Epican hopes MoBay outlet will boost cannabis appeal

Epican hopes MoBay outlet will boost cannabis appeal


Sunday, May 26, 2019

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NOW that Epican, Jamaica's first legal cannabis dispensary, has opened its doors to the people of Montego Bay, St James, and its environs, officials of the company are hoping that its success will help to fertilise the growth of other entities that they plan on introducing to the market.

Epican, which is headquartered at the Marketplace business centre in St Andrew, opened its second outlet on May 16 along the Hip Strip in the western tourist city, recently renamed Jimmy Cliff Boulevard.

“Things are looking up now that we have finally managed to open the Montego Bay outlet after a delay,” stated Epican's President Dwayne McKenzie in an interview last week with the Jamaica Observer.

The outlet, officials are hoping, will fill a need for the people of the western region who are inclined to indulge in cannabis-based products.

“Our clients in the Montego Bay region will be ensured of continued high standards. It marks the end result of hard work and patience by everyone involved,” added Epican's head of marketing Jermaine Bibbons, a football player of merit. “The Montego Bay community has accepted us in the short space of time that we have opened up our doors. I'm very happy with the response of the community as a whole, but more so from the hotel sector and the business sector,” Bibbons continued.

The move was in keeping with the company's plan to go into Montego Bay and then Negril, which should come within eight months from now. “After we go into Negril, we will analyse the business and look at how we can expand,” McKenzie said.

“Two outlets in 10 months was not in the time frame we had originally. We wanted to open the second branch before that. We had the location for a year, paying rent, but the whole licensing process took longer than we had anticipated. There are similar challenges with Negril, but we are hoping that within the next eight months we can get that outlet open. With the tourist influence and the turnover of people it has the potential to become huge,” said McKenzie, the older of two brothers in the high echelons of the company's leadership.

Epican runs its farm, as described by officials, “in the middle of nowhere” in the Blue Mountains, from which several exotic products are manufactured, and some of the finest grades of cannabis sold to those who have the inclination to smoke.

Epican's Chief Executive Officer Karibe McKenzie, Dwayne's younger brother, suggested that an education programme was key to getting more people, in particular the apprehensive lot, to accept cannabis products.

“Things have been very good, but could be better. We accept this based on the learning curve that the society has to go through in terms of the acceptance of the product, so we are kind of gearing up ourselves and putting ourselves in a position to educate our society and making people realise that interacting with cannabis is the same way how you take a multivitamin. That is the perspective. Once people get over all of these bad and negative thoughts, sales will pick up and people who would not normally smoke will feel comfortable to come and do so,” Karibe McKenzie said.

Epican's directors are not overly perturbed by the industry's inherent security concerns at this stage, but it's the creeping in of some other issues — like people on the street trying to imitate the company's products — that has caused them to raise a few eyebrows.

The problem is not severe, though, Dwayne McKenzie insisted: “Right now we don't have any internal security problems physically, but people on the street who have been selling on the black market have been mimicking what it is we are doing. We are selling Sour Diesel, Girl Scout cookies, etc, and all of a sudden we hear people selling Purple Dream, Girl Scout, etc. So the street has been mimicking to leverage themselves with what we have here. It's not a serious concern to us, because people who know, know the difference.

“I was driving on the road to the country a couple weeks ago, stopped at a gas station and a guy came up to me [to] tell me that he has the Epican strain and I bought it… $500 for the worst bush weed you ever smoked in your life, so there is no comparison to what we have.”

“And there was a man in Duhaney Park who was selling weed and even named his weed after ours — E1, E2, E3 (E meaning Epican), but their quality is inferior,” Karibe McKenzie interjected.

“It's very hard to replicate the Epican products,” Bibbons emphasised.

Now, the company is riding high, acknowledging that its leading sales days are weekends, party nights, and “payday”.

Bibbons insisted that the company was strict in maintaining that no one under age 18 would be allowed into any of its establishments, and further, as a condition of the company being granted its licence to operate, a medical consultation is required, in particular for first-time users.

“We experience quite responsible consumers. You will be surprised about how responsible the people who come in here are to interact with the cannabis — quite different from what happens out there.

“We have to do a quick consultation. For the first time, you must have a doctor's consultation. So for any medical issues, specifically that you want to address, you have that opportunity to speak with a doctor who gives you his recommendations. Sometimes we have doctors physically here, or they are available via Skype. We have over 10 doctors available now. We provide that service here on site and it's a quick process,” Bibbons said, adding the the process eliminates the need for security personnel throwing anyone out.

In all of the positives, there are still those who 'burn out' cannabis, who, according to Karibe McKenzie, do so because they are not fully sensitised about what the products stand for.

“There are some people who are against it, yes. They say we are selling drugs and leading young people in the wrong direction… those kinds of things. But if they are open to a conversation, we usually get the opportunity to turn that around. And most of these things are based on ignorance.

“I try to be very patient in explaining to people what's actually going on, because it's amazing that although we are the number one brand for cannabis in the world we still are the most ignorant nation about cannabis,” he said.

“It's actually a bit embarrassing on the international platform whenever my brother and I travel and engage people at the international level they look up to Jamaica in that sense,” Dwayne McKenzie interjected. “Some people thought it would never have happened, others have backed out after the first six, seven or eight months. But we have to realise that we have to own this international property that we have,” Dwayne McKenzie argued.

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