Products: Cannabis-infused drinks, tinctures, and sprays
Co-founder Lloyd "Skip" Meador cites the need for consistency, as well as reinvention, in developing his company's cannabis-infused product line.
Meador explains that "marqaha" means "bliss" in Arabic. It's a term that's historically been used by Dervishes to describe the ecstatic states they experienced from a combination of coffee-drinking and body-whirling. Meador's company presently uses the word to brand its own line of cannabis-infused drinks, tinctures, and sublingual sprays. The company's logo includes a butterfly and the motto, "Follow your Bliss and Take Flight with marQaha!"
Whether a cannabis consumer uses a marQaha product for medical, recreational, or spiritual purposes, Meador says, "Our space is just to create a quality product that's consistent, so however they choose to use it, it's a safe experience, it's a recreatable experience."
Meador says that "from day one" the company produced products that hit an intentional mark of 10 milligrams per dosage. "Now you see that as a standard out there," says Meador of the state-required dosage for recreational products.
Before starting marQaha with his partner Timothy McDowell, a trained chef with a background in food safety, Meador sold his own line of vitamin- and mineral-based nutraceuticals. Given their separate skills, Meador describes his partnership with McDowell as "a match made in heaven."
Meador wanted to bring that same approach to cannabis that he did to his other products: the "label claims have to match up" to what's inside the product, in terms of ingredients and standardization."
While Meador and McDowell develop the formulas and standard operating procedures used in the manufacturing and packaging of their products, they license outside companies to grow the cannabis, prepare the carbon dioxide extractions, and manufacture the products.
As one of the first cannabis product lines available to medical consumers in Colorado, marQaha products have been widely available since 2010; its beverages, tinctures, and sublingual sprays can now be found in around 400 dispensaries, says Meador. The company has expanded into other states with medical or recreational markets, as well. MarQaha products are presently available in Nevada, and will soon be sold in Illinois and Oregon (where they have a licensed grow operation, and are building a facility), with others to come.
Along its journey, the company has won awards and received positive reviews from cannabis judges: High Times has awarded Cannabis Cups to marQaha, and Edibles List has cited one of its products as "Best Colorado Edible."
Meador partially attributes those results to marQaha's "whole plant" approach. It's what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has called the "entourage effect": the benefits to be derived from the plant don't just come from its cannabinoids like THC or CBD, but also from the scent- and flavor-providing terpenes, as well as its flavonoids. Through the use of various ingredients -- such as black tea, fruit juices, lemonade, blueberries, chamomile -- Meador says, "You can really spike those terpene profile by leaning on those natural ingredients, naturally-derived terpenes."
In another formulation, marQaha uses Ozo coffee. "We went out and wanted to interact with a group where we really liked their coffee and their hands-on approach to roasting," says Meador. The marQaha tincture (dubbed "tinQture") uses agave, MCT oil, carbon dioxide-extracted cannabis oil, and sunflower lecithin.
The products come in different formulations: There's sativa, indica, sativa-indica blends, CBD, and THC-CBD.
But, as Meador says, "It's not just having cannabis in it [that makes a product viable]: You have to hit on all these other marks -- quality ingredients and consistency -- just for a chance to succeed."
MarQaha's website provides education to consumers about terpenes, flavonoids, and many of the other cannabinoids, other than just THC, present within the plant. Furthermore, Meador has testified before the Colorado state legislature when there was an attempt to clamp down on edibles and related products, urging legislators not to regulate cannabis more -- or harder to regulate -- than pharmaceuticals, but rather to align with existing regulations accorded other commercially available medicines. Meador and McDowell also belong to a consulting group, which assists businesses starting-up in other states.
In addition to teaching others about cannabis, Meador, 46, says he's still learning, himself, "from other amazing people" within the industry. Meador says there's a spirit of cooperation, note-sharing. Compared with when marQaha first started, "The brands out there today are far more professional. There's a lot of great companies, out there. And we're friends with a lot of these companies that produce products, just because we've been in it long enough and we respect companies that do it well, as well."
The company is constantly developing new products and improving the existing catalog, Meador says. Many formulations "never see the light of day," because they don't quite meet the approval of marQaha's founders. Devising a formulation doesn't simply involve "looking at how a beverage looks at Safeway and using same ingredients: It doesn't really work like that."
"Unless we can create something meaningful, we're not going to put it out, whether it be a beverage, a topical or a tincture," Meador explains. "So it's a lot of work and a lot of time to have that approach to products."
It may be a time-consuming process, but it's how Meador follows his bliss.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge would be being on top of the product lines that we've put out," says Meador. "It's the right thing to do, you know, to reinvent ourselves. It's just something we do every day."
A crowded marketplace is another. "There's a lot of good companies coming online that have a lot of time to look at this; they want to get into this space, they're trying to create something different," he says. We need to be on point."
Opportunities: New markets in the 29 states that have legalized marijuana in one way or another, says Meador. "There's a lot of competitors coming on line in all these other states. It takes a long time for these markets to mature. Colorado has been going on for quite some time." So it cuts both ways, he adds. "And that's a challenge, but it's also an opportunity."
Needs: "We're a pretty tight group," says Meador. "I'd say the biggest need is trust. If we interact with somebody -- whether it be somebody that works for us or a licensee -- that need [for] trust and what we're going up against in this industry: the federal limits, the competitive elements, all of these things.
He adds, "There's a lot more trust placed on each person than a typical business, because of all these other elements. Things are happening so rapidly. So the need for us [is] people that are here through thick or thin."