Hillary Peckham, chief operating officer, Etain
Photo courtesy of Etain

At the end of March, New York legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older. Lawmakers approved a bill that establishes a new regulatory body, the Office of Cannabis Management, to oversee the new adult-use program, in addition to the existing medical and hemp markets. However, much of the regulatory framework has yet to be decided, leaving the 10 existing medical cannabis companies operating in the state in limbo. Cannabis Business Times spoke with Hillary Peckham, chief operating officer of Etain, a women- and family-owned medical cannabis operator with a cultivation facility and four dispensaries in New York, to get her take on the bill and the company’s plans to move into the adult-use market.

Michelle Simakis: What aspects of New York’s adult-use cannabis bill that have been outlined so far do you like? What are your concerns?

Hillary Peckham: I think it’s really incredible they have passed legislation with an initiative for diverse business ownership. That’s something we really support, especially trying to foster small business social equity licenses and MWBEs [minority- or women-owned business enterprises].

Things we are looking out for would be ensuring that there’s a commitment to the medical program’s success after legalization starts, because [in] most states you see the medical program decline or basically go away.

MS: Do you plan to transition into the adult-use market?

HP: Yes. We are still waiting on details on what that’s going to look like. We can add four more stores. Two [stores] need to be in underserved areas, and there’s no definition for that. We’re still trying to figure out what that means and where we can site.

MS: What would you like to see as the medical program transitions and adult use launches?

HP: Making the medical changes as soon as possible will really have a positive impact on the program and start to expand it, which will help drive scaling, and get more patients in the medical program and give more access. Right now, the thing that we are really just anxious about but can’t really comment on is regulation, or how this is going to work. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that I think have left everybody in limbo.

MS: What is the first step you are taking to adjust your business (both cultivation and retail) to cater to an adult-use market and most likely increased demand?

HP: One of the biggest changes to the medical market that will be relevant in adult use is that we [will be able to] sell whole flower, which is the most requested product we’ve had since the beginning of the program. From an operations standpoint, on the back end, [we need] to build out additional cultivation square footage and invest in more equipment for different product forms because in adult-use, there’ll be more allowable forms, like edibles, that we don’t currently have in the medical program.

MS: What challenges do you anticipate in the transition?

HP: It’s our intention to stay women-owned and scale the business, and just figuring out how to do both. Because scaling takes access to capital, and we are trying to figure out our next steps in how to accomplish that.

MS: As only one of 10 cannabis companies operating in the state now, how are you positioning your business to get ready for increased competition?

HP: We just initiated and launched a total rebrand of the company. We reformulated all of our products and the packaging and just started launching that March 1. We opened our flagship Manhattan store in August, so we’ve started to establish more of a footprint and branded materials. We also have a lot of experience that we can leverage that will be helpful moving forward.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the full conversation at bit.ly/cbt-etain.

Michelle Simakis is editor of Cannabis Business Times.