the governor signed legislation that places a new 12-plant cap on the number of plants that can be possessed or grown on a residential property.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Program for Opioid Addiction:
Finally, Hickenlooper signed a bill that allocates $500,000 per year for the next two years towards creating a pilot program to expand access to medication-assisted treatment in Pueblo and Routt, two Colorado counties hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
While many players in the cannabis industry are a bit hesitant about its future given its still illegal status with the federal government, many cannabis entrepreneurs still see a lot of hope for the future of the industry.
Traditionally, access to banking and venture capital has been difficult for new cannabis businesses. Lately, due to the rapid legalization of cannabis on the state level (8 states are fully legal, 20+ have medical marijuana laws), more opportunity exists for banking and potential investing.
As the cannabis industry in legal states continues to boom in legal states, New Frontier Data, an organization specializing in industry statistics, predicts legal marijuana sales will jump to more than $24 billion by 2025. As a result, some venture capital companies are diving on the opportunity while its here.
While there’s plenty of cashflow coming from the cannabis industry, entrepreneurs have found it to be a difficult road to navigate since investors with deep pockets are few and far between. Limited access to banking and the overall acceptance of cannabis nationwide still holds many back from investing in a cannabis business.
Whatever the future holds, the majority of Americans currently support legal cannabis, and the industry continues to expand state-to-state every year.
Denver is one step closer to setting guidelines for public marijuana use in clubs and businesses located in Denver. The initiative, passed by voters in November, allows adults 21 and older to consume cannabis at marijuana clubs and places like yoga studios, art galleries, and coffee shops.
Regulators met with business owners, cannabis activists and detractors, and law enforcement authorities on Wednesday to hammer out details about what’s ahead for social cannabis use. Aside from the 21-and-up age restriction and a ban on smoking indoors, the initiative didn’t set rules for how these businesses operate.
So, what can you expect social cannabis use in Denver to look like? Here’s what we know so far:
Licenses for social cannabis use will cost $2,000 per year. Applications are available on January 20, but it’s worth noting that the city has no deadline for issuing the licenses. Supporters hope to see the first application approvals by this summer.
Forget about bringing your marijuana to restaurants or any business that serves booze–the state Liquor Control Board has already decided that businesses with a liquor license will not be allowed to apply for a social cannabis use license.
Social use clubs or venues will be strictly bring-your-own weed. Marijuana businesses, including dispensaries, will not be allowed to apply to the program.
Denver hasn’t set any zoning rules yet, but businesses interested in applying for a permit from the City of Denver must also have approval from their local neighborhood association or business group.
Tourists may have to depend on locals to direct them to pot bars, as advertising will likely be limited.
The initiative is a pilot program meant to last four years, until the end of 2020. At that point, City Council has the option of making changes, making it permanent, or allowing it to expire.
2016 was a bummer for a lot of people, but 2016 marked a turning point in cannabis prohibition.
Here are a few of the biggest cannabis news stories of the year:
As a result of November’s election, medical cannabis is legal in more than half of U.S. states. Medical marijuana measures were approved in Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota. In Montana, existing medical cannabis rules were expanded by removing the three-patient limit for providers.
Five states had ballot initiatives for recreational marijuana–California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Arizona–with four states approving the initiatives and Arizona as the only holdout.
More than 20% of the U.S. population will now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states.
Americans Love Weed
A host of polls and studies released in 2016 show the positive impact of cannabis legalization as well as just how much Americans’ views of marijuana have changed in the last few years.
The DEA’s report stated that there is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and that there’s “high potential” for marijuana abuse that can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence.”
However, there’s a growing amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence that marijuana has the potential treat symptoms of a variety of medical conditions, including epilepsy and seizures, and to serve as an “adjunct to or substitute for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain.” Cannabis is also being used to treat heroin and opioid addiction.
Despite evidence to the contrary, in December, the DEA classified CBD, the cannabinoid that’s shown the most medicinal value and is non-psychoactive, as a Schedule I drug, right up there with heroin.
Cannabis Sales Boomtown
In the first ten months of 2016, medical and recreational cannabis sales in Colorado amounted to $1 billion. Yes, that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘B.’ The state was jut shy of that amount in 2015.
Medical and recreational cannabis can be a boon to a state’s economy, creating millions of dollars in tax revenues.