What’s happening with medical marijuana in Mississippi? Curated Conversations host and Cure8 CEO Eric Schlissel brought in his colleague Munir Haque, Vice President of Cure8, to get an update. Munir has been working closely with new medical marijuana operators in Mississippi to set up their tech, including POS systems, menu boards, and surveillance systems. He’s seen the process and some of the challenges Mississippi operators have been dealing with up close.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Business License in Mississippi
Eric – Good Morning. Good Evening or Good Afternoon, wherever you are. This is Eric Schlissel, CEO of Cure8. Joining me today is our V.P. Munir Haque. He is the guy in Mississippi as of today.
He’s in Mississippi today at the trade show at the, which one is it Munir? Tell us a little bit about where you are.
Munir – Yeah, guys, I am. I’m in Biloxi supporting CannaCon and everything we do in the IT world.
Eric – Tell us about Mississippi, what’s happening down there?
Munir – A lot of good stuff. So, you know, Mississippi is now med and we have sites that are open to the public and quite a few folks that, you know, have gotten their provisional and their location and they’re starting their build-out, breaking ground, you know, getting ready for opening to the public.
Eric – So when you get your provincial license in Mississippi, what are the requirements for getting to that point?
Munir – Yeah. So, you know, after going through the whole application process and showing that you understand compliance and you can support compliance to your vision, it changes a little bit once you actually, you know, get the facility and start drawing up exactly where your walls are going to go and how your floor is going to go.
So it takes a little bit of a step back and a redo per se, or a shift a little bit to make sure that compliance is 100% to the part. And, you know, from it from a tech and IT and security standpoint, you know, your vision might change or you might phase it out. And what I mean by that is upfront, you know, you envision three POS stations and maybe a couple of screens and a waiting room where your guests might have some the ability to go on your Wi-Fi.
You know, and that could be phase one. And in phase two, you’re thinking about blowing it up a little bit more. So, you know, taking that into consideration and, you know, securing it from an IT and compliance standpoint.
Eric – So are you finding that folks that are getting their provincial license have worked out key details that they need in order to attain their full status?
Munir – Well, I feel that there is a bit of room for adjusting, and so that’s what we’re finding in the conversations
Eric – How’s it working and what’s going on?
Munir – So, you know, Mississippi’s retention policy and their camera regulations are very, very thorough. So with the changes and the changes to the location or the changes to an entrance, it is changing kind of the flow of compliance. So we’re going in there and reworking it.
Eric – So you’re reworking a lot of the plans that people had submitted in the beginning. Are you finding a significant difference between the two or is this just not surprising?
Munir – To be honest, yeah, I am finding a significant difference. There’s a data sometimes of like eight cameras or so, you know, That’s a lot. You know, and when you really get into it and you look at, you know, the folks, the retail aspect, they’re learning more, right? They’re going into facilities and changing their flow or they’re learning that you know, a waiting room should be maybe like 400 square feet and, you know, versus like a bigger version that they were, you know, thinking of prior. So that changes a lot, you know?
Cannabis Real Estate in Mississippi
Eric – So what are you seeing? I’m going to jump ahead a little bit. They get their license, they open up and they’re starting to transact. At what point are clients starting to think about their second, third, fourth, and fifth locations? Because that’s what they’re allowed in Mississippi. How do you, walk us through that?
Munir – Yeah, So clients are actually, you know, they’ve got their doors open, They saw what it took and they’re streamlining it in their minds. So they’re already starting to look for the facilities for their second, third, you know, as we speak.
Eric – Is the biggest concern availability of property is the property owners in terms of property, what barriers are people bumping up against?
Munir – Great question. In this market, it really hasn’t been too much of finding an actual property. It’s the state of the property and how much work do you want to take on? I just got off a call with a client talking about the plumbing that hasn’t been turned on in ten years. I don’t know what it looks like until I turn the plumbing on.
Mississippi Medical Marijuana Market
Eric – That’s pretty rough, especially given the plumbing situation in general in Mississippi and Jackson specifically. It’s pretty rough. So the maturity level of the market, it’s obviously immature. Is there a lot of black market activity? Oh sorry, grey market as a lot of people like to call it.
Munir – Grey market, yeah not that we’ve seen compared to other markets where it’s pretty apparent that there is a grey market and it has made a footprint.
