As the owner of Natural Wonders, a Southeast Portland spot that predates the OLCC-regulated recreational market, Jackson McCormack is, in the parlance of our times, an Oregon OG. We connected with McCormack in May to discuss his history with the Cannabis plant and to get his take on the industry and some of the products he’s been digging lately.
What initially drew you to the Cannabis plant?
I had a lot of different experiences with Cannabis growing up, but I really became drawn to the plant while in Ashland attending Southern Oregon University. This was the first time I regularly consumed, the first time I saw a Cannabis plant and where I first rolled both a blunt and a joint. I had a good friend at school get involved with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, and it wasn’t long until I was a caregiver and grower for registered patients of my own. The medical usage of Cannabis was fascinating to me, as was the cultivation. Ashland is the perfect place to learn about the plant, and I took my new passion home when I moved back to Portland and continued working with OMMP patients.
What are the biggest challenges you face working in the Cannabis industry?
I would say the biggest general obstacles have been banking and taxes. Retail is one of the most impacted Cannabis businesses when it comes to draconian codes like 280e, where businesses like ours aren’t able to deduct normal expenses. The extreme effective tax rates are compounded by banking options that are littered with fees, overzealous reporting and inspection requirements – and limited overall. Oregon also presents some unique challenges because it has an unlimited investment pool, allowing out of state and even foreign investors into a market that can only sell products to people physically in Oregon. Large groups have spent millions acquiring smaller, locally owned businesses and saturating the market with low grade offerings that drive down the value of similar, high quality options that are only related in name.
What types of products do you consume most frequently? Any favorites?
Flower and dabbable products are my preferred consumption methods, and honestly, Eugreen has been on a tear. Consistently showcasing a broad range of flower profiles that range from offensive to effervescent. Speaking of offensive, I’ve been especially enjoying their Donny Burger – my current batch reeks like body odor and burns like hash, which sounds as great to some as it does terrible to others. For dabs, like flower, we only work with a few companies. I’m usually digging into whatever I can convince Echo Electuary to put into an OMMP ‘bucket’ (3-5g in one container), and when it comes to live resin, currently a Garlic Poop collaboration with Gadsden Gardens. On the solventless side I can’t help but try just about every new offering by Bo’s Nose Knows or Happy Cabbage, and we were spoiled enough to get a drop of the single source Elephant Ears by Eastwood Gardens and Terp Herder. The award winning Purple Petals 6* hash rosin batter by Happy Cabbage is currently on my table. Next project is getting some of these options into buckets.
What do you see as the most important keys to success in the Cannabis retail game?
Building relationships. Relationships with vendors, relationships with consumers, and relationships between the two of them. We’ve worked with many of our vendors for years. Green Source Gardens, who we hold up as the standard for sustainable cultivation in Cannabis, has been a farm we’ve worked with since this industry was for medical patients only. All of our growers actually started out growing for medical patients, and I think these common roots show through. Echo Electuary and Dirty Arm Farms were only in a few stores when they started dropping live resin off to us, and they’re still the ones we rely on to fill that shelf space. Deschutes Growery, who released the MAC 1 exclusively at our shop in early 2018 has blessed us with exclusive clone releases this year. Honestly, the list of ways our vendors have helped us build success is wildly extensive.
“All of our growers actually started out growing for medical patients, and I think these common roots show through.”
What advice do you have for people looking to get into this industry?
Get organized. That probably should be listed under the keys to success right alongside building relationships. If we didn’t have my business partner (and wife) Hannah building organizational tools, we would be lost. The life of an entrepreneur in an emerging industry that’s treated like the mafia is relentless, and the workload will grow exponentially without some foundational organization.
” A Stoner Owner is a Cannabis business owner who has a relationship with the plant. We want to buy and smoke Cannabis from companies that care about their products, employees and the plant. You wouldn’t buy food from a restaurant where the cooks don’t eat in the kitchen, so why buy corporate weed grown by a company only concerned with profits? Stoner Owner approval means a company cares, and we love weed grown with care. Look for the Stoner Owner stamp when purchasing fine Cannabis, and let’s retake our culture and reshape a stigma by honoring those who grow, process and sell the best Cannabis possible.
INTERVIEW by WILL FERGUSON @710DENCIES__ | PHOTO by JAKE GRAVBOT @WALK.INTO.THE.LIGHT