When it comes to medical marijuana, Oklahoma is unlike any other state in the country, with nearly 10,000 active business licenses and 325,000 registered patients, more per capita than anywhere in the United States.
And because of a decidedly lax regulatory structure and easy licensing process, the upstart industry has a personality all its own.
Much like the state industry in which it operates, Hicksford Farms was built to be a different type of company, a family-run business that takes pride in traveling off the beaten path — a philosophy perhaps symbolized by the classic Toyota Landcruiser posted at the front of the company’s property.
“We’re alternative, not just for the sake of being different, but because our heart’s in a different place,” says marketing manager Brett Hicks, who helps run the company’s dispensary, CannaMed, while her husband, Jory Hicks, manages the cultivation side. “In order to bring that kind of vibe to Oklahoma, we’re not trying to beat anybody. There’s no competition for us because we’re trying to do something different than Oklahoma has ever seen.”
Hicksford Farms is a joint venture between the Hicks family and the Crawford family, started in September 2018, just as the state’s medical marijuana program was getting off the ground.
That family atmosphere is central to everything the company does.
“Not every single person in this business shares our blood, but what we do share is this care for the people that we are bringing the product to,” Brett says. “I always say that our family grows this stuff for ourselves. We’re not going to be selling you product that we don’t stand behind completely. It’s really important for our customers to know that we’re not just trying to make a quick buck.”
Situated on a 10-acre property with multiple buildings, Hicksford Farms currently has 7,000 square feet of cultivation space, including three flowering rooms that use LEDs.
Despite growing hydroponically, the company takes a “less is more” approach to nutrient inputs, puts extra attention to detail with the drying and curing and aims to be as sustainable as possible.
Jory says he always wants to explore new ways of growing, rather than sticking with a proven formula.
“Everything we’re doing is kind of quirky and different,” he says. “We’re not trying to keep up with the times, we’re trying to make new times.”
The initial plan was to sell cannabis both through its own dispensary and wholesale throughout the state. But since CannaMed opened, the demand has been too great. The company currently sells all 120 pounds it produces each month through its own storefront, generating between $200,000 and $300,000 a month in revenue. Plans are in place to expand both the cultivation and processing facilities, as well as the dispensary sales floor.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Jory says. “Oklahoma is going crazy.”
CannaMed is located in the small town of Calera, in Bryan County, just 10 miles north of the Texas border. It’s not far from the Choctaw Casino & Resort, so Texas tourists often wander in, hoping for the day when Oklahoma transitions to an adult-use market.
The dispensary was designed to have the feel of a vintage family pharmacy, back in the days when doctors would make house calls and spend time learning about patients and their ailments.
The CannaMed staff “make every person feel like they’re coming into their own local pharmacy,” Jory says.
Inside the shop, all the fixtures and shelving were hand-built and designed by members of the family.
“We didn’t want to just get something off Amazon, you know?” Jory says.
Oklahoma is known as one of the most conservative states in the country, but Jory says there must have been “a lot of underground weed smokers,” because the registered patient base grew so quickly.
“People were ready for it,” he says. “It’s really ramped up in recent months.”
The state’s come-one-come-all approach with licensing has created a tremendous opportunity for newcomers to the cannabis space, but also an unprecedented level of competition.
“Everyone opened a dispensary a year ago. Everyone and their dog,” Jory jokes.
Regulations that most states implemented from their launch, such as lab testing and traceability, are slowly being brought to fruition in Oklahoma.
“We’ve always wanted to do it on the up and up, even before it was regulated,” Brett says.
And while the state is yet to see a cannabis crash, the Hickses says they’re seeing businesses start to fail. They’ve seen growers call it quits, dispensaries close up shop and investors abandon their green rush dreams.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have been the tipping point for many businesses teetering on survival, they say.
“This is a really hard time to be a business in the United States,” Brett says. “There are no exceptions. Cannabis is not an exception, and Oklahoma is definitely not an exception.”
But Hicksford Farms and its subsidiaries have continued to thrive by staying the course and keeping its mission and values intact. And as the novelty of medical marijuana has worn off, shoppers have elevated their expectations.
In a state where $50 ounces can be found with regularity, CannaMed held firm to its $275 ounce, despite gaining as a reputation as being “the expensive spot.”
Brett says it’s been a process to educate consumers why they’re paying more for Hicksford Farms product, explaining their philosophy on sustainability and putting a premium on “clean” cannabis.
“We knew from the very beginning that we weren’t going to be price chasing people to the bottom,” Brett says. “The businesses that will survive are the ones, I believe, that are on that train of wellness, of whole foods, of understanding why your body reacts to certain things and understanding how to make your life better with what you consume, including cannabis.”