Patience is key for Albert Gutierrez, CEO of the medical marijuana company MedPharm Holdings, which manufactures cannabis topicals, vaporizers and other products for medicinal use. Gutierrez says you need a lot of "patience and problem solving" to get through the many regulatory hurdles in the way of pursuing cannabis research.
"This industry has some of the biggest hurdles that you have to get over to get to that "next level" and if you aren't patient or able to solve problems over and over, this industry isn't for you. Everyone sees the money being poured into the industry and they assume it’s as easy as planting seeds and going. This industry has so many barriers and so much red tape that you have to be persistent to keep yourself going. Some days you question why you're here and others you know why. It's the life of an entrepreneur and not for the faint of heart."
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
We are focused on the research aspect more than anything. Our goal is to look a what cannabinoids, terpenes and other excipients work together to provide a solution, or relief, to an array of conditions. We have constructed a facility that contains everything from cultivation, to extraction, analytical lab and formulation lab with an USP 797 clean room. This allows us to keep develop our products in a closed loop system and ensure safety, reliability and consistency in our formulations.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
I started off in tech. Software development to be specific. I ran several projects for some large companies like, Google, Microsoft, Visa, MasterCard, ATT, Sprint, Accenture, Deloitte and many others. I moved over to the healthcare side and ran a multi-million-dollar project for a company called Healthgrades – like the yelp for doctors. At the same time, I was doing some consulting on the side and helping a gentleman by the name of Andy Williams, CEO of Medicine Man, with a software to make it easier to pull in and calculate certain data points.
Andy and I had a discussion about his need for someone to be him when he couldn’t be around as he was very busy and pulled a number of ways at that time. I told him I had interest and came to work for him soon after. Then the partners in MedPharm saw me helping to put together the pieces necessary to get it off the ground, They approached Andy and asked if it would be okay if I took over as CEO for MedPharm, and the rest is history.
Walk us through a normal day.
I’m not sure what a "normal" day means. Each day is different and exciting and energizing. I spend time focusing on the areas of the business that I know need the most attention.
I’m constantly reading new articles and research that is being done or needs to be done to advance cannabis. I sit with my scientific team normally to discuss some of the new formulations that we are developing as well as the research that supports the contents of the dosage forms. Then I check on the grow side of the house to see how our genetics are coming along and try to project for our needs. I'll sit with the sales team to get an update on revenue and determine our strategy around market share and then I get caught up on emails etc.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
The ability to make a positive impact on the lives of people suffering from ailments. Everything else is noise and comes after. When I can sit and say that our team is truly making a positive impact on people's daily lives, I will then know that we've achieved our greatest opportunity. From there, we will continue to develop new innovative ways to evolve our mission.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
Our L.E.A.F. (Lipophilic Enhanced Absorption Formula) is one thing that sets us apart from others. We are able to deliver more effective medicines that are making changes in people's lives. We are agile and can make changes rapidly based on needs and can formulate pretty much any dosage form. We have a cleanroom so that we are able to provide sterile dosage forms. We are a candidate for the bulk manufacturer license at the federal level to provide cannabis for studies. We have the facility to produce everything in-house and provide it reliably, safely and consistently.
Our team of PhD Chemists, analytical chemists, cultivators, extractors, formulators and sales engine really push us to the next level.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
There's a lot of red tape all over and it changes rapidly. It can make things frustrating. Also, the federal prohibition isn’t helping at all. We can't study the plant like we'd like because of federal prohibition and it also means that the U.S.A. will start losing market share on a global basis to other countries like Canada.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
Partner with someone who has already been in it for a while and hold on tight. You need to have thick skin for this industry.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
Every state is different so know your market well and your customers. Some areas are more focused on cheap while others are more focused on high quality. Also, know your competition. Many times, I see the same thing done over and over again. Think about how you can improve the experience.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?