After ‘Reconstruction,’ MedMen Aims to Make its Mark on the New York Cannabis Market

shallow focus photography of green leaves

MedMen, a California-based retailer, understands the fickle nature of the state of cannabis in New York. 

In 2018, CEO Adam Bierman told CNBC, “I am so excited about the state of New York, there has been a lot of chatter nationally lately about legalizing marijuana… This is impossible unless the laws allow us to do what we do.”

To the original co-founders, Bierman and Andrew Modlin, the cannabis market was too lucrative not to invest in. Now, they own factories and stores across the country. In 2018, MedMen acquired medicinal cannabis distributor, PharmaCann, at a record-breaking sale of $682 million.

Bierman and Modlin began their journey of creating MedMen to destigmatize negative conceptions about cannabis. In the six states where MedMen holds a retail store — including New York — they aimed to represent cannabis’ positive aspects. In the state, they sell with a medical license to lawfully control their distribution of products. The brand showcases some of their in-house items, like their brand-owned cartridges for wellness, harmony, or sleep, as products that help patients who need this medicine.

New York is in a situation where companies can only sell cannabis to medical patients, and not in plant form. There are many rules and regulations within the state. So to have a nationwide dispensary like MedMen set up shop in the state can be representative of the plant’s future.

 

Cannabis in New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced his desire for the state to legalize the plant in 2021. After many failed attempts to legalize, he remains hopeful this time. The brightening prospects legalizing cannabis might bring can help New York thrive. 

In a press statement, Cuomo has said that, “Not only will legalizing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market provide the opportunity to generate much-needed revenue, but it also allows us to directly support the individuals and communities that have been most harmed by decades of cannabis prohibition.”

The cannabis industry is seeing record high sales across the country amidst the current novel coronavirus pandemic. In September 2020, for example, cannabis sales increased 38% from 2019, according to BDSA — an industry intelligence platform. 

If legalized in 2021 in New York, the state could see an increased tax revenue of $300 million per year, according to Cuomo’s State of the State address. 

 

MedMen’s Rocky Road to Success

MedMen has been a dominant force in the cannabis industry in the U.S. But at some point in 2019, there were claims of unethical practices against the corporate divisions of the company. A scandal began to brew when former MedMen CFO, James Parker, filed a lawsuit against the company’s cofounders, Bierman and Modlin, for discrimination and inappropriate language.

According to MJ Biz Daily, Parker’s lawsuit stated that, “Over time, working at MM Enterprises evolved from miserable to intolerable. By way of example, CEO Bierman and President Modlin’s persistent and pervasive misconduct during the term of Mr. Parker’s written agreement was offensive and at times unlawful.” 

Parker accused the founders of making racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments. The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) stripped MedMen of their partnership. Because of the accused behavior, they and no longer consider MedMen part of the organization. 

The NYMCIA and its members push to legalize cannabis recreationally. That’s still their goal, but MedMen is just no longer a part of it. 

The ParmaCann acquisition was upended and reversed in 2019. So MedMen’s goal to bring their inclusive views of the plant to a nationwide audience was no longer achievable by those means. 

Following that failed transaction, MedMen finances began to struggle. This resulted in the original CEO, Adam Bierman, stepping down amid a financial crisis within the company, according to a press release from MedMen. 

Due to varying lawsuits, financial struggles, and the exit of a few executives, MedMen heavily reconstructed their brand. 

 

Restorative Justice in The Cannabis Industry 

The recent social justice movement in America has brought to the forefront the prejudice that is holding BIPOC communities in an immovable position.

Moving forward, MedMen has committed to spending  $1 million per year to showcase Black and Brown brands. They also pledge to give a portion of their sales to minority-founded organizations. 

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) 2020 report found that Black Americans are 3.64 times more likely to be charged for unlawful cannabis possession. More specifically, the ACLU stated, “In 2018, 567 black people per 100,000 were arrested for marijuana possession, compared to 156 white people per 100,000.” 

MedMen has had a rocky past. Whether its future is brighter and more equitable, remains uncertain. 

What is certain, however, is that MedMen’s internal revision is crucial for the representation of cannabis. And in New York where recreational use is currently prohibited, yet common, this company must show itself to be a worthy vendor of something the state is still fairly skeptical about. 

 

Emerald contributor since January 2021
I'm a graduating senior at CUNY Hunter College studying English and journalism. I've been studying journalistic practices with well-established professors in the journalism space in New York City. With Emerald's editing team, I aim to provide readers with accurate and unbiased information regarding the cannabis industry.

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