Never mind that you probably do it all the time. It's still illegal to bring cannabis across state lines. That's true even if it's legal in both states.
But Botanica's Lena Davidson isn't trying just to bring cannabis from Washington to Oregon. She's trying to bring over a whole multi-brand edibles company. Botanica is one of the biggest edibles companies in Washington, with products in 250 stores including Mr. Moxey's Mints, the highest selling solid edible in the state. But until recently, those mints were pretty much unknown in Oregon, and illegal to sell.
Plenty of companies and dispensaries have brought their brands into Oregon from elsewhere, of course—including familiar brands like Colorado-founded OpenVape cartridges. But it's complicated: Creating a multi-state brand means building virtually an entirely new company in a new state. And in Oregon at least, it also means forming a small amount of co-ownership with a resident of our state.
These fraternal companies are often wildly different, due to the unique legislative approaches from state to state, and from city to city. And companies already well-established in other states are stuck in the odd position of suddenly being the new kid on a very well-established block—a situation similar to Modern Times or Melvin Brewing trying to break into competitive Oregon taplists.
"We were learning as we went in Washington," says Davidson, who says Botanica jumped at every opportunity and ended up with too large a variety of products. "Our current challenge is paring down the brands and products to exactly what works. In Oregon, we are starting small with what we know works best."
That's Mr. Moxey's Mints, an Altoid-like selection of THC- and CBD-infused herbal pastilles in flavors ranging from peppermint to ginger. Davidson's had enough time here to notice we don't have anything quite like it yet. The mints contain other ingredients they call "herbal allies," like ginkgo leaf for focus and echinacea root to boost immunity.
"I'm interested in getting people to think differently about cannabis," Davidson asserts, "We all just bought pot before. You gave someone $40 and they came back with pot, and that was it."
But now the company is having to adapt a new approach in Oregon. During the purgatory of application processing for city permits while putting together the Portland Botanica company, Davidson took note of the tight relationship between cannabis producers and legislators in our state—and the lack of hard limits on the number of dispensaries.
"Cannabis in Oregon is more mature, your community has the wisdom of an older medical law. I do think Portland has the most vibrant cannabis market anywhere I've seen," says Davidson. "The city of Seattle has 50 recreational pot shops, while the Portland area is home to around 148. I think, like bars, there's room for dives and super-articulated bars with seasonal offerings. There should always be a neighborhood pot shop as well as a 'museum of cannabis' experience."
But she also noted that many Oregonians are still driving north for Vancouver pick-ups, something that should be troubling to anybody looking to grow Oregon's industry—especially with Oregon's tight potency regulations on edibles.
As we see big buyouts of farms like Chalice by Golden Leaf Holdings—a publicly traded Canadian extract company that already owns Golden XTRX and Proper Oil—concerns are very real that Oregon cannabis could lose out to fast-food-style corporatization. At least for now, though, companies like Botanica are showing how out-of-state brands can try to join our community without erasing it.
"We know we're considered a bigger player in Washington, but Botanica doesn't grow cannabis. We source from small local farms, visiting each one and making a real connection," Davidson says. "Our origin story begins in Seattle, but now we're building an Oregon company."