The Southwest has quickly become a cannabis hot bed within the last year. From Phoenix to Las Vegas, dispensaries and cultivators alike are serving a thriving medical cannabis program with an eye on the looming recreational-use vote in November.
One of the largest operators in the Southwest, REEF Dispensaries, is truly elevating the in-store experience and backing it up with world class genetics.
Recently, I caught up with Matt Morgan, the CEO at REEF Dispensaries to discuss the company’s fast start and plans for the future.
What’s your background, why cannabis?
I’m a farm kid from Montana. I became a partner at a real estate firm in my early 20’s. In 2008, my attention turned to cannabis after my best friend died of an opiate overdose. I felt strongly that an effective medicine like cannabis should be accessible to those who need it. Beyond that, I also recognized the potential business opportunity.
Where did the name REEF come from?
When I was younger I loved the ocean and coral reefs. So I thought why not have a freshly designed coral reef theme for our shops.
What are Reef Dispensaries best known for?
Reef is known for our exceptional purchase experience and customer service. Additionally, we carry a variety of products that cater to all demographics; from the connoisseur to the price-conscious patient.
What’s your relationship with Berner/Cookies Co and Wiz?
Currently, there is no relationship with Wiz (still in negotiations). We do have a relationship with Berner to release his cookies line, as well as previously unreleased genetics.
What are your thoughts on Nevada’s legalization initiative?
I’m confident that recreational will pass in Nevada in November 2016 and am backing the movement 100%, and feel the voters will speak for themselves. The West Coast is spearheading this movement and we get to be a part of history.
The premier boutique cannabis symposium, Cannabis Grand Cru, returned to Seattle in March for the first of multiple 2016 events. The Cru took over three venues around the city including the Fremont Foundry for Saturday’s main event.
The event opened with a Friday-night screening of “Evergreen: The Road to Legalization” at Central Cinemas, sponsored by local extraction company, Evergreen Extracts. The documentary chronicled the industry-driven controversy surrounding Washington’s 2012 legalization initiative, I-502. After the movie, the select group of attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions of the film’s director, writer, and producers.
More than 400 cannabis enthusiasts and curious onlookers joined nearly 50 speakers for a day jam-packed with education, networking, and fun. Having spoken at every Cannabis Grand Cru including the Inaugural Aspen event in November 2014, I am impressed with the constant improvements being made to the series — especially given the high caliber of the first one.
In an industry that is flush with expos and conferences, it’s often hard for us to decide which to attend. The Cannabis Grand Cru’s high speaker-to-attendee ratio, once again, provided an intimate atmosphere for networking and interaction.
Session topics varied from products and branding to legislation and advocacy, to our staple Cannabis Technology panel.
AC Braddock agreed that the event provided “much higher quality networking as the event is smaller and more intimate.” Braddock, who is the CEO of extraction-tech company Eden Labs, spoke at her second Grand Cru on “The Future of Extraction Technology” panel.
While networking is an integral part of any industry get-together, CGC also focuses on education. Ettalew’s Edibles CEO, Alison Draisin, said her favorite part of the event was “educating new people about the power of the plant.” Draisin was also speaking at her second Grand Cru, and was part of the “Cannabis Infused Journey Through Culinary Pairings”, a live cooking demo where they discussed terpene-pairings of cannabis and food, as well as antidotes for when you’re too high.
The final sessions of the day featured the “Four Horsemen of Washington’s 502 Legislation” on a panel about the state’s legal landscape on the main stage. Alex Cooley of Solstice Grown was joined by Aaron Pelley, Josh Berman, and Brian Caldwell to discuss current concerns surrounding the transition from medical to recreational cannabis and the future outlook on legislation in Washington.
Up in the penthouse, I was joined by my close friends and colleagues in our CGC-regular discussion about “Cannabis Technology, Data, and Analytics.” Cy Scott, Marie Veksler, Stewart Fortier, John Kagia, and myself convened to emphasize the importance that technology and data play in the legitimization and progression of the cannabis industry.
Once the day’s programming ended at 7:10pm (aka dab o’clock), the speakers and select attendees headed to the closing afterparty at Georgetown’s Brass Tacks which was sponsored by Calyx King, Whaxy and Pelley Law Group. The party allowed me to catch up with Grand Cru regulars like Addison DeMoura, John Hunt, and Sheriff Joe Disalvo of Pitkin County, as well as some new faces. We enjoyed the night over delicious food, beverages, and smoke.
The next day we all packed up and returned to our respective home cities. I know I am not alone when I say that I cannot wait until the next Cannabis Grand Cru.
Alison Draisin agreed, “This is a great group and I excited to work with them in the future!”
The last three months of the year are hectic in the cannabis industry with business conferences, cannabis competitions, and award ceremonies. November 2015’s calendar included a business conference and trade show in Las Vegas, a High Times Cannabis Cup in Jamaica and the launch of three celebrity cannabis brands — all in the same week.
Willie Nelson launched his brand, Willie’s Reserve, the same night that Julian Marley launched JuJu Royal vape pens. They hosted launch parties at different suites and clubs high up in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Vegas. Earlier in the week, however, Snoop Dogg launched his line of flower and edibles, called Leafs by Snoop. The launch party was a less-than-publicized private party hosted by Snoop and his Colorado licensed business partner, Livwell. Leafs By Snoop flower products initially received mixed reviews (click here to read a review of Leafs By Snoop Cali Kush).
