Bringing Culinary Expertise to Edibles with Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis Mountain Medicine

Jamie Lewis has a deep history with cannabis. After helping famed dispensary,Good Chemistry get up and running she went back to her culinary roots and started creating sweet and savory edibles and launched a company called Mountain Medicine. Learn more what it takes to run a winning edibles company in this interview.

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Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Are you an accredited investor looking to get access to the best cannabis investing opportunities? Join me at the next ArcView Group event. The ArcView Group is the premier angel investor network focused exclusively on the cannabis industry. There is simply no other place where you can find this quality and diversity of cannabis industry investment opportunities months or even years before the general public. If that’s not enough, you will also be networking with the top investors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the cannabis space. I have personally made many of my best connections and lifelong friendships at ArcView events. If you are an accredited investor and would like to join me as an ArcView member, please email me at feedback at cannainsider.com to get started. Now here’s your program.

As the cannabis consumer continues to spend more dollars on cannabis infused products that market is growing large enough to allow for segmentation and specialization. Foodies are gravitating to cannabis edibles and infused products that resonate with their values and creative expression. Edible artisans with backgrounds in culinary arts are taking their formal training and applying it to the cannabis industry. One such artisan is Jaime Lewis of Mountain Meds, and I’m pleased to have her on the show today. Welcome to CannaInsider Jaime.

Jaime: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

Matthew: Jaime to give listeners a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?

Jaime: In the world today I am in lovely Denver, Colorado embracing this beautiful fall weather that has come in.

Matthew: Yes it has come in with a hurry.

Jaime: Yes I’m exited actually. Not so much for winter, but I’m going to enjoy fall while it’s here.

Matthew: Pumpkin spice lattes?

Jaime: That’s right, that’s right.

Matthew: Well tell us what is Mountain Meds.

Jaime: Ah Mountain Medicine is a marijuana infused products manufacturer. It’s located in Denver, Colorado. We’ve been in business for over five years now. We just had our five year anniversary this month and we produce edibles. We are currently in 120 locations in Colorado. The logo for my company is the mountain goat, and the reason for that is that it symbolizes the industry in cannabis in my mind. This animal is extremely agile and strong and maintains great traction. And it sometimes survives in the harshest of environments which can be very similar to the ever emerging industry that we are currently operating in with constant changing regulations and trying to change the conversation of cannabis as a whole. So that’s Mountain Medicine in a snapshot. We serve edibles anywhere from chocolates to baked goods, and we’re about ready to launch a whole new line of products with beverages and healthier options for the cannabis consumer.

Matthew: And how did you get started in the culinary world and then intersect with the cannabis world with your culinary skills?

Jaime: Well I went to culinary school in San Francisco to the Culinary Institute. I wanted to be a James Beard rock star. That’s like the Academy Awards for chiefs in our world, and that was my path. I was extremely driven. I worked in some really high end restaurants in San Francisco under some amazing chefs. It’s where I got my epic work ethic just working in kitchen. It can be quite grueling and very brutal, but that was my role. Originally I set out to do all things wonderful in the culinary world.

And about ten years ago I got involved with a co-op in California who was looking to construct edibles. The gentleman who worked for the co-op his father was HIV positive. So he wanted a product that his father could use. His father was at a point where he could no longer smoke the medicine to get it in his system. So from there I began extracting and creating various recipes that were very helpful for him and started working with other members in that community in San Francisco and found it to be extremely fulfilling for me. Of course back ten years ago that was pre-marijuana industry so there wasn’t a lot to go off of in terms of simple recipes or extraction processes. So there was a bit of a learning curve and some misbatched brownies here and there, but overall what I got from it was a firm understanding of how helpful cannabis can actually be to patients, and there began my launch over into the cannabis industry. From there I came to Colorado about five years ago, paying close attention to the regulations that were about to come online and decided to close down in California and go all in in Colorado.

Matthew: Now you’re deeply involved in the cannabis in Denver. For many that aren’t familiar what that might look like and how it’s evolving, how would you describe it?

Jaime: Ah it’s been amazing actually. I was at a point… I came on at a point early on where we were just about ready to help pass House Bill 1284 which governs us under the medical marijuana. So I was already actively involved legislatively with that process. Was involved with the Trade Association. We then started our own Trade Association, The Cannabis Business Alliance, which actually has a strong edibles advisory council, and I currently sit on the chair of that association. But we were playing so well with legislatively over the medical marijuana process and then I was actively involved during the passing of Amendment 64. So I got a real hands-on experience in terms of what it means to do the process from legislatively all the way down to the rule making process with the Department of Revenue in terms of setting up two separate industries; one for the medical and for the recreational.