Eric – Right. It seems that enforcement where there is a grey market is real and that’s markedly different from a number of other markets, namely New York, California and so on. Yeah. Do you think that, that, oh go ahead, please.
Munir – No, there’s one thing that I, I really appreciate in all our conversations with our clients so far is that they are taking a very community approach and, you know, catering to the community and the town and really kind of making a name for themselves in that way and a brand and growing out and, you know, coming from a lengthy line of retail and big box and that kind of, you know, lineage like take a moment to appreciate what Mississippi is going for.
Cannabis Tech Considerations
Eric – That’s amazing, we see that as being a very successful model in a lot of the markets that we’re in. So I’m happy to hear that’s happening there. What are people not thinking about as it relates to digital technology when they’re starting?
You hear people from the beginning of the journey through the middle, through the end of the launch, and then ongoing and operating what’s missing there?
Munir – So when you look at digital technology, there are so many avenues of optimizing and automating that you can go fall into, right? And you can, you know, rabbit hole and spider web. I don’t think the market has thought of that yet. And let me give you a couple of examples. So, you know, the solution of cameras that we offer you can integrate POS data. You can take a look, and keep your shrinkage low. You know, keep your team honest.
There’s quite a few things that you can do just by utilizing that tech. And you look at it from a different aspect of menu boards.
You know, you can utilize menu boards in so many different ways. You can have really cool marketing and show off your brands and your team, or you can integrate it to pull what’s hot, what’s in stock, what’s running low, and what are we running a special on. So there’s a way to utilize tech in that way that I think hasn’t really been thought of, you know like been thought of yet because right now the folks are trying to open and trying to go through all that legwork, and it’s not easy.
Like, I don’t want to I don’t want to make it seem like finding a facility and putting in your tech and building your walls, and turning your plumbing on is all like a checkbox. That’s a lot of barriers that come into play and a lot of inspections that come into play and delays.
So because of that, I think we haven’t really spent too much time or have been able to live in the fun aspect of building.
Eric – We’re getting there and I, it actually is true for a lot of what I’ve seen where folks don’t quite realize how deep the rabbit hole goes when they’re trying to open. There are so many variables and unforeseen circumstances that, you know, we like seeing folks that can adjust accordingly and quickly and be able to be nimble as they’re launching because you just don’t know what’s coming around the corner.
So let’s jump back a little bit. You mentioned waiting rooms. Are you getting queries about kiosks for people to use while they’re waiting or is that not quite on everybody’s radar yet?
Munir – I am. And then the query is coming from owners who have seen it in different markets and how it’s utilized. You know, we haven’t been open long enough to test, you know, the flow of a kiosk right now. There’s still the excitement about walking in and just kind of waiting to go in and experience the dispensary. But, you know, when 420 comes around, when holidays come around, weekends come around, and it’s much more familiar, I do see at the very least, a single kiosk adding some efficiency to the flow.
Eric – That makes sense, especially as buyers become more educated. Walking in, if you know what you want, I would much prefer to just use a kiosk or use my phone to preorder. Just go and pick it up and walk out. But that exploration in new markets, it’s really important. I remember when we were launching our first clients in Canada and every one of the dispensaries had an education area.
That’s not the case anymore. However, I do think that that some education comes from either the budtender or somebody in the waiting room or some materials or something would help facilitate a, you know, patients getting medicine that’s more appropriate for whatever else, though. With regard to the longer-term forecast in Mississippi, when you’re looking at the maturity level of other markets in that cycle that we’ve seen happen over and over again, do you see breathing room in the near future, in the near term for folks that is just opening now for them to expand? Or do you think that the market is positioned so that it will be a grab right up front and kind of rat race?
Munir – I think we’re still in that middle ground where I’m not too sure yet by the pace of everything, how everything is playing out. I think it’s going to be a consistently slow rollout for a little while, depending. This is a question you should ask me in two months where we are in about two months, and how many folks have been able to meet their open date, right?
Eric – Yeah, we’re having some delays right there.
Munir – Yeah, a lot of order delays. No delays are something that’s new to us, you know, constantly moving that day. But in new markets, there are a lot because the market is learning, compliance is learning. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if compliance changed in the middle of all this.
Eric – That’s wouldn’t surprise me either. We see this in New York also where we don’t know, the first four have opened retail locations and we don’t know what the rubric is for compliance. Like, we don’t know exactly what the compliance officers are looking for. And so it’s very hard to try to hit that moving target.
