By Omar Sacirbey
Ted Rebholz was offered a high-level position at Harborside Health Center, but he turned it down to stay with a tech firm that was later sold to Cisco Systems.
Crossing paths with Harborside piqued Rebholz’s interest in the cannabis industry, paving the way for him to start a licensed MMJ business in New Hampshire.
Rebholz’s company, Temescal Wellness, owns two of New Hampshire’s four state-allotted dispensaries.
Rebholz – who once toyed with the idea of working in the public sector for an institution like the World Bank – is expanding his medical cannabis operations along the East Coast. He’s won preliminary grower and processor licenses in Maryland, and he is well along the way to getting final dispensary licenses in Massachusetts.
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
That interaction with Harborside definitely opened my eyes to the fact that companies in the legal cannabis industry, if they do their job well, provide significant societal impact by providing a plant-based alternative therapy.
Every single day, if we do our jobs as legal cannabis companies, if we do it transparently, and with integrity, and with the public and the patients’ interests in mind, we are turning back the stigma.
How would you describe the New Hampshire market so far?
The biggest frustration for patients and for the program is the backlog of patient applications. The New Hampshire statute requires the state to respond to patients within 20 days, but it’s taking double that. We knew this was going to be a road bump a year ago, and brought this to the state’s attention and offered to pay to help improve patient accessibility.
It’s odd that it’s entirely paper-based, and that patients can only submit their photos on CD-ROM. I can’t remember the last time my laptop had a CD-ROM.
They acknowledged that other jurisdictions have easier ways of registering patients, but they haven’t acted.
What’s the fix for that problem?
There needs to be an online portal where patients can provide all of the information that the state requires. There doesn’t need to be a change in the amount of information provided by patients, it just needs to be done using technology that we all use day in and day out.
That’s not only going to improve patient accessibility, it’s also going to improve the efficiency of the government agency and make life easier for them. This would be a clear improvement and our offer to provide resources to help the state improve that still stands.
Do you think the patient pool in New Hampshire is sufficient enough to sustain dispensaries?
I think that even in its form today that it’s a very sustainable program. But one issue is that to become a qualifying patient you have to have both a condition and symptom. Initially, when the law was drafted, it was either-or. But lawmakers changed that because of lobbying by the state medical association. Lawmakers need to change that back. Some lawmakers are aware that would improve patient accessibility.
The state also sees that we need to expand the list of conditions. They’ve added colitis already, but unfortunately Gov. Maggie Hassan said no to post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Maryland, how have all the delays affected your business?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the process of selection. And that’s no surprise. In every state where you have a competitive, merit-based program like we have in Maryland there are going to be folks with licenses and folks left out in the cold.
The folks who did not win, understandably, might have things to say about that. Those discussions I expect will be ongoing, but they have not resulted in any delays so far. We are continuing with our rollout as quickly as possible.
What phase are you in now in Maryland?
We don’t have our facilities built yet. But we do expect to be able to start employing people and producing medicine in the first half of 2017 with the intention of serving patients before the end of 2017.
What are the keys to making a vertically integrated medical marijuana company successful?
There are several challenges. You have to have a broader array of experience than if you were focused on just one part of the value chain.
You also have to be able to raise a lot more money than if you were to focus on just one part of the value chain. So it’s showing expertise to win the licenses, being able to raise the capital, and then designing and executing day-in and day-out.
Are you currently looking to expand into any other states?
Absolutely. We intend to apply for licenses in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And, depending on how things go in November, we may apply for licenses in Maine and Florida.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Omar Sacirbey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org