What’s the buzz about buying groups?
After the Department of Health and Senior Services awarded all the licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing early this year, many groups who had planned to operate as fully vertically integrated companies found themselves with one or two types of licenses, but not all three. This scrambled the playing field and required a rethinking of how these newly non-vertical manufacturers and dispensaries could secure their supply chains.
That need has been compounded by the slow pace of commencement for cultivation facilities: as of the end of October, only 13 of the 60 cultivation licenses had requested commencement. Those 13 licenses are held by nine different companies, and the majority of them are vertically integrated, so they will quite understandably supply their own dispensaries first. There are many reasons why cultivators have struggled to adhere to the one year deadline to become operational, including difficulties securing investments, construction delays caused by the pandemic, and regulatory hurdles. Regardless of the causes, it adds up to a major dilemma for manufacturers and dispensaries who do not have cultivation licenses of their own.
This summer, I helped found the Missouri Independent Medical Cannabis Association (MIMCA) to address precisely this problem. We have banded together nearly 30 non-vertical manufacturing and dispensary licenses to create greater buying power and secure a consistent supply of medical marijuana flower and lower prices for flower and infused products. This creates an incentive for lower wholesale prices and consistent, timely deliveries of product, and the same is true for a wide array of ancillary services as well.
However, the association is not simply a buying group; we are also united by a set of common values. First, the members are independently run and not controlled by any large conglomerate. That independence is why we selected a bumblebee as our symbol.
Unlike honey bees, bumblebees are not beholden to the hive as a collective. For instance, a honey bee can only sting once and then dies, as it is essentially expendable to the colony, while bumblebees are not individually expendable and can sting multiple times. Bumblebees also cannot be domesticated, and they forage and eat independently. But, that doesn’t mean they are totally solitary, either, as they nest together to best provide for their common needs.
Similarly, the association prioritizes collaboration and aims to give members the same tools and resources as a large company without sacrificing the freedom to make their businesses uniquely their own. Members are always willing to help each other, sharing their operational insight and industry intel, but each group retains its core values and exercises its individual voice, because we believe that the future of the marijuana industry will be customized, not homogenized.
Our members are dispensary and manufacturing operators who are patient-centered and community-focused. Their businesses are Missouri owned and operated, and their teams are committed to making a real difference in the communities where they have lived and worked for years. Many key figures in these groups have been long-standing advocates for medical marijuana legalization in Missouri since well before the passage of Amendment 2 in 2018, and they are striving daily to ensure the vision of patients accessing safe medicine comes into full focus.
These well-established community leaders are best suited to identify the unique needs of their local and regional patient communities. Patients are looking to licensed facilities to provide safe, reliable medicine. That relationship must be founded upon trust, and patients are far more willing to place their trust in a neighbor than a group controlled from afar just looking to do business. That’s why we strive to be hometown medical marijuana providers statewide.
As our members start to open their doors, we are eager to play a major role in shaping Missouri’s medical marijuana market and ensuring that the values we hold are always represented in it. If you are interested in learning more about MIMCA, I encourage you to reach out via email. We are always looking to align with cultivators and other service providers who align with our goals. Most importantly, if you are part of an independent dispensary or manufacturing group and think the association would be a good fit, we would love to hear from you!
John Payne is a founder of the Missouri Independent Medical Cannabis Association and Amendment 2 Consultants. He served as the campaign manager for New Approach Missouri, which led the effort to pass Amendment 2 in 2018. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.