When True North founder Mike Standlee transitioned from traditional agriculture to the cannabis industry, his passion for product innovation and exceptional customer service helped him find success in Arizona’s medical cannabis market with the launch of Sky Dispensaries. Standlee has always kept a close eye north of the border, however, in anticipation of a medical cannabis program in Utah.
When Utah voters approved Proposition 2 in 2018, Standlee set to work assembling an experienced team who could secure a place in the state’s nascent medical cannabis market. So far, this early planning has paid off—True North has won a cultivation license and two dispensary licenses (called “medical pharmacy licenses” in Utah).
While Utah is still considering tweaks to the regulatory framework of its medical cannabis program, Standlee and his team have started construction on the company’s greenhouse and extraction lab facilities in Box Elder County, and are finalizing design plans for pharmacy locations in Weber and Cache Counties. The team plans to open the Weber County location March 1, with the Cache County location opening soon after.
Here, Standlee discusses True North’s journey to securing its licenses and the company’s longer-term goals in this new market.
Cannabis Dispensary: How did True North get started? Can you describe your background and the company’s journey to securing a cannabis pharmacy license in Utah?
Mike Standlee: I have over 40 years of experience growing [for a] large domestic and international premium forage company for the agricultural industry. I stepped away from the foraging company several years ago and am now spending all my time in the cannabis industry. From there, I’ve been the founder and lead innovator of the Sky Dispensaries brand in Arizona with multiple licenses. I’m passionate about innovating great products while providing superior customer service.
I’ve been watching and preparing for the potential of a Utah market for years. Building the right teams and securing those with the most crucial experience was key to getting the highest application score of the 100-plus nationwide applicants and securing not one, but two licenses.
We are honored to be able to provide a quality product for patients as they ease their pain and live a better life.
CD: What are some of the immediate next steps for the company as it works to become operational in Utah?
MS: In addition to winning the dispensary licenses, we were thrilled to be awarded one of only eight cannabis grow licenses in Utah. For months, we have been carefully growing quality plants at our temporary grow site while preparing to build a state of the art grow and processing site in Box Elder County.
In regard to the dispensary locations, we are working literally around the clock to secure our locations, renovate the buildings and roll out our new dispensary brand, “Perfect Earth Modern Apothecary.” As we created the Perfect Earth brand, we wanted to highlight the untainted healing nature has provided us as an alternative to big pharmaceutical products. We expect our Weber County location to be open in March and our Cache County location open before July.
CD: How will being a vertically integrated company in Utah with a cultivation license and two pharmacy licenses benefit True North?
MS: As we are one of only a few companies that have both agricultural and dispensary licenses, the real winner here will be our patients. We can keep costs low and the quality of our product high as we oversee every step from seeding to the sealing of the final product.
CD: How is the company working with the local communities to ensure long-term success within those communities?
MS: We have already had great conversations with most of our local government partners and will continue to have a close relationship with them as we remain compliant and work together to solve problems for patients in these communities.
We have also identified several non-profits in the area who we will be announcing partnerships with as we raise money and awareness for those in our patient community. Stay tuned!
CD: What are some of the company’s longer-term goals in Utah?
MS: We are looking forward to finishing our state-of-the-art grow and process facility, which we fully expect will be the best in the state. At this site, we will make high-quality products for our “True North Organics” brand.
Additionally, we are extremely excited to roll out the “Perfect Earth” dispensary brand as a symbol and source for safe, natural products that will improve patients’ lives and empower their possibilities.
CD: What market trends do you think Utah will see in the early days of its medical cannabis market?
MS: Patient access and education are going to be crucial in these early days. There are countless people in pain or suffering who are curious about medical cannabis. However, if there are too many barriers to entry, Utah will remain one of the top states of opioid abuse in the country. We are hopeful regulatory agencies will increase the hours of operation allowance, provide more options for product packaging and allow patient access cards to be good for one year. We encourage the legislature, various state departments and local governments to make sure these patients have reasonable steps to gain access to medical cannabis.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.