On January 31st, Massachusetts released its list of approved medical marijuana dispensaries. The top 20 qualifying companies made it through generally by involving some teams of “heavy hitters” and ample capital. For example, former Congressman Barney Frank and Boston philanthropist Howard Kessler are involved with dispensary New England Treatment Access, or NETA, according to its application.
And NETA is throwing around big money, in its own words a “substantial investment:” $4 million to build cultivation and dispensary sites and another $5 million to fund operating losses until the business breaks even (including $130k for a parking lot!). Heck, they are even working with the electric utility to upgrade the local power substation in order to deliver more electricity to NETA’s cultivation facility. Massachusetts’ selection committee of experts give points based on each applicant’s business experience, public health, security operations, and a host of other variables. Even then, NETA was only ranked #2 among the approved applicants. Top honors goes to a group called Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts (or “MMM,” scored 160/163 of possible points) backed by a group of ophthalmologists and an experienced grower from Cali.
The industry isn’t for the faint of heart. MMM, which got approval for 2 dispensaries, also has big bucks and expects to spend about $1.4 million building each dispensary and another $1.1 million to cover the first year of losses. Each MMM dispensary is expected to reach ~1500 patients, or 1/3 of marijuana buyers in the area, and book $3.5 million in revenue for the first year (mostly sales in the 3.5g and 7g sizes).
NETA, on the other hand, believes its dispensary can reach 2000 patients, or 50% of local marijuana buyers, in the first year and book $11.9 million of revenue profitably by end of 2015 (representing 2400 lbs). They expect revenues will ramp to a healthy $23 million by 2016 (4800 lbs). Price is such that they are assuming they will make on average $4800 per lb, reaching a peak patient population of 4000 in 2016. Monthly consumption assumes 1.6 ounces per patient per month (based on CO experience). What NETA has to its advantage, and it comes down to knowing the right people, is that they are bringing Rocky Mountain Remedies co-founder Kevin Fisher, who runs a 20,000 sq ft site in CO, to run their growing operations along with his team.
Of course, the top notch quality and first class service are not cheap, and NETA won’t be ill-equipped given it deep pocketed backer and experience.
One interesting contrast between these two top potential dispensaries is that MMM projects 2.3 patient visits per year while NETA assumes 2.5 patient visits PER MONTH. There are limitations on purchase amounts, but the 2.3 per year MMM is using sounds low while the 2.5 per month by NETA may be normal to slightly high. In any case, time will tell who is more correct, but nevertheless these assumptions are crucial to both companies’ finances and abilities to scale upwards. If the “patients” don’t come, no marijuana will be bought.
In the next few posts, we look forward to bringing you a more detailed coverage regarding the strengths seen in Massachusetts’ top-ranked applications, as well as aspects to avoid from those who failed to make the cut.