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Minority Owned and Operated Medical Dispensary in the Nation’s Capital

Company Name: Metropolitan Wellness Center

Year Founded: January 2011, officially opened August 2013

Ownership Structure: Private Company Incorporated in DC

Managing Directors/Co-Owners: Mike Cuthriell, Corey Barnette

Dispensary GM, Vanessa West, Master Grower, Assistant Manager, Kathryn Rust

Headquarters: Washington, DC


Industry Segment/Category: Retailer (Medical)

Current Markets/States Served: DC

Current Number of employees: 5 FT employees, 2 PT

Market Strategy/Goal: Create a high level of customer service and a diverse, fairly priced product mix

Size of Market: 2551 registered patients

2014 Revenues: Over $500,000

# of Potential DC Customers: 40k-50k originally, no more qualifying conditions required so number could be much greater now (100k-200k now)

Number of patients registered: 2551 registered in district, 720 registered at MWC

Current Retail Product Mix: Indicas, Sativas, Hybrids

Concentrates Tinctures Trim Hash Capsules, Tea Bags, Shake, hash oil

Consumption Gear and Accessories: Vaporizers, water pipes, grinders, rolling machines etc.

Expansion Plans: Cannot open additional medical dispensaries and can’t change location, leasing space in a multi-tenant building, may be able to take additional space, if they get recreational license will be able to open new location

Financing strategy: To date from owners’ seed capital and operations


Minority Owned and Operated Medical Dispensary in the Nation’s Capital

General Manager Vanessa West, who runs the Metropolitan Wellness Center (MWC) in SE Washington DC, is no stranger to the dispensary business. She and MWC Managing Director, Corey Barnette took over and ran the San Diego Medical Collective, 1 of approximately 30 facilities in the city back in 2008 before some 200 other operations entered the market. Their approach, which is being replicated in the nation’s capital, was to combine superior customer service with the best flower mix available and to only use suppliers that could meet their demanding product specifications.

MWC and the other 2 operating dispensaries in DC (2 more coming online shortly), have faced 2 significant challenges since opening:

1.) The limited number of medical conditions (only terminal conditions) that were originally approved by the city government for treatment (that has since been removed, medical dispensaries can now treat any cardholder condition)

2.) The gradual expansion of growing limits imposed by the DC Department of Health and the limited number of currently up and running licensed producers. There are three licensed growers operating in the city as of this article, District Growers (owned and operated by Corey), Capital City Care (Producer and Medical Retailer), and Holistic Remedies. The growers can sell to any of the currently opened dispensaries but Capital City Care only produces for its dispensary making supply an issue for MWC and Takoma Wellness Center.

Undaunted, Vanessa and her team of highly trained patient service providers, (she swears she can tell within a minute whether an applicant has what she is looking for to serve patients!) currently serve about a third of DC’s medical patients (approximately 2,500) generating in excess of a million dollars in revenue on an annualized basis. Her patient specialist are certified and licensed by the DC Department of Health and Americans for Safe Access and all of the cannabis they sell is lab tested and meet pharmaceutical grade quality standards.

Their product mix includes:

  • Indicas, Sativas, Hybrids
  • Concentrates, Tinctures, Trim Hash Capsules, Tea Bags, Shake, hash oil
  • Consumption Gear and Accessories: Vaporizers, water pipes, grinders, rolling machines etc.

Local entrepreneur Mike Cuthreill, Founder and Managing Director of MWC, put together the original plan, application and team for MWC back in 2011. Mike originally funded MWC raising capital from family and friends and met Corey as the two license applicants met with communities around the district educating the public about the medical cannabis business. Mike was awarded one of the dispensary licenses and Cory received one of the cultivator licenses (he had applied for both). As the carrying costs of awaiting the dispensary to generate income, Corey injected capitol (he is now co-managing director) to help MWC weather the storm of the restrictive conditions and limited patient and product shortages faced by owners at roll-out. Mike is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the dispensary.

MWC side by side shot

Plans to expand are limited by district law, medical dispensary licensees can only expand in the original licensed location within the footprint of the current site. With the second floor of a multi-level building in SE, MWC could conceivably take over the rest of the space in years to come. They do have an inside track on gaining recreational licenses when the city figures out a way to tax and regulate adult use. Recreational dispensaries will be licensed by the DC Liquor Control Board.

The opening up of qualifying medical conditions and increase in qualified card carrying patients and the regulated increase in cultivator growth volume bodes well for first in market companies like MWC that focus on customer service and product mix. With DC Growers under Mike and Corey’s belt and oversight, MWC is a great position to control its destiny into the future.


Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher

Rob Meagher, CBE’s Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief is a 30 year veteran of the media world. His career has spanned from stints representing the Washington Post, USA Weekend, Reader’s Digest, Financial World & Corporate Finance to the technology world where he worked at International Data Group and Ziff Davis where he was part of the launch team for The Web Magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, Smart Business and Expedia Travels before starting his own marketing and Publisher’s Representative Firm. He also ran all print and online media sales and marketing for the Society for Human Resource Management before partnering with Forbes and then Fortune to create Special Sections covering a variety of topics. Rob, who started CBE Press in 2014, can be contacted at [email protected]

This Post Has One Comment
  1. This is not really a minority owned business because the major investors are not minorities and it is privately owned.

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