Setting up CAMP
CAMP Cannabis CEO and President, Susan Griffith talks about the journey from ideation to fruition for one of the state’s most recognized brands.
Missouri’s medical marijuana market continues to mature and flourish. With over 180 dispensaries approved to operate, Missouri boasts one of the largest access markets for medical marijuana patients in the country.
With expectations inside the state being that the vast majority of licensees will be approved to operate by summer, the push toward the finish line is coming. After more than a year of delays caused by pandemic, supply issues, and numerous other unforeseeable circumstances – Missouri’s marijuana businesses are beginning to flourish.
One of those businesses is the recognizable CAMP Cannabis. One of the most active companies in the industry since its inception, CAMP’s leadership has worked diligently to continually breathe life into the company name while building the foundation of its plant-based business at the same time. That dedication to brand relevancy and creating an active footprint in the cannabis industry and community has taken on many forms. CAMP has had multiple members of staff serve as instructors in the St. Louis University Cannabis Science and Operations program, additionally, the company’s leadership has served in multiple positions in MOCANNTRADE, with Griffith, Vice President Jennifer McGuire, and Manufacturing Director Matt DeWeese, all having served on committees. CAMP’s dedication to continually pushing the industry forward has earned the company respect and recognition while leadership worked internally to build its facility and bring the campus to life.
In December of 2021, the company announced publicly that it had commenced plant-touching operations in its combination cultivation and manufacturing facility located in North St. Louis. The end of one journey that marked the beginning of a new phase for CAMP.
Now, the company finds itself merely a month away from the highly anticipated arrival of CAMP products on retail shelves.
“Our first harvest was seamless, with employees tasked throughout the flower room and dry room, as well as transport in between,” Griffith explained. “Our harvest exceeded our expectations in yields – and performed so well in its environment that we were able to pull in our anticipated harvest date by one month. The CAMP team gives very special attention and consideration to all the steps in the grow process – watering, nutrition, defoliation, etc., – resulting in a crop that outperformed all of our expectations.”
“CAMP’s genetics will be new to Missouri patients, and our goal is to provide more diversity and
choice for patients,” she said. “We are very hopeful to have our limited product launch with select dispensaries on 4/20, and are well on target to hit that date.”
To understand the impact of the immediate success ahead of Griffith and the team at CAMP, Greenway asked her to reflect on what it took to build CAMP.
Can you talk about the process to get to launch and what obstacles CAMP encountered along the way?
I think that’s all about your perspective. We have shared so many moments where we thought it couldn’t possibly be more of an uphill climb – but we never lost faith. And we always made it. We had an extensive design phase, ultimately because our goal has always been to have the very best facility that can produce the highest quality medicine for patients. I don’t believe we encountered anything outside what most other Missourians did – we had funding challenges, construction delays – and perhaps most importantly, this was a brand new venture for us both, so we were constantly learning around every corner. We did make special considerations for compliance and risk mitigation, as well as very consistent communication with our compliance team – we were not first to market, but we did our best to learn every lesson possible so that our efforts reflected both knowledge and the willingness to continue to learn more and better ourselves.
What has been the biggest surprise on your journey?
Undoubtedly, what we can accomplish if we set our minds to results. We always focus on the finish line, as opposed to how far we have to go to reach it. Additionally, the camaraderie we’ve experienced with fellow license holders (those in our shoes) is outstanding in our industry – something I feel is somewhat unique to Missouri. We’ve never been a part of something that’s so much bigger than we are – while always feeling there are so many that truly want to see our success. We all recognize that we have to work together to make this industry successful for the patients, and it’s truly gratifying to see how many others share that sentiment.
How did you gauge the success of CAMP prior to product in hand?
Our team. No doubt. There is synergy in our facility that I’m proud to say I’ve never seen in any other role I’ve held. The CAMP team truly seems to be happy to be at work, doing whatever is needed, to get us to the finish line. It’s a definition of “team” that will give you goosebumps if you watch everyone in action.
Greenway has previously highlighted CAMP’s founders and the company being one of the state’s most visible women lead brands, can you tell me about the rest of your leadership team and their background?