And the great thing about Colorado is you know we were the first obviously, but with that we were able to just have just this access to such a great community of entrepreneurs that came in early on. So we are a tight nit community in the cannabis industry as a whole, but in Colorado especially just because we’ve been established a little bit longer than some of the newer states that have come online.

Matthew: And how would you describe some of Mountain Medicine’s edibles so we get a sense of what they’re like?

Jaime: Yeah my company produces products that are on the high-end side. With my culinary background my recipes are really honed in. I specialize in baked goods as well as high-end chocolates and confections. I’m getting ready to launch a whole new line of products; some beverages. I have a coffee drink coming out. I also have some honey that’s coming out that I’m really excited about. It’s locally sourced. I try to pull in that sort of sustainability, experience that I had in California and San Francisco. You know I was in the industry right about the time that Alice Water blew up. So the concept of sourcing everything within 100 miles, I really try to apply that to Mountain Medicine as best I can to get those local products. I try not to use refined sugar, and I’m very cautious about where I source my trim making sure that it’s grown properly, working with the growers to get that right precision of THC to CBD for certain products as well as just having my hand in the mix to make sure that everything from the top down is of quality going into the Mountain Medicine products.

Matthew: Now you said you have a coffee product coming out. Is that going to be a hybrid, a sativa or indica? I’m curious because I’ve often wondered what it would be like to combine a coffee drink with like a strong sativa that has an uplifting type of feeling to begin with and combine it with a coffee makes it a little more fast acting. I’m just trying to understand what’s possible in there in the coffee arena.

Jaime: That’s a really good question. Our R&D department worked really hard on this process because of that and a few other things too. We’re using a different extraction process in this and we wanted to make sure that emulsified correctly. Coffee it helps activate the THC in your system so we were very sensitive to using a hybrid. So it’s a 60/40 split on the sativa side and that sativa is a hybrid as well. So it’s got a nice uplifting feel to it, but it doesn’t add to the intensity that the caffeine will give you as well. And it’s going to be launched on the recreational side so my dosage is limited to that 10mg. So it’s just a little 10mg shooter that you can actually add to coffee or you can just drink it as a standalone beverage, either hot or cold.

Matthew: Okay. And so I’m trying to understand. Your background is with the dispensary Good Chemistry is that correct? I know you guys are related somehow or you worked there. Can you give us a little background there?

Jaime: Absolutely. I was one of the beginning members of the team in Colorado when they launched five years ago. So I played a very active role in setting up the operations from everything from the cultivation to the dispensary as well as the MIPS which is Mountain Medicine, it was sort of a sister company of Good Chemistry all owned under the one entity. So I worked in the very beginning stages getting everything up and running. I did everything from helping to hang the curtains in the dispensary to designing the dispensary as well as the inventory tracking systems. As you can imagine coming into a new industry and trying to set it up as well as trying to set up your company can be quite a mission, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

So I often explain that I went to the Harvard Business School for Marijuana. I got all the aspects of it, and I worked with a great team at Good Chemistry. They were amazing people to work with. I learned a lot, and in January of this year I decided to go out on my own, purchase Mountain Medicine as my own company and separate myself from Good Chemistry. I had taken Good Chemistry to amazing places and just kind of wanted a new challenge so to speak and to start something all on my own. So for good or bad I made the choice and here me and the billy goat hang and I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can do for it very similar to what I did for Good Chemistry.

Matthew: Great. Now do you feel like your background with dispensaries and Good Chemistry kind of puts you in their shoes when you’re approaching a dispensary that you want to carry medicine. How do you approach them differently than maybe someone else without a background in cannabis?

Jaime: Oh absolutely. That’s a great question. In Colorado it’s a very competitive environment that we dwell in. There are over 500 dispensaries in the state. The population of the state total is somewhere around three million. So that gives you an idea, or the Denver metro area is in the three million. So it gives you an idea of the small populates state with a large density of dispensaries and edibles manufacturers as well. So it’s an extremely competitive environment which actually makes it a very well educated environment. So I find the bud tenders and the dispensary owners to be extremely educated. So I approach them as business owners having the same knowledge that I have.

