JB: That is a wonderful way to start the day; You're one lucky guy. I've read about the complications of not being able to have a payroll/check system. Lots of purveyors were put at risk because they had to keep all that cash on hand, with no place to stash it safely. That must have been unnerving. How did that issue finally resolve itself?
AW: Well, eventually we were able to establish partnerships with banks and our banker now has become a personal friend. We've come a long way with banking and I'm thankful for the friends we've been able to make in and outside of the industry. As far as payroll goes, we kept reaching out to different companies to see if they would allow us to use their system(s). Most declined but that also began to change as more and more states began adopting some form of legal cannabis. We now have a payroll system and I think that's because businesses see the legitimacy of the industry and the money that it produces.
JB: There've been lots of growing pains in the odyssey of making pot available for medical and recreational purposes. At what point did you expand beyond medical marijuana and how did that development affect your business?
AW: In 2014 when recreational marijuana was allowed, we immediately saw the opportunity that it afforded our business. We made the transition as soon as we could. I remember people standing outside of our shop the night before, waiting for the doors to open to be able to take part in the end of the ban that had been placed on marijuana for so long. Everyone was so happy and excited to be a part of this movement that was going on and opening the doors to recreational "adult use" consumers made the industry explode in Colorado! Medicine Man is vertically integrated so we grow and sell all of the flower that we produce. We didn't have an issue keeping up with demand but those who are just a dispensary are at the mercy of the cultivators. And that had an impact on businesses back then. As a business, we were excited to generate the revenue that came from adult use consumers but even more than that, it was great to see the cohesion and relief that it brought to so many around us.
JB: At what point did you commit to being vertically integrated? And was that more complicated initially?
AW: In the beginning, we were mainly doing cultivation. My brother Pete is a long time cultivator and somewhat of a mad scientist. We were growing all of this product and trying to sell it to what I believe were Russian mobsters (of course, this is just my belief as I didn't know if they truly were or not). They would tell us that our prices were not very good and that we had terrible weed. So we went back and came up with a new price structure and gave them a new strain to try and at that point they said, "We've got a good thing here. Don't take this to anyone else." My brother told them to "eff off" and that we were going to put them out of business. We then decided that we needed to have dispensaries to push the product out. We knew that if we were just cultivators that we were at the mercy of the dispensaries' ability to buy the product consistently. If we were just dispensaries, then we were at the mercy of the cultivators to sell the marijuana at a good price and to consistently have product. So, we decided that we would be both. Not having product on hand as a dispensary means that you lose the loyal customers that you have worked so hard for and that is something we didn't want to have to worry about. On top of that, we wanted to consistently produce quality marijuana at a great price, with excellent customer service and that's what we strive for every day.
JB: How's it been working so closely with your brother? How do you manage without bringing in old issues or stepping on one another's toes?
AW: It's been good. We complement one another quite well. He told me a long time ago that he would stay engaged at Medicine Man as long as he didn't have to deal with any "business stuff". So I agreed to take on most of the business activities. My sister Sally is our president and does a great job at being the backbone of our dispensary and cultivation operations. We all work collaboratively to keep the business innovative and chugging forward. Mom is also very much involved in the business and works closely with Sally on the numbers and financials.
Andy [middle with arm around his mom], his siblings, mom and other family members involved in this family business
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JB: It really is a family business! Cool. How active is Medicine Man Technologies, the branch that coaches other businesses on how to avoid pitfalls, speed bumps and landmines in order to succeed at this?
AW: Medicine Man Technologies is very active. Most recently, we are working with about six active clients in Pennsylvania and due to the recent legislation in Ohio, we have a lot of interest coming out of that market as well. We are also working with clients in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Maryland. We have won licenses in Illinois and Nevada and also host monthly seminars that sell out every time. Medicine Man Technologies, as I previously mentioned, is also publicly traded on the OTCQB market under symbol MDCL. With our public offering, we are working to find other businesses that fit under the umbrella of our "brand warehouse" to build a solid investment foundation. People come to us because we have already made the mistakes and learned from them. We are leaders in the consulting market and people know the name and the brand that we represent so they come to us for expert guidance on how to best operate and survive.
JB: I freely admit that I've not been following the issue of legalizing marijuana very closely and am so glad that you are filling me in. As we talked, I just consulted a Wikipedia map that shows how the various states are handling it. It seems as if the "best" outcome is for a state to totally decriminalize. That way, anyone who wants marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, will be able to get it. On the other hand, that approach has only been accomplished by four states, with the vast majority finding some middle ground or rejecting the notion altogether. Am I oversimplifying?
AW: You're obviously correct about the amount of states who have allowed for full adult use vs. just medical. However, medical seems to be the first step in that direction for most states. They begin by testing the market and then move to adult use (rec) after they see all of the opportunities that it affords the state. Right now, 25 states have adopted some form of legal cannabis. That's a great start to getting the country moving in the right direction.
Yes, it probably moves slower than most of us would like but we take the progress anywhere we can get it and 25 states is nothing to scoff at when you consider the years and years of negative publicity that were placed on the plant. So many other states are working tirelessly to get a bill through that will allow for a form of cannabis legalization. Florida is an excellent example of this because they shot down the initial vote because it didn't reach a certain amount of votes the first time. Now, the Florida market seems to be heating back up to adopt marijuana legalization and I think they are ready.