Deseret Wellness’s goal in coming to Utah is to provide effective and affordable cannabis-based therapies in a safe and welcoming environment. Their dispensary is clean, bright, and welcoming. Jeremy Sumerix is their marketing president.
Jeremy Sumerix is a Utah native who was born and raised in American Fork. He attended Southern Utah University, whereafter a career in retail took him all over the country.
He was in the cannabis industry for several years, working for the national retailer MedMen in Florida, where the cannabis industry is vibrant.
When he was approached by Deseret Wellness to establish outlets in Utah, he leaped at the chance to come home and bring cannabis therapy to the patients in Utah.
Deseret Wellness was granted a license to open in Provo, and a further license to open in Park City which will happen later this year, or at the beginning of January 2021.
Their Provo site is really accessible to all parts of Provo as they are located right off the Center Street exit. They’ll be putting up a 35-foot green cross pole to signpost the dispensary soon.
In setting up Deseret Wellness, Jeremy found the Utah County Commissioner very easy to work with. Though the population is smaller, Utah residents are generally law-abiding and straightforward, which makes the illicit cannabis market weaker in Utah County. This bodes well for legal outlets like Deseret Wellness.
Deseret Wellness is pleased with how quickly they’ve been able to increase their number of patients, with a steady flow coming into the dispensary. Luckily, patient numbers have not been so large that they’ve had to turn people away.
Cardholders can walk in, and because preregistration is not required, they can have their product within ten minutes.
Jeremy acknowledges that patients with letters of recommendation are a bit more difficult. As per state mandate, letters have to be verified, particularly if they have been getting their product from another pharmacy.
Due to various factors, there may be delays in this regard, which makes it sensible for patients with letters of recommendation to preregister, because then everything can be verified. Within the course of 2-3 business days, they will be notified and will be able to collect their product without any delay.
Desert Wellness holds a strictly retail license and does not have a grow license. It sells whatever products are out on the market, but they consider themselves homegrown with Jeremy having grown up just down the road, and most of their employees being from Utah. The company is a member of the Utah Chamber of Commerce. They aim to be a friendly neighborhood pharmacy to the community.
The timing of their opening was challenging. The opening of the pharmacy was complicated by software and legal issues, with the State requiring that all verification be done by a pharmacist.
However, this has now been dealt with and is no longer an issue, though they are still working with the State and other pharmacies to streamline the process. Desert Wellness is the southernmost dispensary in the State of Utah, and will soon be opening an outlet in Park City as well.
Deseret is just about ready to launch curbside and in-store pickup for patients that have been registered and bought from them before. When the State finalizes the regulations on home delivery, that service will be included as well as it is envisioned to be big, especially in the Park City outlet.
Home deliveries will be big, particularly because the issuing of licenses for cannabis outlets has been capped. Jeremy understands the rationale behind this strategy and believes that these conditions might be relaxed once the industry has proved that it is safe and viable, something he is very keen to do.
They are very excited about their two different outlets and are hopeful that they've found a model that is scalable.
The second outlet, Park City, will be very different from their Provo dispensary with a more downtown vibe as it is smaller and expected to be busier.
Seasonality is expected to have an impact considering its proximity to the Sundance Film Festival.
Jeremy confirms that it is legal for out-of-state patients, who have a card authorizing them to obtain medical cannabis, to get their medication in Utah. However, the rule has not yet been established with the parameters being clearly set out.
Deseret has a lobbyist who is working directly with the state to figure out how to pin down those regulations, although it is not yet clear when that will happen.
People only have to be able to prove residency in order to get a temporary card so that they can get their medication. Their identity also has to be confirmed and there is a list online that clarifies this.
Jeremy confirms that Deseret Wellness has a significant number of out-of-state patients, and an out-of-state license does not disqualify them as long as they can prove Utah residency. Dual residency also simplifies matters in this regard.
There is a shortage of information pertaining to the establishment of legal outlets for cannabis products and the rules in this regard are very technical. This is bound to happen if it's a new system where you have a controlled substance to which you’re allowing access for the first time.