The Dogg Treatsedibles, on the other hand, I heard were quite good. So, I decided to sample the Cherry Fruit Chews one Saturday afternoon while I went to Bernie Sanders’ rally at the Denver Convention Center.
Each package of Cherry Fruit Chews Dogg Treats contains 10 chews, and each one contains 10 mg of active THC. I took one 10 mg chew while waiting in line, just as the doors were opened. When we got upstairs to wait in line for the metal detectors, I found the media check-in table. After I told them I freelance for a cannabis industry news site, they gave me my press pass and informed me that I could not bring any product into the event. So, I found a trash can and ate the second 10 mg chew that I brought with me, disposed of the box and went into the event.
The packaging was cardboard with a very clean, sleek design. Pinching on the sides allowed me to slide out a plastic tray that contained the cannabis infused candy. It was definitely childproof and took me a good minute to figure out how to open it. Each piece was a creamy red and pink striped chew about the size of a Tootsie Roll.
Taste & Texture
The flavor was very clearly cherry. It played to my bias as artificial cherry is my favorite flavor of candy. It had a very slight cannabis flavor which was almost completely covered by the artificial cherry. It was chewy. Initially, it was tough — almost like a Laffy Taffy. As I continued to eat it, it softened up to the texture of a Starburst, but with more “bounce”, though not as much as a Hi-Chew.
Within 15-20 minutes, I felt a solid body high accompanied by a slight floating feeling in my head. Another 30 minutes in, my eyes felt extremely relaxed, but not droopy the way some edibles affect me. The high lasted a good five to six hours. I finally felt it start to wear off after the rally ended and I made the 30 minute walk back to the Highlands.
Overall, the Leafs by Snoop Cherry Fruit Chews provided an enjoyable high. The effects of two 10 mg chews was consistent with my experience eating 20 mg of other brands of edibles. It may have been a result of the THC, but I could really feel the energy of the crowd resonating with each emphatic point that Sen. Sanders made. It made me realize that I have not been this excited about an election season in many years.
After a lengthy and delayed licensing process, medical marijuana sales begin in Illinois today. As many as eight medical marijuana dispensaries are set to open today in the Prairie State.
According to state officials, patient identification cards were mailed to the nearly 3,300 approved applicants on October 30. Illinois medical patients will be permitted to purchase up to two and a half ounces every two weeks.
The pilot program for medical marijuana will see a total of 18 cultivation facilities and 60 dispensaries, many of which will be open by the end of the year. The initial sales come more than two years after former Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill in August 2013. State regulators gave cultivators the green light to begin shipping cannabis products to retail dispensaries late last week.
Illinois’ new Governor, Bruce Rauner, has been less receptive to the program, leading to delays in its implementation. This approach, along with the stringent nature of the law, has drawn the criticism of industry stakeholders an advocates.
The rules not only require a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis, but also a criminal background check. Patient advocates argue that access should be based on medical necessity as opposed to criminal history.
Among the dispensaries scheduled to open today is EarthMed in Addison. “After an arduous and intense application process, we are thrilled to see our clients finally open today. Despite the delays, patients will finally get access to the life-saving medicine they need,” said Nick Brait of the Greene Consulting Group who acted as consultants guiding EarthMed through the process.
Despite the delays and strict patient application process, Illinois is likely to have a robust system that serves the needs of many patients in the state.
Here is your weekly weed news roundup. Happy Halloween!
1. NJ Woman Accidentally gets Mailed 50 Pounds of Marijuana
A woman in Hazlet, NJ received 50 pounds of marijuana in the mail. She contacted local authorities who confiscated the product and posted photos to their Facebook page inviting the true recipient to come claim their pot. According to law enforcement, the marijuana has an estimated street value of $100,000.
2. Bernie Sanders Calls for Descheduling of Cannabis
Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for the descheduling of cannabis at a federal level this week. Removing the plant from the federal drug schedule would allow states to legalize or decriminalize without interference from the federal government. His announcement makes Sen. Sanders the first major party candidate to endorse full-fledged descheduling.
3. Gridiron Cannabis Coalition Wants NFL to Allow Cannabis Use
The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group formed to push the NFL to allow the use of medical marijuana, presented at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo. The four players, including former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson, discussed the necessity of cannabis as form of treatment for NFL players. Repeated head trauma and the rampant use of opioid pain medication have made cannabis a serious issue within the NFL.
4. Some Nonprofits are Opening up to Donations from the Cannabis Industry
A number of Colorado cannabis businesses regularly give back to the community and donate to non-profit organizations. The Clinic, Walking Raven and Denver Relief are known around the state for their contributions to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Colorado AIDS Project and EKAR Urban Farm. These organizations are changing the stigma of cannabis consumers as lazy, apathetic members of society, as well as demonstrating a shift in the mindsets of nonprofit administrators who are now willing to accept donations from the cannabis industry.
5. Canada Moves Towards Legalization with New Prime Minister
Canada recently elected a new Prime Minister in Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party. Trudeau is a vocal opponent to the war on drugs. Shortly after being elected, he stated that the Canadian government would work to legalize marijuana and regulate its production, distribution, sale and possession. His stance is a vast improvement from Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper.