[Denver Post] Oklahoma is the new “Wild West of weed” — and Colorado marijuana entrepreneurs are helping fuel the green rush

[Denver Post] Oklahoma is the new “Wild West of weed” — and Colorado marijuana entrepreneurs are helping fuel the green rush

Chip Baker Denver Post interview

Lax regulation and low barriers to entry have triggered cannabis’s explosive growth in Sooner State

OKEMAH, Okla. — Chip Baker surveyed a vast field on the outskirts of an old hay farm an hour east of Oklahoma City, his ponytail waving in the thick, humid air, his voice growing excited.

“This is probably the largest collection of Squirt in the world!” he boasted, pointing to an array of neatly plotted cannabis plants before him that will soon flower pounds of the popular strain.

Baker would know. From the time he planted his first marijuana plant at 13, he’s been all about growing weed. A dream formed in the Georgia fields took him to Humboldt County, California — the nation’s earliest pot epicenter — then Colorado, the country’s first recreational market.

But it’s here in rural Oklahoma, down a dusty dirt road along the banks of the North Canadian River, where true cannabis cowboys — including droves of Colorado entrepreneurs like Baker — are buying mammoth properties to grow mammoth numbers of plants, all in a quest for mammoth stacks of kush-derived cash.

It’s a place unlike virtually any other in America.

“Other states grow patches,” Baker said with a grin, taking in the 90-acre, 40,000-plant cannabis farm before him. “In Oklahoma, we grow fields.”

The Sooner State, as deeply red as the American political palette will go, has almost overnight become the hottest place in the country to grow marijuana. It’s an unprecedented look at what happens when the government stays largely out of the picture and lets the free market run wild.

And Colorado businesses are pumping their sizeable dollars and cannabis expertise into the state, hoping to cash in on what Baker and others in the industry call the next green rush.

“It’s the Wild West of weed,” he said, “in all its glory.”

Read Full Interview with The Denver Post

Online cannabis marketplace Leafly to go public

Online cannabis marketplace Leafly to go public

cannabis company Leafly is going public

In a historic year for Washington companies going public, Seattle-based Leafly, an online cannabis marketplace, will push the 2021 total even higher.

The company announced Monday it will go public through a special merger with New York-based Merida Merger Corp (Nasdaq: MCMJ). The transaction is expected to value Leafly at $385 million and add approximately $161 million of additional proceeds to the company.

The combined company will adopt Leafly’s name, and is expected to trade on Nasdaq with the ticker symbol “LFLY.” The company said it will list its shares once the merger is complete, likely sometime this fall.

According to PitchBook, 15 companies in Washington have gone public in 2021 so far, five more than last year’s total, and the most the state has seen in the last five years.

“Online retail shopping is in our DNA,” said Yoko Miyashita, CEO of Leafly, in an interview. “What you see is … this realization from consumers that say ‘Oh, (cannabis) is like any other retail product I can order online.”

Leafly earned $36 million in revenue last year, up from $30 million in 2019, according to its investor presentation. This year, revenue is expected to increase to $43 million, and grow roughly 50% annually through 2024.

Still, the company does not expect to be profitable until 2024, predicting it will lose at least $15 million in net income from 2021 to 2023.

The company makes money mostly through subscription fees it charges cannabis retailers who list their menus on Leafly’s platform. Customers place orders with retailers through the online site, but still have to go to the cannabis shop in person to pick up their product. Leafly does not take a commission from each transaction but does make money off ad sales from retailers.

The company said it has 4,600 paying retail subscribers, with approximately 55% of North American retail cannabis licensees on its platform and 125 million annual visitors.

Miyashita said cannabis retailers are “constrained” in their ability to advertise on major social media networks because of federal prohibition laws. Leafly’s platform, giving retailers and consumers an opportunity to reach each other, is “huge,” she said. “We have one of the largest audiences in cannabis.”

Missouri Medical Marijuana Sales Set Record in June

Missouri Medical Marijuana Sales Set Record in June

missouri medical marijuana sets new sales record

Missouri’s medical marijuana industry topped $70 million in cumulative sales, including nearly $16.4 million in June, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Eight months after the state’s first dispensary opened in October 2020, 126 dispensaries operate throughout the state. Those dispensaries, plus manufacturers, transporters, and laboratories, total 201 medical marijuana facilities in the state.

