Spliff Magazine

Nikka T: From Black Market to Mainstream

Cannabis in Canada has been steadily moving away from the taboo and toward the norm.
This has prompted huge strides in the right direction; however, many people are still scared about the implications of full legalization. They fear that it will be destructive to our present culture and societal structure. I would implore them to look to the south and examine those states who have already progressed so far as to eradicate pot prohibition from their state laws: states such as Colorado who outlined their marijuana policy in 2012 when they passed Amendment 64.

Nikka T is the owner and operator of Essential Extracts. He is a true artist of solventless extracts. His Colorado based business has experienced the shift from Black Market to mainstream and has firsthand experience with its ups and downs. The policies outlined in Amendment 64 have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use; however, consumption is limited to private properties out of view from the public and the amendment is only statewide (meaning it is not exempt from Federal Law). This means that businesses have experienced difficulties in getting loans, processing debit/credit cards, and in opening bank accounts because they are still subject to persecution under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Nikka T took the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the transition from Black Market to Mainstream.

Why did you go into the extraction business (medicinal/recreational/etc.)?

Originally, I grew up in Northern California where cannabis was prevalent. I was making and distributing “bubble hash” for years as a teenager. It was always darker in color, earthy/mildewy smelling and pliable in texture. After yearning for something more medicinal in effect and cleanly,
I found solvent extracts, specifically butane. Loved the potency, color and texture, but didn’t want to use solvents to attain this product. I soon learned to create the same potencies, consistencies and colors I observed in the butane extract, by utilizing strictly Solventless methods of extraction instead. After moving back to Colorado in 2008 for the opening of the first dispensaries, running one in Vail, but seeking more, I moved to Denver at the beginning of 2009 to start Essential Extracts and continue to pursue the legal business of Solventless Extraction.

With legalization comes restriction, of course. As it is only a statewide law I have noted that there have been numerous occasions in which federal barriers have made daily operations difficult to impossible, such as banks not wanting to touch the Cannabiz community. How has legalization impacted:

Dispensaries and producers?
If they would like to work with us, they must be a legal entity. A lot of friends had to stay underground, some arose to the regulated system, and some have fallen to bigger marijuana businesses. Legalization has definitely pushed more commercialized Ganja from producers and dispensaries to the masses.
Overhead/cost of production?
Extreme effects. You have to pay to play these days. From licensing fees, to packaging and labeling regulations, properly zoned properties, marketing, legal fees, taxes, cost of materials, security, higher quality equipment, insurance, and more have created quite a bit higher overhead than before legalization.
Research and quality control?
It gives us a platform to do more research, development and quality control. However it does cost us a lot more to perform these tasks. Legalization has also provided us with more strict regulations regarding quality control in testing, which I agree with and appreciate. Legalization has created higher standards for mold and microbial restrictions as well as residual solvent and pesticide testing. This in turn, has aided in the production of safer, more medicinal products across the board.

If Canada were to follow one state’s legalization model:

Which state should it be, why?
Most states are following in Colorado’s footsteps, except for a few, which don’t seem to be doing quite as well or moving forward quite as quickly. Our model is heavily regulated, thus providing safer practices and higher standards. Colorado has seen the largest increase in tax revenue to further prove to other states that our model works well.
What would you suggest be done differently?
The amount of taxes creates a small margin to begin with for any company, let alone a marijuana industry company. Lowering them slightly and opening up banking as well as proper legal lending for our industry is needed to solidify the legitimacy.

It has been suggested that when cannabis is legalized in Canada the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) should be the responsible party for the distribution of cannabis. What do you think of this suggestion?

For distribution or for regulation? “Regulate like alcohol” has some merit, but I don’t believe it’s the complete answer as it leads to other issues.

I know part of the hope with legalization is to eradicate the Black Market. In order to do that I believe we need to find a model that satisfies all parties: producers, consumers, and government. To do so we need comparable prices and quality as well as ease of access. Has legalization as it is now reduced the black market?

It has reduced the presence, but it does still exist. It has also created a grey market, which is slowly dissipating with the onset of new regulations.