test private? Cure8 Vice President Munir Haque definitively answers these questions about the MMJ medical license process that have been subject to a lot of conflicting rumors and hearsay. He also recaps CannaCon Biloxi 2023, gives an update on the medical marijuana market in Mississippi, and talks about the most important thing you can do to open a dispensary in the state.
Medical Marijuana IDs and Gun Licenses in Mississippi
Eric – Good afternoon. Good morning. Good evening. All of the above. I am Eric Schlissel CEO of Cure8, joining me with the great hat is Munir, vice president of Cure8. Welcome back from Mississippi. Today’s conversation is going to be about what you learned, what you saw, who you saw, how it went, and so on. So what did you learn?
Munir – Yeah, thanks. Thanks for welcoming me back. You know, it’s always great to enter a market that we’ve already broken ground on because there’s a lot of learnings that we can take from and also a lot of people that are about to get into the space. So a lot of listening and teaching. So there’s a lot to unpack here. And, you know, after this video session, you know, we’ll have links for folks to be able to reach out to us and dive into detail. But I do want to touch on two points.
So when you enter a new market, rumors, you know, flow and rumors take on a life of their own. So there are quite a few sessions and quite a few folks and partners talking about some really important things. One of them is the misconception.
We’ve all heard about the gun license and the medical card license. And what does that mean and what can and can’t you do? In short, you can have both. And there is a protection law that says that your gun license won’t be taken away from you. So, in short, as I said, you can have your gun license and you can have your medical marijuana card or just your medical marijuana card. So that was a good rumor to uncover and get into the details.
Another learning that we had is that you know, everyone’s worried about the number of medical cards that are out there versus the number of licenses and facilities, you know, that is about to open. And will the state of Mississippi have customers? So as of the end of December 2022, we’re looking at about 1700 cardholders. And, you know, we are at the beginning of March now and it’s increased to 2670 to be exact.
You know, a few more probably be out today. It is a slow increase. It is increasing, you know, but with that, there are some deterrents that folks have because you do have to take a drug test to apply for your medical card. And we’re all worried about our data where government entities ignore intellectual property. The state does say that it won’t be recorded and it won’t show up on, you know, a job application or other applications that you might be applying for. So that’s the guarantee that the state is, you know, providing.
Eric – Yeah, there’s a trust issue there, firstly with regards to getting information to potential patients and secondly, requiring a drug test. I’ve actually never heard that before. Have you seen that in any other market?
Munir – No. It’s always interesting when you see regulations and rules, laws that come out of nowhere. You’re like, Whoa, whoa, whoa.
Mississippi Medical ID Application Backlog
Eric – Yeah. It kind of makes you think about what the vested interest there is. It might just be for safety. You know, that. That is legitimate, but it could also be. Well, who really knows?
I don’t want to speculate. However, it does seem kind of odd. The backlog I’ve heard of Mississippi patients waiting for their cards is significant also. Have you heard anything about how they’re going to increase the speed of processing?
Munir – Not as of yet. I mean, everyone is aware of the backlog. Yeah, I think it comes down to administration and having the ability to have more physical processors or some sort of system in place. That was one topic that was not addressed. Other than identifying, there are folks that are eager to have already begun the process.
MSOs in the Mississippi Market
Eric – Right. Let’s switch just a little bit of what I’ve heard. MSOs are now allowed to enter the market without a local partner at all, without local residency, without any of the rules that typically keep the market local, keep the market, you know, within the state. Have people been talking about the risk associated with that to their small businesses?
Munir – So the only real conversation on that side was really the people that are involved with MSOs talking about the opportunity. You know, the folks right now that are applying, you know, for their 1 to 5 licenses, keeping it local, they’re really trying to bring cannabis to their community and very focused on that. I don’t think the fact that MSOs can come in and what that could do to the market as it’s done in other markets has really crossed the minds of, you know, the folks in Mississippi right now.
Eric – Yeah, I really wonder when they start coming in if they’re going to be limited to five licenses or if they’re going to put shell companies together and get passed, then it could be messy. It could be really messy. Do you have any tips for people that are running businesses now, even though it’s not on their radar, on how to protect themselves from that type of competition?
Munir – There’s something that I saw and witnessed firsthand going to several shops while I was out there. Clients of ours and non-clients of ours. Folks have really taken to their community and promoted themselves as being in the community. And the community has been really receptive to them. You know, and one thing that I loved seeing is we were out one evening for food and laughs and I saw different dispensaries all sitting at the same table, which isn’t something you really see after doors open.
Medical Marijuana & Community Engagement
Eric – Right That’s great. And the sense of community, actually, we’ve seen that help so many businesses in so many markets that are really nice to hear and education.
Munir – Sorry. Sorry, to interrupt there But the folks are really taking the time to have education available because this is, it’s a big military state as well. A lot of armed forces. And another thing that I learned was a lot of patients, they’re going to be trying cannabis in their life regimen for the first time. And so the stores that are going to be able to continue to speak to the benefits and the education of it, you know, and, you know, providing all that information, which they’re doing now, I think are going to stand out. When you look at big box retail a lot of the time, not to poke at all of that, but scaling sometimes you lose touch.
Eric – Yeah. So, yeah, I was having a conversation with one of our partners yesterday about how to scale the boutique. Very hard. It’s very hard and there’s a lot of, you know, a lot of messiness that happens when you try to abstract out the client experience.
Yeah, it can get really, you know, it can become suboptimal in a retail location. So from what I understand, the state can shut down any facility that they don’t like, that looks at them funny. Am I the victim of a rumor?
Munir – So I heard that rumor. As a matter of fact, this will probably be part of the curated rumor part 2 of the webinar. But yeah, I am going to break that open. That was one that wasn’t addressed and there was so much excitement in the two days we were there. I wasn’t able to uncover that.
Vetting Your Marijuana Business Vendors
Eric – Understood. Understood. Any other words of advice for folks that are along the path to opening right now?
Munir – Yeah. So a big one that your vendors. There are a lot of folks that are entering the cannabis space from a vendor standpoint and they have not done this before. There are a lot of folks that are there that have done this before and have done it in multiple markets. At the end of the day, you should work with the people that will have your best interest at heart, so that your vendors take the time to do so.
Ask all the questions. Let them teach you or speak about what they’ve seen and learned from building and working in other markets. That’s going to be your top tier for success.
Eric – That’s really good advice, to add to that, you should ask hard questions. It’s very easy for people to say that they’ll be with you, but then to prove it, that’s hard, right? And to understand what they’ve done in other states. It doesn’t matter how many states they’re in. What matters is how deeper connectivity is with those states and the people that have been with them. So you want to talk to existing clients of these vendors. If you’re new in an industry, you really have to know the playing field.
In my experience, it’s hard to do that when all you’re hearing from are salespeople, as opposed to people that have worked with the business.
Munir – Yeah, salespeople and I’m quoting “A partner will sell you the best features of what they do and overshadow what they don’t want to talk about”.
Eric – You know, as an organization, we believe in the power of the dinner table and the bar. You get to know your people, take them out for a drink, take them out for dinner, and just talk to them and listen really listen to what they’re actually saying. And then look at what they actually do they two don’t always align.
Yeah Munir, as always, thank you for your time and your insight into the market. It’s always a pleasure.
Munir – Yeah. Thank you, same here.
Eric – All right. Take care, everybody.