The great thing that I learned at Good Chemistry was having that dispensary bud tender to customer/patient relationship to really try to hone in on what markets best to the consumer and the patient. How to get the consumer or patient interested in edibles as a whole because some of them may not be familiar with usage as well as it just being a healthier alternative to smoking cannabis. So I think Good Chemistry was a huge lay out for me in that realm, and then also just having a well-knowledged industry that I work with makes it really easy for me because there’s not that sort of base 101 education that has to start.

Matthew: Yeah. You mentioned a little bit about the regulations you have to deal and you have to be adaptable like a mountain goat.

Jaime: Yes.

Matthew: There’s a dispensary here local in Boulder that’s really good and really popular and they made their own line of edibles and they were selling really well, but I talked to the Operations Manger and she said we just can’t keep up with the landscape of all the regulations around edibles. So we’re just going to buy wholesale from X, Y and Z. And I thought that was really crazy because hey, here they are people asking for edibles that they made, they were good, they were selling, but there was just too much to keep up with. Can you talk a little bit about what that means like keeping up with all these regulations and what that feels like?

Jaime: It’s constant. I mean I really channel my muse, the billy goat, when it comes time to talk about packaging because I have to be in a very centered place. It’s a constantly moving target. I mean just this last session there was new legislation that was passed that put it in the department’s hands, the Marijuana Enforcement Division that governs us in the State of Colorado. Some oversight to put regulations in place to further restrict the way edibles are packaged and sold, and it’s a constantly changing conversation in the sense that when you buy packaging at the beginning of January of this year, literally less than a year ago, my packaging will become obsolete in about six months. And from a manufacturer’s perspective we purchase our packaging in two year blocks as most manufacturers do in the sense that when you buy it in bigger bulks you’re able to get a discounted rate. So when you can’t do that you have to pay absorbent amounts in cost just in shipping alone to have smaller freights dropped just to stay ahead of the curve and make sure that you’re not sitting on additional packaging.

So the packaging requirements I find to be the most difficult and extremely helpful to the consumer all of the regulatory language that is on there, but the one piece is is that they just keep adding to the regulatory language without giving us any time to see if it actually works, and that seems to be the biggest things that we have to go through is that you know we just passed legislation two years ago. We don’t have enough data and statistics to show if that works before we seem to be changing it almost every year with different stuff coming down the pipe. It’s interesting and you know we’re a lower marginal product that’s sold. I mean flower obviously is one of the highest marginal items as well as extractions. And when you come to edibles we’re sold on the cheaper side on the medical marijuana side with a heavy amount of milligrams in it. We have really tight margins to go through. It is literally just like running a small kitchen and those are very competitive and very rough to keep going.

Matthew: So you really have to be a Swiss army knife here. You’ve got to have a really good sense of what the marketplace wants in terms of the edibles at the right milligram level. You also have to be a packaging expert and a regulatory expert and then an operations expert. Are those kind of big categories you would say?

Jaime: Absolutely. I say it all the time. I’m a lab. I’m a kitchen. I’m a manufacturing plant. I’m a distributer. I’m responsible for the deliveries of my own products. We have a sales department. We have an R&D department. There are a lot of moving pieces to being in the edibles business, and moving forward rightfully so. I mean I do appreciate and understand the regulations. The difficult part is just to keep your numbers really tight and stay afloat in the first few years so that you can get through this sort ever changing regulations. As the dust settles I do think, I’m hoping anyways, I hope when the dust settles it will be a much easier process to move through, but I mean it’s only been less than two years in terms of it being a regulated product sold recreationally. So I will say overall for the past two years for all the hiccups. I am still very grateful to be in this industry and wake up happy almost every morning. So for that I’m blessed.

Matthew: Good. Now you talked a little bit about sourcing ingredients when possible in 100 mile radius. How else do you approach ingredients? I mean when you’re creating a new edible do you just have something that pops into your mind. Are you saying hey, something with caramel. I mean how does the whole process start when you’re creating an edible that you think will do well?

Jaime: Well unfortunately I have a chef’s mentality. So I think about it in terms of what looks lovely and delicious and good in my mind and then put that to market. There are a lot of different moving pieces to that. So I actually have an R&D department and I have a gentleman that runs it. I come up with the ideas and he figures out how to streamline it into mass production. And it’s actually a really beautiful system that we have. I don’t launch a product often. When I do it’s usually, this will be the first time that I’ve launched new products in almost two and a half years.