Our Director of Cultivation, Reed Porter, hails from Arizona, has over 8 years experience in cannabis, working his way from a cultivation tech all the way through the ranks, and most recently the was Director of Cultivation for AltMed for 4.5 years, just prior to the Verano acquisition – he was responsible for a large number of employees, and led propagation and cultivation efforts for a large scale facility. Our Director of Manufacturing, Matt DeWeese, also has over 8 years experience that encompasses cultivation and manufacturing. He was one of the founders of the Arizona Cannabis Society and is one of the most brilliant manufacturing minds you’ll come across. He’s well versed in all different types of processing and is bringing the most efficient, clean, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that the Midwest has ever seen.
Our Director of Compliance is Brian Hoff, who has many years experience as Director of Biomedical Engineering at one of the most prominent Missouri Hospitals. His attention to detail and ability to learn cannabis compliance is unmatched. As we know, Compliance is probably the most important aspect of our industry, and he has mastered everything from plant touching SOP’s to IT, to supervision of construction efforts.
Our Director of Human Resources, Andrea Ellis, has multiple years experience in healthcare HR placement, and is directly responsible for vetting out all candidates that will be good additions to the amazing CAMP culture as well as identifying strengths that will allow those candidates to flourish in their careers at CAMP.
Let’s talk about CAMP, what can you tell me about the name and brand?
CAMP is an acronym for Certified Alternative Medicine Providers. Jennifer McGuire and I spent many hours trying to find a name that represented our medical focus, while also helping us create a unique identity within our industry. We landed at CAMP because we felt it represented our desire to be medically focused, but additionally provided us a unique opportunity to create a brand that could resonate with all different patient populations and communities.
What makes the CAMP facilities unique?
CAMP’s facilities were designed with 3 main priorities -1. To create environments that will produce the highest quality and diversity of genetics, 2. To mitigate as much risk as possible and 3. To have a comfortable, safe working environment for our employees. We went through a very rigorous design process to make sure we were identifying and calculating every risk factor – for example, air showers. When employees and visitors come into CAMP’s facilities, they go through an air shower after coming in off the street to reduce any contaminants that may be brought in on clothing/shoes, etc. All employees wear company scrubs, which are left on site for cleaning and reuse, so street clothes are not allowed in any production areas. Visitors must wear protective suits, booties and hair nets prior to entering the production space. Each of the rooms has independent HVAC, fertigation, dehumidification, etc., so everything is self-contained and functionality can be adjusted independently, without affecting other rooms as a result. Each room has its own set of parameters and is monitored for all levels to maintain plant health and viability. Additionally, the rooms were created so that employees have ample workspace and the ability to move around. Our goals at CAMP are to keep our employees happy and our plants happy.
Tell me about the products that are hitting shelves. Will everything be CAMP branded or do you have other branding or product lines?
We will start out with CAMP branded products. Our first several harvests will be dedicated to flower, as we ramp up in all 4 current flower rooms. As we have our third and fourth harvests, we will expand our product line to pre-rolls, vapes, tinctures and capsules. Our phase one consists of 4 flower rooms and will be dedicated to CAMP branded products so that we can establish our brand for Missouri patients. As we move in to phase 2 and add additional flower rooms, we will have opportunities to expand both CAMP product lines and other potential product lines to include gummies and chocolates, and other diversified cannabis products. Our goal is to be able to serve as many patients as possible with a diversified portfolio.
What should buyers and consumers expect from CAMP products?
Exceptionally high quality, and consistency in all of our genetics. We most definitely want to educate our patients and consumers on our brands, so that we make sure we’re exceeding the expectations that patients have in our products. Patient education has and always will be paramount to us – we want our patients to achieve their desired results, and we want to take the time to educate them, depending on their condition, on which of CAMP’s strains will help them achieve those goals.
How is CAMP interacting with the community?
CAMP has always tried to have a presence at all industry events – for fellow license holders, patients, and potential employees. We’ve participated in hiring events, helped sponsor patient educational sessions, and will be conducting outreach near our facilities as we expand our workforce. We have been involved in educational efforts at SLU’s Cannabis program and will continue to support as many industry-related educational events as we can. As we grow, we hope to connect with groups in need in our community, in an effort to build up strength and support and give back to those who we can benefit in any way.
You can learn more about CAMP Cannabis by following them on social media @letsgocampbrand or online at letsgo.camp