The Advocate: Jaime Lewis
This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture, on sale now online or at a store near you.
CEO |Mayflower Medicinals | Boston, Massachusetts
Drawing on her vast industry experience in Colorado, Jaime Lewis is preparing to make a splash in one of the country’s newest marijuana markets with the launch of her Massachusetts-based chain of dispensaries, Mayflower Medicinals.
Lewis has been a staunch cannabis advocate for more than 15 years, including the past nine years building Mountain Medicine into one of the more prominent edibles manufacturers in Colorado. She’s using this experience to build out the first two Mayflower Medicinals retail locations, as well as its cultivation facility, extraction lab and commercial kitchen.
“Experience is the key to all of this,” Lewis says. “It’s like being a chef: You’re always, constantly, trying to perfect a recipe, but it will never really be quite perfect.”
Massachusetts represents one of the most exciting markets in the U.S. — a nascent industry ready to awaken as soon as regulations allow. While other states have allowed the market to develop through years of medical regulations, Massachusetts expects a flashflood of marijuana businesses overnight.
“I think that in the next year, this is going to be an exciting place to watch, in terms of all the growth that is going to take place and as licensees open up,” Lewis says. “From that, I think there is going to be a lot of interesting changes in the culture and awareness in terms of cannabis being a community.”
Massachusetts currently has just 12 medical dispensaries open, according the state Department of Public Health’s website. But more than 80 businesses are ready to open in early 2018, now that progress is finally being made to finalize the implementation of its adult-use program.
Lewis says Mayflower Medicinals will plant its first seeds in mid-October. The medical dispensary is slated for a grand opening in the spring of 2018 before transitioning to include recreational sales in the summer. Plans are also in place for a third retail location.
While Lewis spent the majority of 2017 working on her Mayflower store in Boston, she technically still lives in Colorado.
Mountain Medicine was one of the first marijuana-infused producers to go recreational in Colorado. The company launched in 2009 to critical acclaim and was one of the few kitchens to remain independent as the market evolved. The company has expanded slowly and focuses on keeping overhead to a minimum. But part of its success stems from Lewis’ past life in California, where she worked as a chef before joining a co-op dispensary in 2006. It was her first experience in the cannabis industry.
She says the stark contrast between the two coasts is palpable.
“California is as far away from Boston as it could get on many levels,” Lewis says. “I joke around with my colleagues that I’m a bit lonely. I am lacking that cannabis-community piece that is so much of what we have all grown to love.”
Unlike other recreational states, only a handful of Massachusetts’ cannabis entrepreneurs have been actively involved in grassroots advocacy groups and as early medical operators.
It’s been an interesting transition for Lewis, who was born and raised in California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana. That culture of likeminded individuals who could be relied upon in difficult times — “all the women I got to work with from different companies, just huge powerhouse ladies in our support group,” she says — is an element that’s largely absent in New England right now.
But she looks forward to developing that community and the inevitable merger between the venture capitalists and the grassroots advocates to create “an industry from both sides.”
Lewis has been a force in helping unite the cannabis industry throughout the United States. In addition to an appointment on Massachusetts’ recreational rulemaking committee, she’s also one of the founders of the Cannabis Business Alliance and has been elected for a third term as the chairwoman of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
“I think the reason why I get elected into these roles is that I don’t view it as one business owner’s needs and necessities,” she says. “I really try to dive deep and think about what it means to standardize the industry as a whole.”