Jeremy confirms that there is an ‘extra layer of careful’ in Utah, which he respects. Because there are a lot of people who don't have much experience in the cannabis industry involved in making the rules, it is going to take a bit longer.
Regarding local supply, Jeremy says that he really can't complain. They haven't had any product issues with partners, growers, or processors. The only thing they haven't yet been able to sell has been concentrates because so few processors are actually producing them.
In regards to flower, they have not run out in general, though the favorite strains tend to go quickly. They have a diverse selection of vapes. They also have CBD bombs, oral sprays, and tinctures.
Jeremy would love to be able to offer their patients gel capsules, but nobody seems to be producing those yet. He has seen those in different markets as they are very popular in some of the medicinal markets. In New York, for example, capsules are very popular and there is a notable demand for them as they are very effective as regards dose control and reliable time of relief compared to other intake methods.
Jeremy believes that if they could get concentrates and gel capsules for their patients, it would be very much to their patient’s benefit.
Jeremy emphasizes that they post a limited online menu, as they currently have a landing page. However, their fully operational website will launch in the next few weeks when they will have a more robust menu online.
They don’t want patients to see something online and then find it has been sold out when they come into the shop, so they are currently deliberately posting a limited menu that is updated every day to ensure availability.
Though he’s been too busy in setting up Deseret Wellness to think too far ahead, Jeremy says that to be in an industry where you can literally change somebody’s life has been enormous for him, and he sees himself working in the cannabis industry indefinitely.
Deseret Wellness is very specifically catered and tied to Utah, so he does not expect them to do something outside of the State. However, Jeremy himself would love to be involved in bringing cannabis products to other markets like Montana or Texas at some point. He emphasizes that establishing Deseret Wellness is very much still a learning curve for him.
Coming from Florida, he plays a lot of golf! He grew up skiing and snowboarding, which he has also taught, so he wants to get back into that.
Jeremy holds a different view than most people, in that he thinks that legalizing cannabis in Utah at the federal level will take much longer than expected. Federal Tax regulation 280E allows federally recognized business entities to write off certain expenses like payroll, rent, etc.
However, anybody that operates in the cannabis space doesn't get those exceptions. 280E says that businesses in the cannabis industry have to pay the same taxes that every other business pays, but they get zero tax relief. This also affects the cannabis industry with things like COVID relief which was not extended to the cannabis industry.
Jeremy thinks that because the government makes a lot of money on the cannabis industry paying taxes, and not getting any discounts because of 280E, there is very little incentive for them to legalize it. They would make less money off taxing the cannabis industry if it were legalized and therefore qualifying for discounts.
Another difficulty lies in the fact that it is a difficult industry to regulate. When you legalize something, you're going to get more regulation. So Big Pharma and other businesses will still fight the legalization of the cannabis industry and the rescheduling of a Schedule 1 product, he believes.
On being asked how California seems to have made legalizing cannabis work, Jeremy points out that there is a huge illicit market in California, with many dispensaries being illegal though they look legit. They are not paying taxes.
To address that, California is starting to give businesses a QR code to be displayed on the door, that customers can scan to verify that the business is a licensed dispenser. Getting licenses is expensive, and it brings regulation and taxes in the form of 280E with it, which pose further obstacles to legalizing it.
However, Jeremy does not want to be negative and points out that great strides have been made. The ultimate goal is to have a legalized cannabis industry at the federal level in Utah, but he does believe it will take longer than is generally expected.
Jeremy emphasizes how delighted he is to finally be here for the patients of Utah County. The clean and pleasant environment at Deseret Wellness has been created to make their patients feel comfortable. Deseret Wellness want to recognize that cannabis is medicine, without overtly reminding people that they are sick. When people walk in the door, they must feel warm and welcome.
Address: 22 North Draper Lane, just off the Center Street exit in Provo towards the mountain. In the next couple of weeks, they'll have a 35-foot green cross pole sign right out front and they’ll be unmissable!