And we developed these products over a period of nine months. So there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into it to fine tuning the recipe, to making sure that the THC and CBD and cannabinoid profiles are broken down correctly and we’re getting consistent test results as well as making sure that this product can be packaged. You know it’s very wonderful to think about a beautiful, you know, cupcake but when it comes time to figure out how to get that into child resistant packaging out goes the cupcake because it’s virtually impossible. So my R&D guy thinks along those lines. He thinks packaging first. I think product first and we somehow meet in the middle. It’s just a perfect synergy that we have. He’s my rational R&D guy, I’m the creative one.

Matthew: Do you feel limited at all about the milligram dosage limits on the rec side? Do you feel like that limits your creativity or ability to do things? How do you feel about that in general?

Jaime: No, I actually embrace the limited milligram dosage on the recreational side specifically just because this product has been on the medical side for so long those patients have an understanding of milligram dosage and all of that. And then there’s also the process in place for recreational where you’re dealing with a lot of novice consumers, and with those novice consumers you really have to educate them on going slow and low and making sure that they have a really good experience on our products otherwise they won’t come back to enjoy them again. So I completely support a low milligram dosage on the recreational side. I do not support it on the medical side for various reasons and one being mainly that we’re talking about a medical marijuana patient who’s trying to manage an extreme amount of pain or needs a lot of this medicine in their system constantly. So it’s not as necessary on the medical side, but on the recreational side I find it to be very helpful and a good way to message to the country as well in terms of how this product can be launched safely and effectively.

Matthew: Great point. And to give listeners a sense of context here 10mg is the limit per edible in the recreational side of a dispensary, but a medical dispensary it could be ten times that or you know 50 times that. It can be, I don’t know, is there a limit on the medical side, I don’t know.

Jaime: There isn’t. Yeah there’s no limit. And there is a limit on the rec side is 100mg totally but they have to be individually packaged in 10mg dosage. And on the medical side, again which I think is very important, is that there is no limit and rightfully so. And generally in my business I sell anywhere between 100 to 250mg. I don’t go above that and it intends to be around that 100mg sweet spot that seems to be what consumers and patients seem to purchase the most of.

Matthew: So you have a fun way of categorizing the dosage that relates back to the mountain goat. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jaime: I’m glad you picked up on that actually. I thought it was very creative. Obviously being in a state that is now recreational where we don’t just have to market to the medical marijuana patient we were giving a great opportunity to market and brand a little bigger than we ever thought we could. And with that I wanted to have some fun with the mountain goat but also have it a fun, educational sort of jumping off point. So I categorized my milligram dosages into four categories. It’s the rookie grazer, the veteran and then the old goat. And it goes along the line if you’re a rookie grazer you should start around that 5mg, wait 2 hours and see how you feel. If you’re a veteran you can jump up to that 10 to 15 even possibly 20 spot. And then when you get to the old goat we suggest a 20 to 25mg dosage. So it’s just a fun way to educate the consumer on milligram dosage. I also use a pretty crafty tagline that I like very much that’s the “Don’t Graze and Drive” just to educate everybody to make sure that they consume these products safely and don’t get behind the wheel. So I like to plug the mountain goat in wherever I can as an educational tool.

Matthew: Now which of your edibles is the most popular? What sells the best?

Jaime: Ah the most popular product that I have is the chocolate dipped pretzel. That one has just been a staple of ours for quite some time. It’s dipped with a dark Belgian chocolate that we outsource as well as there’s something to be said about that sweet and savory element. So that is my number one product on the medical side. And on the recreational side I offer four product lines right now and they’re the high-end chocolates and they’re little chocolate discs. And my popular on that side too is that sea salt chocolate. So I have salty and savory on both sides sort of winning out all the other edibles.

Matthew: Yeah and you got some crunch there. I feel like if something has a fat flavor, sweet, salty and crunch it’s like there’s a tractor beam pulling me in and I can’t. There’s no way.

Jaime: And that right there is how I have my creative process. What tastes good, feels good. I mean so it’s really thinking about a fat kid, what you like to eat I think.

Matthew: How have you seen edibles evolve over the last couple of years and where you do you think they’re going in the next couple years? I mean we touched on packaging a little bit, but edibles themselves how do you feel like it’s where you were and where you’re going to? How is it going to contrast?