Do you think that the folks that are getting into our property cap properly capitalized for this delay? So you’re paying rent, you’re paying your team to retain your key members, you’re paying this and that and the other thing, are they running out of money or are people properly expecting that six-month window or whatever it happens to be?
Munir – Yeah, from my experience, people are expecting it. I always ask, what is your ideal date of opening?Right. I follow up with. So what is your ideal date for opening?
Right. Yeah. And they do have the two dates in mind and they’re pretty far apart. Right
What’s Holding Back the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Market?
Eric – From the supply chain perspective, when folks are opening or as they’re opening, is there supply just for the shelves?
Munir – That’s an issue that we faced for this first launch. There, yes, their supply was available, but it was a fear going into it. Will it be available?
Eric – Yeah. And what, what typically is the holdup? Is it testing? Is it growing capacity?
Munir – In this case, in this market, It was testing. Testing was the hold-up.
Eric – Interesting. It’s funny because testing, it’s hard to get it right and a lot of people don’t want to be in that business. And so we’ve seen that before where there aren’t just enough labs.
Munir – Yeah, Yeah, 100% agree.
Eric – So is there anything that you see in other markets that you think will come to pass in the relatively near future? For instance, are beverages allowed?
Munir – You know, that’s a good question. I haven’t actually seen beverages on the pick list and yeah, so after, after the trade show actually I’m going to go take a field trip, go visit our clients and really, you know, throw myself into, into all the products. But yeah, I have not seen beverages. Yeah.
Eric – Yeah. I wonder how many of the brands that we see in multiple markets have actually made inroads in? What that supply chain looks like in the ordering process? And all of those logistics happen in the background. But they become a real problem for people that are just opening up and trying to fulfill client demand.
Yeah, from what I understand, there is a very small number of cards that have been given out for medical purposes. Is that surprising? Are we tracking what that look like?
Munir – Yeah, another great question. It’s actually on my list to go to some meetings and really understand what the phases of medical cards will look like. Right now it is a small percentage that is out there and those stores are able to meet the demands right now. But if the number of cards doesn’t go up, you know, I feel like there’s going to be a scale issue here.
So I want to see what the state is offering there.
Eric – I wonder how much of that has to do with just the lack of education, you know, in the market. Maybe people don’t know how to do it or what to do, and so maybe there aren’t enough doctors prescribing. We saw that here in California when it went legal and got ages ago, 20 years, where I had a hard time finding a doctor that would write a prescription for a legitimate medical purpose.
It was very challenging. And then the doctors that would do it were kind of, Mm. Let’s just say that it was it was quite an effort to get to them. And I don’t know that I would go to them for medical, excuse me, regular medical care. So hopefully that doesn’t happen in Mississippi and doctors start prescribing.
Munir – Yeah, I’m with you there. What I do like about Mississippi right now is that they are open to listening and hearing what other markets have done and that is always nothing but a positive.
Eric – Yeah, that’s a very good side. If they built their program on an existing program that actually works. And they have the, the finance to actually back it up because it’s not just writing the law, it is all of the mechanics behind it. The office that ensures compliance, and the office ensures licensing. We’ve seen underfunded programs that kind of blow-up because well there’s no enforcement or there’s no, you know, sanity checks.
If you have any parting words for folks that are in this in-between phase of getting their provincial and not having launched yet, do you have any parting advice, any words of wisdom from other markets that they might be able to take home and assimilate?
Munir – Yeah, opening up the conversation and truly lining up what all the elements that you need to think of and building around. So two parts, understanding, so first of all, congratulations, you are about to open up the facility. A facility of your dreams I hope. So, please take the time to really kind of draw that out and what that feels like and what you want it to look like, and then opening up all the conversations because there are so many elements that have to then fall into place and that you have to bring in and trades and, you know, you don’t have to have like two dozen trades. There are companies such as, such as Cure8 that, you know, can take a big portion of that. But really finding those partners that you can open and speak to and that will guide you along the way so you can hit all your milestones, stay on track, you know, and kind of run with the punches. That’s really my only advice right now is is to go in with confidence.
Eric – Amazing.That sounds wonderful. Well, thanks for your time today. And I know you’re here for the rest of your day today.
Thank you for your time, everybody. Thanks for showing up. We welcome you to join us again for our Curated Conversations and have a great day. Thanks, everybody.