“This is essentially Missouri’s newest twenty-first century industry,” Alan Zagier, a representative from the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said. “Now we’re really at the moment when rubber hits the road, and we’re really starting to see the results of all this hard work our members have put in.”

Zaiger said the industry contributes to a post-COVID economy.

“The benefit extends to not just cannabis patients but also to the workforce,” he said. “This is a real shot in the arm for lots of communities across the state. These are real, tangible jobs.”

A total of 375 facilities have been licensed to handle medical marijuana by DHSS.

“We’re not just talking about dispensaries in our urban centers in St. Louis and Kansas City, and even there in mid-Missouri,” Zaiger said. “We’re talking about dispensaries in places like Hayti and Caruthersville.”

Shangri-La Dispensaries is one of those facilities, with dispensaries in Columbia and Jefferson City.

“Business is phenomenal,” Michael Lafrieda, the Chief Operating Officer for Shangri-La, said. The dispensary sees “several hundred [customers] a day. On some of the longer holiday weekends, a couple thousand people.”

Lafrieda said his customers range in age from teens to eighties. Zaiger said that nearly 121,000 Missourians have been approved as medical marijuana patients, with many more applications.

“For the sake of comparison,” Zaiger said. “Illinois has about 12.6 million residents, so that’s more than double of Missouri. And even now, several years into their program, they currently only have 55 licensed retail outlets open, so that’s less than half of the number that we have open in less than a year’s time.”

The Most Common Cannabis Compliance Issues

The Most Common Cannabis Compliance Issues

top 5 cannabis compliance

Operating in a legal cannabis industry, whether recreational or medical, comes with strict regulations that requires compliance for businesses. Underestimating the level of cannabis compliance has led to the downfall of many new cannabis businesses.

Cannabis compliance is more than just meeting required plant counts or ensuring safe working conditions for employees. Every industry is regulated in some form, however the cannabis industry lacks any form of federal regulations.

Without any federal oversight, states are left to create their own regulations and cannabis compliance requirements. These requirements vary widely by state, making operating in multiple states more challenging.

There are some common cannabis compliance requirements that any business owner will have dealt with at some point. However there are others that a new business owner may overlook. This can have drastic consequences, such as removal of an operating license, extreme fines, or even being shut down completely.


Cannabis licensing is typically the first step any would-be business owner takes. Each state varies in how they handle licensing, from application fees and financial requirements to how many total licenses are given out.

Pricing alone is large barrier to entry for many, with some states like California charging higher and higher license fees the larger a business’ revenue. Others may just charge a flat fee for all licenses, but the fee is also high, and recurs annually.

Common licenses include manufacturing, retail, dispensary, and cultivation. Cannabis businesses need to know what’s required in their state and when to get their licenses and permits renewed. Having an expired or illegitimate license or permit can result in hefty fines and a risk of closure.

It isn’t just the business that has to be licensed either in many states. Employees are typically also required to have specific licensing to work in a cannabis business.


From plant limits to seed to sale tracking, every state can implement different cannabis compliance requirements for cultivation facilities and farms. This can include mandatory reporting of water usage and run-off, pesticide restrictions, limited employees permitted in the grow, and tracking such as METRC.

Justin Jones from Greener Consulting Group opened the first recreational cannabis dispensary in Denver, Colorado. He was also one of the first growers in the country to implement METRC tracking in his grow.

In the past, growers just grew. Today’s growers need real management skills in the highly regulated legal markets and just as much time is spent meeting compliance requirements as is spent growing the plants themselves. It is a complete turn around from the past. Programs like METRC that were resisted at first, have now become tools for improving your business and collecting data on production, potency, testing and more.

Justin Jones

There is no worse feeling for a grower than going through an entire season and having it thrown out or being fined an exorbitant amount for failing to adhere to cultivation compliance requirements.

Cannabis Testing

Testing requirements for cannabis cultivators and processors has been a hot button issue in the legal cannabis industry. Due to lack to federal regulation there is no federal guidance or requirements for cannabis products, again leaving the decision to the states.

While every state will have testing requirements in order to prove the potency and safety of cannabis products, the requirements can vary and the labs that do the testing can vary as well. One lab might only test for cannabinoids, while another may test for terpenes and heavy metals as well.

The majority of the time, these labs are not state-run either, which can lead to some shady business transactions between labs trying to make some money and a grower who wants their harvest to pass. Real Dirt host and Greener Consulting Group founder Chip Baker has plenty of experience dealing with cannabis testing in a variety of states.