Jaime: Well I think it’s a really exciting time to be in this industry overall. Obviously it is growing all the time. So being involved in it on the ground up is very exciting in any of these industries, but the edibles especially because what we’ve noticed in the State of Colorado is there’s an increase in sales recreationally speaking on edible consumption where flower and cannabis smoking on the medical side is still a very popular item for the patient to consume. So what we’ve seen is that the novice consumer and the recreational consumer wants to eat the product rather than smoke, and I think that opens us wide open to an untapped market that maybe never has had access to this or even though about consuming it. So I see the market growing for edibles manufacturers and demand. And I think that’s a pretty exciting for us at Mountain Medicine. In the next couple of years I think it will just grow even more. I think that the science behind it will help us also and I think we’ll see more tightly controlled, extracted cannabinoid edibles coming out on the market here soon if not already and pretty genius branding the marketing coming out too just from what I’ve seen in Colorado.

Matthew: Do you mean the ability to dial in at a more surgical level, maybe the terpene profile and the strains and so forth combining into a unique blend for your product?

Jaime: Absolutely and I explained this like ten years ago because I was involved in this industry when it was just a movement, before it was even an industry. We were all fighting for something we believed in. And so much of that has changed. In the beginning stages I mean we couldn’t even get people to talk with us you know attorneys, accountants, you know nobody would touch us. Now that it’s become a viable industry we have access to so many intelligent people that do this in other industries. So I’m really excited about being able to tap into that.

As you know I sit on NCIA which is the National Cannabis Industry Association and I’m also the chair of it and we have been having these conversations about setting forth industry standards and testing standards and moving forward with this sort of overall standards and with that we’ve been approached by various companies to how they can help us; from testing companies to manufacturing companies. So I think just having access to smarter people than ourselves or people that we weren’t actually able to have access to in the past, they’re going to help us pull this industry even further along than it already is and the cannabinoids and the terpenes, with the sciences that can come on and the extraction operators. I mean I think it will be very exciting actually.

Matthew: Now earlier this year in June you were at the ArcView Group Cannabis Investor Forum in Denver and you hosted a very popular cannabis cooking class for ArcView members. Can you tell us about that?

Jaime: I can. I was really excited because I thought I was actually going to do the cooking demo, but instead I actually gave a really amazing sort of open forum conversation around a light explanation about what edibles look like in the State of Colorado. And I went from everything from compliance to packaging and a lot of what I took from ArcView I incorporated into my conversation with people that joined us around the marketing and branding of products because as we know that’s really become a big thing that a lot of companies are paying attention to. So we focused a lot on how companies are marketing and branding in the edibles realm and how they’re marketing and branding in the extraction world as well to really get their products out to the consumer. And a lot of those questions that came from the crowd were around that in terms of how companies were branding, how companies were marketing and packing requirements and restrictions were also a hot topic as well.

Matthew: Jaime, how can listeners learn more about Mountain Medicine and find your edibles?

Jaime: Well if they are over the age of 21 in the State of Colorado they should most certainly go to my website which is www.mountainmeds.com and from there we have a location on the webpage that shows you all the 120 dispensaries that we are located in to get access to the recreational. And if they are a medical marijuana patient, they can do the exact same thing on the website to find out where our products are sold.

Matthew: Great. Well Jaime thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and educating us. We really appreciate it.

Jaime: Thank you very much for your time. Always a pleasure.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www.cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on www.cannainsider.com, simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com We would love to hear from you.
Some quick disclosures and disclaimers, me your host works with the ArcView Group and promotional consideration may or may not be given to CannaInsider for the ads placed in the show. Also please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

Key Takeaways:
[2:07] – What is Mountain Meds
[3:16] – Jaime explains how she got started in the culinary and cannabis space
[5:20] – Jaime talks about the evolving cannabis market in Denver
[6:40] – Jaime talks about some of the edibles at Mountain Medicine
[9:09] – Jaime discusses working with Good Chemistry
[10:50] – Approaching dispensaries about marketing her brand
[12:51] – Keeping up with the regulations around edibles
[16:33] – Creating a new edible
[20:02] – Jaime talks about how she categorizes dosages
[21:18] – Jaime talks about her most popular edibles
[22:36] – The evolution and future of edibles
[25:24] – Hosting a cooking class at the ArcView Group Cannabis Investor Forum
[26:25] – Mountain Medicine’s contact details

Learn more at:
http://mtnmeds.com/

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