Recently, CBE has focused its company stories on large licensee consolidators primarily due the public funding efforts of many of them. We recognize that the licensed marketplace is still, for the large part, composed of smaller start-ups that are serving patients in their respective markets and wanted to share the story of Charm City Medicus, a Baltimore dispensary that has just completed their first year of operations, and what is working for them as they have grabbed roughly 5% of the retail market share in Maryland this past year.
Back in 2013-14, as Maryland considered and approved starting a regulated medical cannabis program, Bryan and Amity Hill began doing their homework in consideration of the opportunity. The married couple had first-hand knowledge of how patients could benefit from cannabis; Bryan’s father, a Naval Academy graduate and retired naval aviator, had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer back in 2011 while living in Arizona and had been prescribed morphine and opioid products for relief of the ailment’s symptoms until his lead oncology nurse suggested medical cannabis (Arizona started their MMJ program back in 2011) to help with the chemotherapy and radiation treatments he was receiving. When the Maryland application process began in 2015, they traveled to Colorado and met with Brett Roper (a CBE friend who passed away over this past holiday season), the Williams family and Medicine Man Technology who they contracted with to help with their application which was submitted November 9, 2015 for a retail license.
Bryan attended Randolph Macon on an academic scholarship and started all 4 years on the baseball team splitting time between first base and catching. He graduated with a degree in business and economics and studied abroad in England as well. He and Amity, who graduated from Hollins College in Roanoke, VA with a degree in history, have been married for 14 years. After graduating, Bryan worked in government contracting before starting his own IT & logistics support firm in 2010.
When Maryland awarded contracts in December of 2016, the Hill’s were one of the 102 licenses granted. During phase 1 of the award process, Bryan began what he called the education process, meeting with legislators and community association leaders and attending their events to break down the stigma surrounding cannabis in general in the blue-collar Dundalk/Sparrows Point community that they had targeted as the location for their Charm City Medicus (CCM) dispensary. The community had been hard hit from the opioid crisis, and they had their work cut out for them convincing the community that they weren’t a couple of potheads, that their patients wouldn’t be a bunch of drug addicts and that the dispensary would operate as a professional, tightly regulated business and not like local methadone clinics that the community was uncomfortable with.
They outlined and reviewed the Maryland patient card program, products that they would distribute and the qualifying conditions that they would serve. They expressed their plans to run a tight ship that would be open to all qualified patients in a family run environment. In one of those meetings, they fortuitously met Nora Baublitz, President of the Berkshire community association who introduced them to the owner of the building that CCM would ultimately reside in along with an endorsement letter for the site to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC).
They began demo work in July of 2017 and designed their dispensary taking a little from other shops that they had visited. The design featured a security manned entry point leading to a welcoming room where patients could wait comfortably for their one on one consultation which would take place in a separate room where products were available during operating hours (MD law requires all cannabis related products to be vaulted during non-operating hours). CCM opened their shop to patients on January 19, 2018 with the goal of providing quality medicine at affordable prices and treating all patients like family. Bringing in clinical director Steve Seidel, a local licensed pharmacist, and the father of a son that died from his opioid addiction, has proven to be a successful formula with CCM.
In addition to the early supply issues, CCM has faced a few challenges along the way. There were problems with METRC, the state’s seed-to-sale solution, interacting with the point-of-sale solution, Greenbits, that CCM employed. Greenbits actually went down nationally on 4/20 last year.
CCM had a local banking solution out of the gate, Severn Savings bank, but about 20% of their suppliers did not, requiring CCM to pay for product deliveries from those vendors in cash.
Their product offerings includes flower, oils, concentrates and consumables (typically called infused products or edibles but Maryland’s regulatory statutes are vague regarding their inclusion). They use social media and billboards to promote CCM (they had a very prominent billboard on I-95N just before the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel that I passed on the trip up from Washington DC), with Instagram being their top source for drawing patients who have come from as far away as the Maryland Eastern Shore and Hagerstown, MD for the medicine.
They have built an extensive patient database that drives a membership loyalty program and CCM was the first MD dispensary to offer a 22% discount to veterans (22 is the estimated number of veterans that commit suicide each day).
With Bryan handling the business side and Amity the “southern hospitality” environment, the husband wife team has a staff of 28 full and part-time employees and, to date, very little turnover. They pay 100% of full-time employee benefits which include health, dental and vision.
Bryan also serves on the board of the Maryland Medical Dispensary Association as their Director of Government Relations which puts him in a great position to stay abreast of future commission decisions that could have an effect on their business. He expressed that the commission and licensees have had a strong partnership to date, a far cry from the turmoil that surrounded the Medical Marijuana Industry in the state during the licensing phase when lots of irregularities were debated regarding the lack of minority business awardees and favoritism.
There are still some 30 odd retailers that have yet to open in Maryland. The legislature is looking hard at multiple site retailers that are under management contracts; the original program allowed for only one license per awardee. Licensed dispensaries are not allowed to sell their businesses for 2 years, CCM received their completed licensure in December of 2017.
If multiple locations are ultimately allowed, CCM would be interested in expanding their footprint in Maryland and are also following developments in North & South Carolina as well as Virginia that would fit their model to operate in the Mid-Atlantic.
As a volume operator, CCM buys in bulk and moves product around promotion cycles like this past weekend’s one year anniversary celebration. With the state awarding 4 new growers licenses and 7 new processor licenses, there should be ample product supply for any expanded patient counts.
Bryan tells CBE that he & his wife see revenues increasing in 2019 by 20% based on their monthly sales and revenue flow. We look forward to checking back-in at year-end to monitor the progress of CCM and Maryland’s medical marijuana program and how mom & pop shops like CCM are faring. So far so good!
Cannabis Business Executive Background Information
Company Name: Charm City Medicus
Year Founded: January 2018
Ownership structure/operating entities: LLC
Bryan and Amity Hill (owners)
Steve Seidel (Clinical Director)
717 North Point Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21224
Industry Segment/Category: Dispensary Retailer
Current Markets/States Served: Maryland
Number of Locations: 1
Number of Licenses by State: Maryland (1)
Current Number of employees: 28
Market Strategy/Goal: Provide quality medicine at affordable prices; treat patients like family members
2017 Revenues: Market launched end of 2017
2018 Revenue: More than doubled estimated first 12 months of revenue
Expansion Plans: Partnering in Maryland as well as other states
Financing strategy: Personal and Private equity funding