He knows first hand how difficult it can be to find an affordable and reliable testing facility for a wide range of cannabis products.

Keeping up with the different testing regulations throughout the US is pretty much an impossible task. Every state is similar but different. Every lab is similar but different. Every state has different microbial and pesticide determinations. Some are lax and others are bordering on impossible to follow. You really have to be careful about the products you use on a plant. One day it could be legal and the next day not, literally. There needs to be a standardization of COAs (certificate of authenticity).

Chip Baker

Real Estate Cannabis Compliance

Real estate and zoning for cannabis businesses is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Not only do states create their own zoning requirements for cannabis businesses (e.g. distance from schools, parks, etc.), land owners can restrict cannabis businesses on their land as well.

Additionally, local governments and neighborhood groups who lobby them can also implement more restrictions. Cannabis businesses often face special zoning restrictions including security, lighting, crowd control, delivery traffic, parking, and drainage.

It can be a very time consuming process planning out a building design to meet the various strict requirements set by state and local governments. In turn, cannabis compliance in real estate can become more difficult dependent on the state.

Security and Surveillance

Any potential cannabis business owner will implement some form of security and surveillance out of necessity. So while it isn’t an aspect of cannabis compliance that is likely to slip the mind, states can still set specific requirements for security and surveillance that must be met.

These requirements will almost always include cameras and some sort of ID verification at the entrance. Other requirements may be hired security at the entrance, alarm systems, and even security patrols at cannabis cultivation facilities. Luckily security is something most cannabis business owners take very seriously, which makes cannabis compliance in this regard rather easy.

However like other state requirements placed on cannabis businesses, the costs of meeting security requirements can prevent smaller businesses from complying.

Sales and Reporting

Beside the age limit placed on medical and recreational cannabis purchases, states can add additional requirements when it comes to reporting. States may require an up to date record of inventory at all times, seed to sale tracking, purchase limits for consumers and more.

It isn’t uncommon for a cannabis business to try and skirt cannabis compliance in some of these aspects, and some have paid the price for it. Sales and reporting is a major aspect of cannabis compliance that will vary by state, and should be taken seriously.

More cannabis compliance requirements

The requirements listed above may be some of the most important for any cannabis business owner, but cannabis compliance is more broad than just a few key aspects.

Taxes, consumer privacy, employee hiring and practices, health and safety are just a few more that should never be overlooked, and can vary by state. If a cannabis business operates in a state with delivery options, that adds a whole new tier of cannabis compliance that must be met as well.

Similar to any business in any industry, the larger you are the more it costs to operate. The larger you are, more difficult it will be to maintain compliance in an ever changing industry with regulatory updates happening frequently.

Owning a business is no easy task. However owning a cannabis business is a challenge many won’t be able to handle.

Denver opens applications for cannabis delivery licenses, consumption lounges

Denver opens applications for cannabis delivery licenses, consumption lounges

Denver cannabis delivery licenses are being accepted now

Applications are now open for marijuana delivery and transporter licenses in Denver for the first time in the city’s history, the Department of Excise and Licenses announced.

The city is also accepting applications for new marijuana store locations for the first time since 2016, in addition to applications for marijuana cultivation and manufacturing licenses.

This comes two months after Denver changed its marijuana policy to allow for social equity delivery and hospitality businesses where patrons can consume marijuana on the premises. Applications for the hospitality business licenses are expected to open in November, the department said.

“This is a big part of the biggest overhaul in marijuana rules and regulations since initial legalization that the mayor signed into law on 4/20,” said Eric Escudero, spokesman for the Department of Excise and Licenses.

Under Denver’s new marijuana policy, there is no cap on the number of licenses and permits available, and there is no deadline to apply.

Social equity applicants are defined as Colorado residents who have never had a marijuana license revoked and meet one of the following social equity criteria:

  • Applicant lived in an opportunity zone or a disproportionately impacted area between 1980 and 2010
  • Applicant or immediate family was arrested, convicted or suffered civil asset forfeiture due to a marijuana offense
  • Applicant’s household income doesn’t exceed 50% of the state median income

By providing exclusivity to social equity applicants, Denver officials say they are trying to make up for the damage caused by the War on Drugs and the unequal persecution of disadvantaged communities for marijuana offenses.