Manufacturing Success: Q&A with Mike Morgan of 5150 N’Fusion
Missouri’s manufactured marijuana space is one of the most competitive in the country, with dozens of licensees and even more brands producing hundreds of products filling dispensary shelves. Medical marijuana has been Missouri’s quickest-growing industry in the last two years, creating more than 10,000 jobs since the launch of the first facility. Now the state sits weeks away from the launch of adult use marijuana and an expected boon that is projected to more than double annual retail sales.
In Manufacturing Success, a short-form q&a series, Greenway looks to highlight and introduce the companies and individuals that turn cannabis plants into the products helping to propel the success of the cannabis industry.
In this edition of Manufacturing Success, Greenway speaks with Mike Morgan of 5150 N’Fusion and Gateway Extraction.
Cartridges took the industry by storm in the mid-2010s with an emphasis on Distillate extract for its purity potential and high THC value. As legalization swept across the nation so did the craze of these portable vapor cartridges (Vape Carts). Distillate’s value to the cannabis industry goes beyond vapoe carts, for the edibles market, distillate emerged as one of the most efficient and effective ways to control dosage and consistency.
At the forefront of the discovery and utilization of the distillation process for cannabis was Mike Morgan, the founder of Gateway Extraction and General Manager at 5150 N’Fusion, an industry leader in distillate for the Missouri market.
Mike Morgan, grew up in Manchester, Missouri. Morgan’s first job was working in his family’s business in Midtown, before working at Clean Uniform for 17 years.
In 2014, Morgan reconnected with old friends from San Diego that were about to introduce cryo-ethanol extraction to the cannabis community. Morgan jumped at the chance to be involved, joining the ranks of those who started the distillate movement that we enjoy today.
The team soon made their rounds of major cannabis industry shows and events with a booth full of lab equipment in tow. That meant Morgan was traveling multiple times per month to work the booth at events across the country.
For Mogan, their success in demonstrating the difference between a traditional hydrocarbon setup and ethanol (pressure vs. vacuum) made it much easier to get local municipalities and officals to approve the operations. As the company transitioned into making extracts in California, Morgan formed his own company.
In August of 2015 Gateway Extraction LLC was born. Morgan’s mission was to continue to provide equipment and training for extractors and manufacturers across the country. At the time, Missouri was home to only two entities legally allowed to extract oil from cannabis. Both companies were bold enough to take a chance with Gateway Extraction as the first customers.
Since then, Morgan has been instrumental in setting up and training employees at 93 cryo-ethanol extraction labs in 15 states, paving the way for clean distillate products all over the country.
What does medical marijuana mean to you?
2 of our retail locations ( N’Bliss Dispensaries) were the first in the state to open, so there was quite a diverse crowd there at the beginning. To see with my own eyes, several people tearfully toss their prescription pills that they saw as harming them in the trash (please dispose of these things properly) was pretty special. Our manufacturing facility has a window into the Festus N’Bliss dispensary so I am able to see many patients come in with varying visible disabilities. To think that the effort we put into our products at 5150 N’Fusion is paying off by helping our infirm patients is an incredible feeling.
Tell me about the process used to create distillate products.
First, the cannabis is soaked in incredibly cold ( -40 celsius) alcohol to extract the desired THC from the plant while simultaneously freezing in the plant the less desirable compounds and moisture. Then the solvent is gently removed leaving a crude form of cannabis oil. This then heads over for further refinement where the oil is triple-distilled to ensure maximum purity and potency. The result is a honey-like distillate that is clear and free of any particulate.
What is the biggest obstacle you face in a manufacturing facility like this?
The regulation that comes with our business poses some daunting challenges to get and stay compliant from the time the product enters the building, through the extraction process and finally into final form and wholesale. The METRC system and the myriad POS systems all communicating down to the precise digit can cause some gray hairs for sure!
What lessons have you learned from day 1 to now?
As a General Manager, I have found that the initial excitement of working with cannabis can after time fade for a team. Keeping my team engaged and creating a work environment that keeps my team popping out of bed every day to pull in the same direction keeps us in the mode of always pushing for the next innovation or process improvement. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic team with curious minds and our senior management trusts this facility to face hurdles head-on with maximum gusto.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
Early in my time here at 5150, I introduced our CEO Bradford Goette to a friend and stated that I work for him. He corrected me that I work WITH him. He was dead serious and that really stuck with me. So not really advice, but a concept and culture that values all of our team members as valuable contributors to this enterprise.
What makes you passionate about cannabis?
The fact that a person can ingest a plant and benefit in so many different ways is just straight-up fascinating. From the condensed brick, low-grade cannabis of my youth to the incredibly potent flower that our partners are producing now, I just don’t know of many other industries that you can watch grow exponentially year to year. To be able to take this same flower and transform it into a targeted terpene-profiled Lotus vape cart or a nano-emulsed fast-acting seltzer like Wynk or Countdown is cool as hell. I am fortunate to have an occupation I love!
In your opinion, what’s the best way to consume cannabis?
For me, I enjoy just a couple hits from a vape cart a couple times a week. I am lucky not to have some of the physical impairments that many have, so the ideal consumption for me is a light dose from a PAX pod and an evening with laughter and I Think You Should Leave on Netflix.
What makes your 5150 unique in this space?
The aforementioned triple distillation of our Lotus and Path distillate-based products is unique as far as I am aware. The 5150 team also has some fun with our Odyssey brand of pre-rolls with the ability to mix strains from our partners in cultivation to produce unique flavor profiles and effects. We have put a ton of effort into the process for upcoming products for absolute terpene preservation, we are confident that the end result from this IP for our patients/customers will be a superior product that will be a challenge to keep in stock. People of Earth, behold CryoTerp!
What are some of the products being produced by 5150, what is the top-performing product?
Lotus has been our flagship being a distillate-based vapor product with standard 510 threaded cartridges and PAX pods. PATH Extracts Dablicator has recently been introduced for the patient that would like the versatility and ability to apply distillate to pre-rolls, infuse their own food, or just take a dab. The Odyssey line of flower products has been priced to give our patients the chance to get a pre-roll at a competitive price and sample from our many cultivation partners. The top-performing product by volume has been the Pineapple Express PAX pod.
What are your favorite products and why?
My favorite product has been our Watermelon OG cartridge. It is a straight Indica, and provides the exact effects that I am looking for while chilling at home.
What should we expect from 5150 in 2023?
2023 will be a busy year for us. We have recently added hydrocarbon extraction capabilities to the facility which opens the door to keeping and concentrating the profile from the carefully selected starting cannabis material.
Adult-use cannabis comes into play at a fantastic time for us. 5150 will be launching the REFINE and Midwest Concentrates lines as well as Lotus dabbable products.
Both Lotus and REFINE will be offering Live Resin carts. REFINE is a very highly regarded brand bearing DNA from the Washington market. X-Tracted Labs are our partners in Seattle and bring with them the knowledge that comes with 14 years of success on the West Coast.
We will continue to produce WYNK zero calorie 5mg seltzer and Countdown 25mg beverages as well.
We are very much looking forward to producing infused pre-rolls in 2023.
I believe Missouri will respond favorably to Cannadips as well. We will begin producing the tobacco-less pouch product in early 2023.
the launch of the PATH Extracts Dablicator offers our patients and consumers the choice to consume cannabis in whichever way the mood strikes them.
I am so excited for the industry here in Missouri, I truly never thought I would see this day.