More recently, CBE has focused its corporate reports on large licensee consolidators, largely due to the public funding efforts of many of them. We understand that the licensed marketplace is largely still made up of smaller startups serving patients in their respective markets, and the story of Charm City Medicus, a Baltimore pharmacy that has just completed its first year, want to share operation and what works for them as they captured around 5% of the retail market share in Maryland over the past year.
Back in 2013-14 when Maryland considered and approved the launch of a regulated medical cannabis As part of the program, Bryan and Amity Hill began doing their homework to take advantage of the opportunity. The couple knew firsthand how patients can benefit from cannabis. Bryan’s father, a Naval Academy graduate and retired Navy aviator, had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in Arizona back in 2011 and was prescribed morphine and opioid products to relieve the symptoms of the disease until his senior oncology nurse suggested medical cannabis (Arizona) began her MMJ program in Year 2011) to help with the chemotherapy and radiation he received. When the Maryland application process began in 2015, they traveled to Colorado and met up with Brett Roper (a CBE friend who passed away last holiday season), the Williams family, and Medicine Man Technology, with whom they were contracted to help with their application submitted on November 9, 2015 for a retail license.
Bryan attended Randolph Macon on an academic scholarship and started on the baseball team every 4 years to split the time between first base and catch. He has a degree in economics and also studied abroad in England. 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 public procurement before starting his own IT and logistics support firm in 2010.
When Maryland placed contracts in December 2016, the Hill’s were one of 102 licenses issued. During phase 1 of the procurement process, Bryan began the so-called education process, met with legislators and leaders of community associations and participated in their events to raise the stigma surrounding cannabis in general at the Blue-Collar-Dundalk / Sparrows-Point they operate -Community dismantles target as a location for the Charm City Medicus (CCM) pharmacy. The community had been badly hit by the opioid crisis, and their work was designed to convince the community that they weren’t just a bunch of beaters, that their patients weren’t drug addicts, and that the pharmacy would work as a professional, strictly regulated company and not like local methadone clinics that the community was uncomfortable with.
They outlined and reviewed the Maryland patient card program, the products they would distribute, and the qualifying conditions they would meet. They expressed their plans to operate a tight ship that would be open to all qualified patients in a family-run setting. At one of these meetings, they happened to meet Nora Baublitz, president of the Berkshire Community Association, who introduced them to the owner of the building where CCM would ultimately live, along with a letter of confirmation for the location to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). .
They started demo work in July 2017, designing their pharmacy a little bit from other stores they’d visited. The design included a security-manned entry point leading to a welcoming space where patients could comfortably wait 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 may be domed) outside of operating hours). CCM opened its business for patients on January 19, 2018 with the aim of providing high quality medicines at affordable prices and treating all patients like family members. Clinical Director Steve Seidel, a locally licensed pharmacist, and the father of a son who died of his opioid addiction, has proven to be a successful formula at CCM.
In addition to the early supply issues, CCM faced several challenges along the way. There were issues with METRC, the state’s seed-to-sale solution, which interacted with the Greenbits point-of-sale solution used by CCM. Greenbits dropped nationwide on April 20th last year.
CCM had a local banking solution, Severn Savings Bank, but about 20% of their suppliers didn’t. CCM had to pay for these suppliers’ product deliveries in cash.
The product lineup includes flowers, oils, concentrates, and consumables (usually referred to as infused products or foods, but Maryland government regulations are vague about their intake). They use social media and billboards to promote CCM (they had a very prominent billboard on I-95N just before the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, which I passed on my trip from Washington DC), with Instagram being their main source for that Drawing is from patients who have come from as far away as Maryland Eastern Shore and Hagerstown, MD for medicine.
They have built an extensive patient database driving a member loyalty program, and CCM was the first MD pharmacy to give veterans a 22% discount (22 is the estimated number of veterans who commit suicide each day).
Since Bryan takes on the business side and Amity takes on the “southern hospitality”, the couple employs 28 full and part-time employees and has so far had very little turnover. You pay 100% of full-time employee benefits, including health, dentistry, and eyesight.
Bryan also serves on the board of directors of the Maryland Medical Dispensary Association as Director of Government Relations, which puts him in an excellent position to keep abreast of future commission decisions that could affect their business. He stated that the commission and licensees have developed 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 many anomalies related to the lack of award winners and preference for minority businesses were discussed were.
There are still 30 retailers that haven’t opened in Maryland. The legislator is intensively examining several retailers who are under management contracts. The original program only allowed one license per awardee. Licensed pharmacies are not allowed to sell their stores for 2 years. CCM received their completed license in December 2017.
Ultimately, if multiple locations are allowed, CCM would be keen to expand its presence in Maryland and is also tracking developments in North & South Carolina and Virginia that would fit their model of operation in the Mid Atlantic.
As a volume operator, CCM buys in large quantities and moves products in advertising cycles such as the one-year anniversary celebration last weekend. Since the state issues 4 new producer licenses and 7 new processor licenses, there should be a sufficient range of products for each increased number of patients.
Bryan shares with CBE that he and his wife are seeing a 20% increase in sales in 2019 based on their monthly sales and revenue flow. We look forward to checking back in at the end of the year to monitor the progress of CCM and Maryland’s medical marijuana program, and to see how mom and pop stores like CCM are doing. So far, so good!
Background information on Cannabis Business Executive
Name of the company: Charm City Medicus
Founding year: January 2018
Ownership structure / operational units: GMBH
Bryan and Amity Hill (owners)
Steve Seidel (clinical director)
717 North Point Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21224
Industry segment / category: Dispensary retailers
Current markets / states: Maryland
Number of locations: 1
Number of licenses by state: Maryland (1)
Current number of employees: 28
Market strategy / goal: Providing high quality medicines at affordable prices; Treat patients like family members
Sales 2017: Market launch at the end of 2017
Turnover 2018: The estimated first 12 months of sales have more than doubled
Expansion plans: Partnering in Maryland and other states
Financing strategy: Personal and Private equity financing