As more and more states adopt recreational and medical cannabis, companies that supply legal states such as Colorado, Nevada and Oregon are trying to figure out how to expand their businesses into other states when laws prohibit transporting anything containing THC across state lines.
Turns out one answer is licensing. At the recent MJBizCon in Las Vegas, hosted by Marijuana Business Daily, we caught up with Wana Brands co-owner Nancy Whiteman. Whiteman founded Wana in 2010 in Colorado when the state’s medical marijuana program got underway. The edibles company has since expanded into Nevada and Oregon and will produce in Arizona, Florida and Illinois in the coming months.
“You can’t send anything across state lines that has THC in it. But what you can do is sign licensing agreements with different companies in each state,” Whiteman explained to Elevated Nation.
“Finding a good, licensed producer in different states can be a difficult thing to do. Most states are much more restrictive than Colorado and Oregon in terms of the amount of licenses they give out,” Whiteman says. “A lot of time is devoted to trying to find the right partner.”
Wana’s market share on retail edibles in Colorado is about 20 percent, Whiteman says, with her next closest competitor at around 10 percent. “So we’re very happy,” she said.
Many people in the legal cannabis arena have a story about medical marijuana helping a loved one and inspiring them to get into the business, but Whiteman admits she’s “from the business side of things.”
“I was the VP of marketing for a large insurance company in Massachusetts. When I moved to Colorado I worked in the online space, big business. How I got into this was pretty accidental,” Whiteman confesses. “But this is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Nobody ever wrote to me in my previous career and said ‘Your product saved my life,'” Whiteman said. “‘Your product got me through chemo’, or your product got me off opioids,” she shares among the most meaningful things she has heard from patients.
Whiteman said she was attracted to edibles because she wanted a business that could scale. Wana’s biggest seller now is a vegan gummy candy that are 10 mg per serving, usually sold in packs of 10, but the company didn’t land on gummy success right away.
“Now, thanks to BDS Analytics and other companies, there is actual industry data of what’s selling, but back then there was nothing,” Whiteman says of Wana’s early days. “Everybody was just trying a bunch of stuff to see what sticks. We had a lot of products back in the day that didn’t work. People had this notion that you could infuse anything and it would sell. Salads, pizza, we made an infused beef jerky. Nobody needs to infuse everything they put in their mouths,” she said.
Wana sought shelf-stable, easy to transport products, which eliminated baked goods and drinks as categories. “By process of elimination we ended up really focusing on confections. We didn’t know gummies were going to be the giant category they have become.” Interestingly, while many gummy candies contain gelatin, Wana’s are pectin-based and vegan.