As large production operations and out-of-state cannabis producers eyeball the soon-to-burgeon adult-use marijuana market in New Mexico, many advocates have voiced concerns that there won’t be enough room for smaller businesses to enter the marketplace.
Medical cannabis producer Organtica’s co-founder David White is addressing the issue by educating and mentoring small medical cannabis businesses through NM Micro Biz, an industry group he helped found to level the playing field. We sat with White to talk about the group.
The [Rolling] Paper: Tell us about NM Micro Biz.
White: We’re a volunteer group comprised of professionals who have been in the medical cannabis industry. We have manufacturers represented; we have producers represented; we have two law offices that aid in service. We’re collecting services and people with expertise and knowledge. We’re trying to encourage people who have a good idea of how to start a business but have no idea what it takes to produce cannabis. We can answer their questions and point them in the right direction. And we don’t charge for services.
We do it because we believe very strongly in diversity. And we really want to see micro businesses flourish, because it’s really going to be an excellent alternative to big multi-state cannabis operators that are coming in. We look forward to enhanced access—where everybody can get access to cannabis, whether it’s medical or recreational—but we really want to ensure that patients don’t suffer during that transition. That’s one of the ways that we think that we can have an influence. Organtica can only grow so much cannabis. We only have so much room, so much electricity. But one of the ways that we can apply our passion, our knowledge and our expertise is to help others—especially micro businesses—to flourish and give them a good idea of where they’re going.
That sounds great. There aren’t a lot of resources available for those starting out.
When Organtica started there were no resources that you could just call up. I mean the best that we probably had was the internet—online groups. Nobody really shared information. There was very little that was published. There were only a few good books that would give you some good general knowledge about producing cannabis on a big aggro scale—larger than two or three personal plants. It was tough. There were parts of the licensing requirements that were written very vaguely, and they were very difficult to answer unless you had some kind of insight into what it was that they were really trying to get after—what it was that they wanted to hear. If somebody approaches us, and they have business acumen—they get how business works—what we do is we guide them to put out a request for public information to get copies of the top four high-scoring proposals that were approved in the most recent round of licensing. The medical market is very different than recreational, but you can still get good insight into the depth of information you need to provide, maintain and present to the state to get approved.
So that has worked out really well. I know that the state has been fulfilling lots of those requests, and it’s a good process to go through, because then you really get a good sense of what it takes to write a good proposal and get approved.
Why is it important that these microbusinesses get ahead of the big out-of-town producers?
Diversity. The big players that have come into the market, they’re really going to focus on profit. That means that the metro area here is going to get more saturated—which is totally fine. Again, I’m not against more access. But we go to this effort and this expense so that the patients don’t suffer. Transitions in other states—when they went from medical to recreational—there was a good year, sometimes two years of upheavals where stocks became so depleted—because of the uptick in consumption—that the patients suffered from lack of medicine.
In a business world, you’re going to go with whatever produces the most profit. The way that it’s oriented now, recreational is definitely going to be more profitable for these businesses to pursue. That just equals a perfect storm of awfulness for the patient. It means less selection, less inventory. It’s a hardship that we can see coming, and that we want to avoid at all costs. At Organtica we are patients. Our board is comprised of patients and most of our employees are patients. That’s our focus. Cannabis means the world to us, because of what it has afforded us in life. For myself personally, cannabis saved my life. That’s the same for many of our board members and many of our employees. We’re very focused on making sure that patients have an adequate supply of medicine.
We’re very unique here in New Mexico. Our population is unique. Our climate is unique. There aren’t many states that do things the way that New Mexico does, I think that’s one of our greatest assets. I cannot wait to see this wave of microbusinesses. We have some very creative people here. I’ve talked to some people that have some really cool concepts that go way beyond “I just want to grow some weed and sell it to the dispensary.”
I don’t necessarily want to see a state that’s dominated by three players. I’m not against Big Weed, but I want to make sure that Big Weed does not choke out the little guys. Users like variety. We don’t consistently go to the same strain. We like the variety. We like being able to find strains that are unique. If the marketplace is dominated by singular players, then the availability of different choices or new and creative ideas coming through is really going to be limited. I don’t think that suits the industry well, and I don’t think it suits New Mexico well. It certainly doesn’t suit the patients.
This is a great opportunity—the opportunity for New Mexicans to be part of the cannabis industry.